Bestselling author Mireille Guiliano stopped by Brisbane to share secrets from her new book French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, with Laura Brodnik.

Mireille Guiliano first sailed onto the literary scene over a decade ago after penning French Women Don’t Get Fat. The author, who now splits her time between New York and Paris, has built an empire on introducing the world to the health and lifestyle secrets of the French. While in Brisbane for two soldout appearances with her legion of fans, Guiliano, 67, opened up on how French women embrace life, health and age. Here are her thoughts…

On exercise

Using our bodies will not stop the ageing process, but it can slow it down. Look in the mirror and ask yourself does your daily routine involve at least thirty to sixty minutes of physical activity? Any less than this is not healthy. Unfortunately we live in a sedentary society and we sit all day. It’s about taking the time, like the French people do, to exercise. In Paris they go out for lunch, they take the time to sit in a café and enjoy a sandwich or a salad but then they walk around the block a few times because it is very good for your body and for your digestion. The French love things like aqua gym – activities you can do by yourself or with a group. Think of things you can do without going to a gym and spending lots of money. Don’t torture yourself, just pick your moments.

On food and dieting

The French woman wants it all. She still wants to eat well and have a glass of champagne while enjoying bread and dessert. But then she’ll have a small healthy breakfast the next day (I love to have fresh yoghurt) so it’s all about balance. If you don’t eat well it shows on your skin, your hair, the way you feel and even the way you behave. People think the French are very disciplined but we are not, we just have different practices instilled in us. For example, we are taught not to snack when we go out, because you’ve just likely eaten at home. Everything is good for you, in moderation.

On the importance of water

We need to drink water to flush the toxins out and hydrate ourselves, especially in the morning because we have been without water for many hours and people do not realise that they are waking up dehydrated

On breathing

The biggest discovery I have made as I have aged (here I wanted to say ‘matured’ not ‘aged’ but the mirror said ‘aged’) is the power and importance of breathing. Incorporating breathing exercises and techniques into our lives can be transformational. As we age the workings of our diaphragm and expansion of our lungs adds oxygen that gives us energy and endurance. Regular breathing exercises improve our lives, health and approach to ageing. Why don’t they teach this in schools? I learned about proper breathing through yoga.

On the need for sleep

The French, on average, sleep nine hours a day. That’s considerably more than my fellow Americans, who seem to think it’s a badge of honour to sleep for five or six hours a night. When in Paris, my American husband always notices the pitch-dark apartment buildings we pass while walking home late at night. For one thing, the French don’t watch much television. They come home from work, prepare dinner, sit down to eat (that’s entertainment!) and relax. They create an environment that is conductive to sleep and remember: a bad night’s sleep means a short temper, a short attention span, more stress and, for women especially, a greater risk of heart disease.

On ageing

Over 50 is the prime of life, when women gain a new confidence that comes with experience and maturity. It’s not that we want to live to be a hundred, but we want to live healthily as long as possible. We have an attitude and reinvent ourselves, but not in an extremist way like Americans. Ageing with attitude is what I believe in. French women really embrace ageing, they still want to be seductive and flirt after 50 and way into their 70s. A French woman wouldn’t class herself as ‘starting to get old’ until into her 80s.

French Women Don’t Get Facelifts is available now.