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.