The Dukan Diet – A Paleo/Primal Perspective

May 5, 2011

Dukan Diet bookMy favourite thing about French food, other than the now forbidden pastries, is all the fat. So let me get this straight. On the Dukan Diet, not only should I stay away from croissants, but you’re taking away the fat, too? No thanks.

Yet apparently the Dukan Diet is the newest diet craze. Kate Middleton’s mother, Carole, has sung the Dukan Diet’s praises, and it’s rumoured that her daughters Kate and Pippa may be on it as well. That’s some timely media attention, with the US version of the Dukan Diet book coming out the same month as the Royal Wedding. There are also some other celebrities that supposedly follow the Dukan diet, including Jennifer Lopez, Gisele Bundchen, and Nicole Kidman (not a bad list, eh?).

There are many crazy fad diets out there not worth mentioning, but this one caught my attention. It shares some similarities with paleo/primal but then veers sharply off-course.

The Dukan Diet – how it works

The Dukan diet was created by, you guessed it, Dr. Dukan, a French doctor in 2000. The original Dukan Diet book sold 3.5 million copies in French.

It’s basically a Protein Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF), and is high-protein, low-carb, and low-fat, with 4 “phases”:

Phase 1: Attack (4-10 days)

Eat protein only (including meat, fat-free dairy, and sugar-free gelatin). The only thing other than water that you’re allowed to have is oat bran (another miss) to help with ahem, digestion and to create a feeling of fullness (eating fat would’ve solved both problems…).

Phase 2: Cruise (until reach goal weight)

Alternate days of protein only and protein plus vegetables (almost paleo/primal).

Phase 3: Consolidation (5 days for every pound lost)

Gradually re-introduce “forbidden” foods – apparently this generally includes one fruit  and two slices of whole grain bread per day, one serving of carbs per week (e.g. pasta), and two cheat meals (they call it “celebration meals”) per week.

Phase 4: Permanent Stabilization (forever)

Anything goes as long as you do the following: eat 3 Tbsp of oat bran per day, have one all-protein day per week, walk 20 minutes a day and avoid all elevators/escalators. (At least he recognizes the importance of walking..).

How is the Dukan Diet different from paleo/primal?

The obvious one is also how it differs from the Atkins diet, in that it’s low fat. Which actually sounds a little more similar to Cordain’s version of paleo. But I would also say that in addition to eating low-carb and high-fat, I also eat moderate (not high) protein.

The other main difference is that foods that are avoided in the paleo/primal diet are allowed on Dukan (grains, legumes, vegetable oils, soy, etc.).

There’s also the whole structural element – the different phases and the cyclical eating.

What about health?

The Dukan diet, like the majority of diets, only has one purpose: to lose weight. There’s not much emphasis on nutrition or food quality. Guess what. If you’re healthy, you’ll be a healthy weight. Shocking. How do you get healthy? Eat healthy by considering nutrition. Avoid grains, legumes, soy, sugar, and vegetable oils. And eat fat (look up rabbit starvation, for starters).

Also, the basis of the two diets is a tad different. Dr. Dukan created the diet when for one of his patients who had an unsuccessful dieting track record. The patient wanted to try again, but had one condition – he wanted meat. So Dr. Dukan told him to eat nothing but protein and drink lots of water for 5 days. The patient lost 11 pounds, and the Dukan diet was born (really??). Paleo/Primal’s history is only slightly different, being based on what humans are believed to be genetically adapted to eat – what they have been eating for millennia.

It doesn’t have to be so complicated…

If we eat how our bodies are designed to (to the best of our knowledge), then we won’t need all these rules and phases. Just avoid the foods that have been shown to be harmful to us, and eat the best quality food you can, with hunger as your guide.

Also, in the last phase, once you re-introduce all the foods that made you fat in the first place, what do you really expect to happen? Do you really think that eating one day of protein only is going to keep you from re-gaining weight? Again, the Dukan Diet is indeed a diet, and not a long term solution.

The paleo/primal approach

It’s worth repeating – eat what your body is designed to eat, and you’ll be healthy – shedding the pounds will be a pleasant side effect of that health.

You’d prefer some sort of regime to follow? Fine. Have a Paleo/Primal “Attack” period, where you play around with eating very low carb and being in ketosis. After that, do a very strict version of paleo, and treat that as an elimination diet for potentially re-introducing some of the foods later (like dairy), if you wish. And then realize that you’ve adopted the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, and should never have to worry about diets again. It really can be that simple.

What do you think of the Dukan Diet?

Shared with Food Renegade and Real Food Wednesday.

Leave a Comment


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

The Mancini May 6, 2011 at 3:14 AM

Hey you! (didn’t read your About page yet…)

That’s a fantastic article about the Dukan Diet. I’ve wondering about it and why it has been crazed over so much. I couldn’t figure it out. Now after reading your take on it I came to a realization.

I’ve been following the Primal way for about a year or so and it’s just so effortless and I’ve not really been sick since I started. Go Primal! Right?
And I started to go to the Primal way a bit on my own after experimenting with food – MDA/PB finally clicked the pieces together and so I eliminated the grains and it all dawned on me then. But the main motivator was to feel better inside, since I already had been taken care of the outside by going to gym and some other physical hobbies for well past 10 years.

So the realization (sorry about the tangent there!) was that the Dukan Diet is, for the lack of a better word, ‘designed’ for lazy people. As are most restrictive diets that are to be followed for only a short period. Well, Dukan does have that maintenance mode but it’s a bit iffy IMO.

What I’ve noticed to work really well are Primal Diet combined with morning fasts (á la LeanGains). Training goes via the route of lift heavy (5×5 Stronglifts) and sprints when the weather permits it. Next winter I’m going to do HIIT on an exercise bike since I noticed after a winter of only doing gym I’m sluggish as hell. I’m glad that it’s spring now so I can sprint again. I feel immediately better!

That’s it for now. Just wanted to tell you that I liked your piece and was referenced here from MDA. Peace!

The Mancini


[email protected] May 6, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the post! I totally agree that diets are a lazy approach. It’s funny though how all that “dieting” effort adds up over the years, and doesn’t end up saving you time and energy overall. This seems to be the case most of the time with all sorts of shortcuts in life. I’m so glad I found the paleo/primal lifestyle! And yay for spring! Feels like summer’s just around the corner! :)


Julie June 16, 2011 at 2:40 PM

It sounds dreadful


[email protected] June 16, 2011 at 7:31 PM

Yep, doesn’t sounds very fun..


Tea September 23, 2011 at 10:41 AM


the dukan diet book explains in details each step of the diet, what to eat, what to expect and how your body will react through the different phases of the diet.
For this I like it.


Megan December 30, 2011 at 8:47 AM

I agree with Tea and the author . I’ve been working on adopting a primal* lifestyle for a few months but I’m not quite there yet (I still eat rice based cereals and gluten free baked goods sometimes). I definitely feel better without the gluten, corn, and legumes , but I still haven’t really worked at weight loss bc I haven’t given up the items I mentioned above.

Enter the Dukan Diet.

After reading the whole book it really does have some good structure and motivational aspects to it. I obviously would never “re-introduce” legumes, grains, or soy. I also would never avoid healthy fats. And I would DEFINITELY never start using Splenda (which Dukan recommends).

But overall, I feel like getting an initial weight loss boost at the start sounds awesome and it will hopefully be a jumping off point for me so I can fully transition to a primal* diet for the rest of my life.

*I won’t give up yogurt!


[email protected] January 5, 2012 at 9:11 PM

It’s great that you found something that works / makes sense to you. As for the yogurt, if you can tolerate it, then why not – especially if you’re able to find the raw stuff.

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