My 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?