You Can Dukan – But Does That Mean the Dukan Diet is Right for You?

Have you heard about the new diet book due out soon?  Actually it has been a diet trend in France for years now and is making its way to our bookstores within weeks.  The Dukan diet is another twist on a low carb high protein plan.

The first phase of the diet includes unlimited lean meats and other protein sources, with a small amount of oat bran.   In the next phase, dieters are allowed certain vegetables as well, and later they add in other foods in small quantities.  The maintenance plan includes one day a week that returns to the initial phase – unlimited lean protein and the oat bran.  The author claims that you can eat as you like for the other 6 days, but you must walk for 20 minutes a day and never use elevators or escalators.

Like so many plans out there, I can see some valid points to this one too.  I like the incorporation of activity into a person’s lifestyle, especially in sensible ways like walking and avoiding mechanical devices that limit movement (ie.  elevators and escalators).  An initial “shake up” phase that focuses attitude for change and causes the scale to dip quickly at first CAN be helpful FOR SOME PEOPLE – if it is seen as exactly what it is, a somewhat artificial scale reading that includes water loss, and behavioral changes that are unrealistically drastic.

Eventually anyone seeking sustainable weight loss must find a permanent lifestyle that is different than the previous one.  In other words, any plan for weight loss that does not lead in that direction, or preferably start there, is destined to fall apart at the most difficult phase of any plan – maintenance!

This is where I see the Dukan Diet failing people in the same ways that all of its predecessors have let us down.  It assumes it has the answer for everyone and does not really teach how to make good food choices.  In order to choose well in a permanent way, a person must feel that their lifestyle is one of their choosing.  If the Dukan Diet, or any other plan for that matter, feels like it is right for you, that’s great.  What I see is that very few people – to be honest, none I can think of – feel that way about a low carb plan like this.

Like any weight loss plan, it is a reduced calorie diet.  There is nothing magic in the long term about a low carb plan.  In order to maintain the weight loss, a dieter must be able to continue eating fewer calories than prior to the weight loss (or increase activity significantly).  If high carb foods are strictly limited for much of the weight loss period, I usually see people craving these foods.  Most people really like the taste of carbs.  They even begin to crave healthier carbs like fruit and whole grains if they are not allowed to eat more than small quantities of them.  Other problems can arise on very low carb diets:  low energy and mood dips.

When you establish a way of eating that truly meets your individual needs, you will sense your own right to choose AND you will also feel responsible for all of the choices you make.  Rights and responsibilities:  isn’t that the basis of an adult approach?  If you accept someone else’s diet plan without any thought about customizing it for you, it will feel like something imposed upon you.  That makes it more likely that you will blame yourself for slips instead of taking responsibility for choices and non-judgmentally learning from the “mistakes”.  This blame game only reinforces the idea that you cannot be trusted to make your own food choices, that you need someone else to rein you in.  Responsibility allows you to see how you contributed to your disappointments  and how you can learn from them, instead of just feeling helpless and hopeless.

Perhaps the Dukan maintenance plan can work if people are able to continue to eat an appropriate amount of calories to keep the weight off, despite the freedom to choose whatever they want 6 days a week.  I think that is a large assumption, considering the cravings that are likely to develop during the carb-restricted weight loss portion of the plan.  I imagine it would be more typical for people to gain the weight back when the restrictions are loosened.

We all make our own food choices within the privacy of our lives.  We will do better if we accept this fact, along with the responsibility it implies, and become empowered to make better choices that help us work within the framework of our real lives.  If we choose a particular framework to help define a healthy and sane way for us as individuals to eat in general, that can be very helpful.  For the vast majority of us, that plan will be fairly moderate in nature and will not eliminate or severely limit our ability to choose certain foods that we like.  Let me be clear here.  We may choose to limit certain foods that we know are not healthy for us, but this choice should make personal sense.  In short it should be a real choice, not just another arbitrary rule imposed upon us by the next new diet fad.  Phwew!  I will get off my soapbox now.

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8 responses to “You Can Dukan – But Does That Mean the Dukan Diet is Right for You?

  1. There’s a guy here that is diabetic and was prescribed the South Beach diet by his dietitian. He swears that it was the only diet that helped him loose weight. I never knew that dietitions would suggest a specific diet. Are they allowed to promote certain ones?

    • kimthedietitian

      Sure, dietitians can recommend specific diets if they think they will benefit someone. The South Beach diet is one that is often recommended to diabetics, because it really limits the processed carbs that get people into trouble with their blood sugar.

  2. Do you think the Dukan is ok as a “kickstart” to begin a diet? Maybe using phase one and some of phase 2 followed by a variety of healthier foods?

    • kimthedietitian

      A “kickstart” is a part of many popular diet trends, and the Dukan diet is no different in this respect. Many people claim that an intense couple of weeks of changes that cause some quick weight loss is motivational. If that helps, there is really no big danger for a healthy person to follow the Dukan diet for a couple of weeks. The big question I have is: When will you make permanent changes in thinking and behavior that will make eating habits sustainable? If that question is never addressed, it just tends to be one diet after the next. There will never be a shortage of new “magic” to try!

  3. I am 55 pounds over weight. This needs to stop. I need to break my sugar/pasta/bread eating chain. Every morning i wake up and swear that iwill not gorge on pancakes or candy or crackers or toast. And by lunch time i am breaking it by dipping into the candy bowl at work. I need to do something to kick my fanny to get it going. i figure not at a certain weight, but about memorial day, when all the fresh farm markets open, then i will start converting to the fruits and veggies.

    • kimthedietitian

      Great goals! Here are some of my thoughts: Why Memorial Day? Isn’t now a really good time to start eating more fruits and vegetables? You may be setting yourself up to “dip into the candy bowl at work” by starting every day with a negative message to yourself – “I will not . . . ” can focus your thoughts more strongly on the foods that you feel unable to control. Try a more positive, empowering message to yourself: “I will care for my health today. The choices are always mine. Today I will make sure I have some of my favorite fruits with me at work. I will not judge myself. I will observe my choices and how they affect me as someone who cares about me.” Thoughts?

  4. SO far below rock bottom…. i dont know what to think anymore Kim.

    • kimthedietitian

      Please try not to judge yourself. Accept imperfection with this. Real and lasting changes to eating happen when you set realistic expectations of yourself and give yourself credit whenever possible. It will never be perfect, but it can get so much better! A focus on the scale can be so demoralizing. Try to focus on healthy changes you can make that are reasonable. Then you will have a feeling of success to build on.

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