Anyone who knows me knows that I love anything French. The language, the food, the beautiful landscapes of the French countryside. So when I heard about the Dukan Diet, created by a French doctor and supposedly mimicking the diet of the French locals, I just had to take a look. Not to mention Kate Middleton follows this mysterious diet. But what is the Dukan Diet that everyone seems to be obsessing over?
Dr. Pierre Dukan first developed the idea for his diet about 30 years ago. However, it didn’t gain much popularity until Dr. Dukan published a book explaining the details behind “the real reason the French stay thin.” This process consists of four phases, each of which allow certain food groups. The claim behind the diet is that it not only helps with weight loss, but it also prevents post-diet weight gain. Their slogan? “Two steps to lose the weight, two steps to keep it off forever.”
Phase 1: The Attack Phase
The first phase in the Dukan diet is called “The Attack Phase,” and rightfully so. For two to seven days, your diet is strictly limited to pure protein. But don’t worry about picking out your foods. The diet comes with a list of 68 protein-based foods to choose from. You’re also expected to consume 1 1/2 tablespoons of oat bran per day.
Along with the diet aspect, it’s recommended that you partake in 20 minutes of physical activity per day. The goal of this phase is to jumpstart weight loss. The expected amount of weight loss for this period is anywhere from 2 to 8 pounds.
Phase 2: The Cruise Phase
The second phase is called “The Cruise Phase.” During this phase, you’re given access to 32 non-starchy vegetables, along with the 68 protein foods. However, you’re expected to alternate between protein days and vegetable days, and also to consume two tablespoons of oat bran each day.
30 minutes of physical activity per day is required during this phase. For every pound lost during The Attack Phase, you must stay in The Cruise Phase for 3 days. This will supposedly result in reaching your goal weight or “true weight.”
Phase 3: The Consolidation Phase
“The Consolidation Phase” is the third phase of the Dukan Diet. For every pound lost during “The Cruise Phase,” you’re expected to go through the third phase for five days. According to Dr. Dukan, this is the time when you are most susceptible to regaining the weight you’ve lost. The purpose of this phase is to prevent that from happening.
You’re allowed to gradually reintroduce fruits, starches, and cheese into your diet. You’re also allowed two “celebration meals” each week. You’re also expected to consume two tablespoons of oat bran and get 25 minutes of exercise each day. Dr. Dukan emphasizes the importance of one final rule: make every Thursday a protein day.
Phase 4: The Stabilization Phase
The fourth and final phase is called “The Stabilization Phase,” and it’s designed to be practiced for the rest of your life. The idea behind this is that you will never gain back the weight that you lost. During this phase, you’re allowed to eat from all of the food groups in the other three phases. You’re expected to have three tablespoons of oat bran a day and exercise for at least 20 minutes a day. You’re also supposed to have a protein-only day every Thursday.
Is This Realistic?
Ok, so now that we all know exactly what the Dukan Diet entails, let’s discuss whether or not it’s realistic. Online, there are tons of expert opinions about the Dukan Diet. After reading through many of them, I’ve found a lot of the same underlying themes. Many acknowledge that this diet may be useful for quick weight loss. But as far as being realistic, manageable, and nutritionally sound? Not so much.
As you can see, there are no restrictions on the amount of food consumed for the diet, only on types of food. This is likely what draws a lot of dieters in, thinking they will definitely be full. However, we must recognize that there is a significant difference between being full and being satisfied. Is eating only protein for an entire day really going to leave you feeling satisfied? Also, how likely is it that you will be able to enjoy a meal out with friends when you’re food choices are so restricted?
I’m a firm believer in enjoying the eating experience. I see it as time to spend with loved ones, enjoy tasty foods, and experience a certain culture. The Dukan Diet certainly does not allow for that. Yes, you may be successful if you have absolute discipline and don’t care about being the “party-pooper” when you’re out to a meal with friends. But personally, I think this is where a lot of diets go wrong.
Anyone can come up with a diet that is perfectly healthy for the human body (though I would argue that Dukan didn’t even do that). But the real challenge is finding a diet that is both healthy and manageable in normal day-to-day life. In short, this diet has way too many rules and restrictions to be realistic. At least, for anyone with a normal amount of self restraint.
Is This Healthy?
While I was looking into the Dukan Diet, there were many aspects that looked like red flags to me. But I didn’t want to just trust my instinct, so I did some research to see what the experts thought about it. As I said before, I noticed that a lot of doctors and dietitians acknowledged that this diet was a decent way to lose weight fast. However, there were so many cons that it really didn’t seem worth it to me to lose weight this way.
There are a few obvious health risks involved for anyone following the Dukan Diet. First of all, can our bodies really maintain healthy metabolic processes while consuming purely protein-rich foods? During the first phase, you’re expected to follow this rule for up to a week. During phase two, you’re allowed protein with some veggies. And then during phases three and four you’re essentially expected to have a protein-only day once a week for the rest of your life!
According to the Center for Disease Control, women should consume around 46 grams of protein a day and men should consume around 56 grams a day. The Dukan Diet exceeds this goal by a long shot, unless you’re eating virtually a third of the calories that your body needs.
Exceeding the recommended intake of protein can lead to some potentially serious health problems, mainly gastrointestinal problems. These can include diarrhea, constipation, and bloating, due to such a lack of fiber in the diet. Nausea and weakness are also symptoms of a diet too high in protein. This is because our livers were designed to metabolize only a certain amount of protein.
Aside from the obvious protein issue, anyone on this diet will be lacking in fats and carbohydrates, which are supposed to be 20-35% and 50-60%, respectively, of our daily calorie intake. Fats are essential for energy storage, maintaining blood sugar levels, and cell growth. Carbohydrates provide energy to specific organs and tissues that require glucose. Come on! The proof is in the pudding. This diet is not nutritionally sound in any way.
Alright, people. I think we’ve dug into this diet enough to come up with a verdict as to whether or not it is sound, realistic, and healthy. The answer? No, no, and no. The Dukan Diet lacks many essential macro- and micronutrients required for to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Though it may be tempting to try when you want to lose a few pounds quickly, it definitely doesn’t seem worth the potential risks. Most registered dietitians and doctors will tell you that the key to a healthy body is a balanced diet. And this diet has anything but balance. Overloading on one specific nutrient is never a good idea. When I’m questioning whether or not a diet is healthy, I always look at what the experts have to say. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is usually a great place to start.
Though I would love to have a body like Kate Middleton, I prefer to go about it in a different way—by going through life getting the nutrients my body needs and generally enjoying my food experiences. Who’s with me?
(Note: This article was written 100% by me, Georgia. However I first published it as a Spoon University article.)