The Marie Antoinette Diet

Updated: Feb 9 2014, 07:36am hrs
Diet Fads come and go almost in line with the seasons. From Atkins to South Beach, Dukan, Mediterranean and GI, they have ebbed and flowed, depending on media coverage and word-of-mouth, mostly just a popular fad of the moment. Now, we have something quite new and paradoxical, the Marie Antoinette Diet. The former French queen is best known for her lavish lifestyle and her most famous utterance, which was let them eat cake, when told that bread was scarce for the poor peasants. Which is why a diet named after her has to be intriguing. In fact, the acronym for the diet is MAD. Its being promoted in the form of a recent book by Karen Wheeler titled, The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight. The late queens hedonistic lifestyle is well-documented and any visitor to the palace of Versailles, where she spent most of her royal life, will be given a tour of the premises, which seemed to revolve around eating and drinking apart from other worldly pursuits.

Wheeler, in fact, lists the original Antoinette diet, which started with a pastry with coffee or hot chocolate for breakfast; for lunch, it was pate, oysters and lobster as appetisers, followed by scallops, duck, salmon, breaded fois gras, or hare stew as the main dish. She also had a habit of snacking throughout the day on cheese along with macaroni cooked in cream, petits fours, crystallised fruits and other exotic desserts. All this was washed down with a steady supply of champagne. What visitors to Versailles will notice, however, from the dresses she wore and portraits of the time, is that she managed to maintain a very trim figure, which reportedly included a 23-inch waist. The French Paradox is well-known, but this was something else.

Wheelers research has led to conclude that Antoinette somehow knew what we are taught today by dietitians and cardiologists; that its not so important what you eat, but when you eat it. Heres another paradox: Wheeler is not a doctor or dietitian. Shes a fashion journalist living in France, who, thanks to a long career dealing with models and their dietary fads, started to research on French women. It was while reading a biography on Antoinette that she discovered that the former queen may have been on the perfect diet all along without knowing it. For all her caloric excesses during the day, the queen always insisted on a light dinner, broth with vegetables or chicken. Wheeler found that most French households followed the same habits. She then went on to more detailed research, which led her to Antoinette. The book has some variations, but, essentially, the diet deals with meal timings and what to eat when. Sweets, for instance, taken during breakfast means that people can then avoid them later in the day or after dinner when it is the most harmful. Wheeler also advocates lots of soup, either before dinner or as dinner, which also curbs appetite. There are other dos and donts, but the essential part is to do with timing; no meals after 8 pm, for instance, and smaller portions, something most other diets recommend. For all that, theres no scientific evidence to suggest that the diet works, but theres a lot of snob value involved in telling people youre on the Marie Antoinette Diet, or the MAD diet, if you prefer.