Does This Cheese Make Me Look Fat? Or Why the French Woman’s Diet May Help You Lose Weight

DOES THIS CHEESE MAKE ME LOOK FAT? OR WHY THE FRENCH WOMAN’S DIET MAY HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT … UPDATE: I’ve lost 10+ lbs on this healthy, cheese “non-diet”..without dieting or feeling deprived since I wrote this blog post! And I’ve added a link to another blog (not my own) which not only discusses the specific cheeses and wines related to this article but includes some mouth-watering photos. Don’t forget to click on the icons for Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Buzz, Blink, Newsvine, Facebook and Twitter (at the end of the post) if you like what you’ve read. Also, please COMMENT. I’d love to hear about your experiences with cheese, healthy eating, and possible, related weight loss…and I’m sure others would like to read your responses too!

It often comes as a surprise to my fellow wine lovers that some of us wine types love cheese, too – a lot! Almost as much as we love wine. I’ve been eating “real” cheese as long as I’ve been drinking fine wine. That is longer than I’d care to mention since a lady never gives away her age (as my mother used to say). Oops! Now you know that I’m at that age when a woman starts sounding like her mother! (And wondering whether Botox is Kosher…)

Increasingly over the last decade, with the influx of a broader array of foreign cheeses to the U.S. and with the increased production of small-production, artisanal (handcrafted) American cheeses, this miracle of fermented, acidified milk has become a larger part of my diet. I go through periodic fits of eating only cheese accompanied by crackers and fruit (preferably, ahem, dried fruit) for dinner, often for days in a row. At a minimum, I dine like this once a week, while sipping a lovely, appropriate wine.

Guess what happens when I eat like this? I have fun. I experience pleasure. Sometimes I even feel I’m “addicted”. And for a bonus, I lose weight! Lots of it. Best of all I maintain my new, healthy weight…that is until something throws me off, a tight schedule perhaps or stress of some sort…or a spate of dining out. Well, actually, the economy has nearly obliterated that last obstacle to maintaining my neo-svelte figure…

My partner has always called this mysterious cheese-equals-weight-loss phenomenon “Alexandra’s wine and cheese diet”. Until last night we thought it was something only we knew about although we often had our doubts and thought we were crazy. Such negative thinking invariably led us back to “well-balanced” but skimpy meals consisting of salads, naked baked potatoes and fish (or boneless, skinless, above all, tasteless chicken breasts).

Now, after attending a class last evening at Sara Vivenzio’s San Francisco Cheese School taught by the pioneering fromager (and former wine sommelier) Max McCalman, I understand the science behind my dietary observations. Cheese is not evil. In fact, cheese is not only good for you, it is downright healthy! It’s loaded with nutrients and micro-nutrients. As part of the French-Mediterranean diet and that famous French Woman’s diet, cheese helps people lose weight and then maintain their new, healthier figure.

But wait a minute, you say. Cheese is fat! How can fat be healthy? And how can fat make you thin (or at least thinner)? Let’s separate the fat facts from fiction. As Max says at the beginning of every class he leads, CHEESE IS GOOD FOOD. To quote from his latest book, “Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship From a Maitre Fromager” co-authored by David Gibbons:

“A 4-ounce piece of solid farmhouse cheese, for example, supplies more than half the adult nutritional requirements for protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus as well as significant portions of vitamins A, B2 and B12. If you compare the nutritional content of a 3.5 ounce (100-gram) chunk of a hard, aged cheese such as Cheddar or Emmenthal to an equivalent amount of chicken eggs (two eggs are about 100 grams), the cheese contains about twice as much protein and one quarter the cholesterol.”

What else does cheese provide? (And by cheese I mean preferably raw milk which has not had most of its nutrients pasteurized or heated out of it) Vitamin D, Folic Acid, Zinc, CLA as well as two amino acids: Tyrosine and Taurine. Cheese also contains casein which breaks down into an opioid peptide. There’s some truth to my feeling like a cheese addict!

Vitamin D is vital for bone growth and prevention of osteoporosis. Zinc is essential for maintaining vision levels. B vitamins help with stress. CLA (or Conjugated Linoleic Acid) is found primarily in meat and dairy products, particularly cheese. CLA is an antioxidant, a class of nutrient which seems to have cancer-prevention properties. At least one study has indicated that CLA also facilitates weight loss and another study showed that CLA can lower serum cholesterol levels. All of which means that cheese is heart healthy, too!

Tyrosine is broken down by your body into the neurotransmitters Norepinephrine and Epinephrine. What does this mean for you? Increased energy, increased ability to deal with stress, elevated or stabilized mood. Tyrosine literally makes you happy. It is also a presursor to Melanin whch provides your skin with color and protects it from the sun.

Taurine, the amino acid which your cat requires in her daily diet, aids in the synthesis of bile supporting the metabolization of the fats and proteins in your diet. The cheese you eat literally helps you digest the cheese you eat! Now you have an excuse to have a piece of cheese within any meal. It can help you reach that point of satiety when you feel full and free of the desire to overeat. Taurine also helps lower or level off cholesterol levels and has been used to treat artheriosclerosis and hypertension (high blood pressure).

What’s missing in cheese? Fiber, water…and calories. So go ahead. Enjoy normal amounts of cheese with dried fruit or some other form of fiber, drink plenty of water (and maybe a little bubbly!). You’ll be happier, healthier and a little thinner. Now smile for the photos of the new you in your new jeans…and don’t forget to say “Cheese”!

Nothing in this blog post should be regarded as medical advice. If you have a medical condition or are embarking on a weight-loss regimen please consult with your physician or health care professional first. Trust me on this. I’m a doctor’s daughter.

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7 responses to “Does This Cheese Make Me Look Fat? Or Why the French Woman’s Diet May Help You Lose Weight

  1. i could eat cheese all day long, the more offensive the “aroma” the better. french muenster, with maybe a gewurztraminer. so, is this why i’m “ny thin”? 🙂

    • Ah, yes! The mystery of cheeses that “stink” but taste heavenly!

      I agree with you, Erica, about your preferences. I could enjoy an odiferous, soft wash-rind cheese such as a French Muenster or Epoisse firim Burgundy every day if my budget allowed. As for the wine, I can assure you that Maitre Fromager Max McCalman and Sara Vivenzio, San Francisco’s Empresario of Cheese provided us with a lovely Gewurztraminer…and an Alsatian Riesling…and a lovely Malbec from Touraine in The Loire.

      After reading your comment (which I thank you for), I realized that readers might like to know what cheeses we had, what wines and, most importantly, what pairings worked best – in my opinion and in Max’s (and we did differ on one).

      So I will either come back with a second blog on that topic within the next couple of weeks OR I will start a new, cheese-focused blog entitled…what else? DOES THIS CHEESE MAKE ME LOOK FAT?

      What do you think? Another blog post? Or another BLOG???

      Please, anyone can weigh in on this with their thoughts and opinions!

  2. Thanks for the nice review of my seminar at the Cheese School of SF. It may not be a perfect food but there is no doubt in my mind that there’s nothing better. The reason people love cheese is because cheese loves them. Eat cheese, lose weight!

    • Thank you, Max, for your generous praise for my piece on your class (and latest book which I encourage everyone mildly interested in the subject to buy and enjoy as both a great and a reference). I look forward to sharing cheese with you and learning more from you in the near future!

  3. Sold.
    Heading to the frig right now…which holds abundant amount of both wine and cheese.

  4. enjoying your humor too! i’ve always “enjoyed” cheese but never had any REAL cheese till i got to Spain and Portugal. it’s about the only cheese i eat these days. i even use spanish cheese to cook with (yummmmy)

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