Read an Excerpt
The Dukan Diet
Thirty-five years have passed since my life-changing encounter with the obese gentleman. Since then, I have devoted my work to helping thousands of men and women lose pounds and stabilize their weight.
Like all my French medical colleagues, I was trained that calories counted and low-calorie diets were the way to lose weight. Every type of food was allowed in moderate quantities. Nowadays, what I know and practice I have learned through direct daily contact with flesh-and- blood human beings who have constant cravings to eat.
I very quickly realized that it was not by accident that an individual was overweight. Their appetite and their apparent lack of restraint were a camouflage concealing a need to find comfort in food. This need is all the more overwhelming as it is connected to our survival mechanisms, which are as archaic as they are instinctive. It soon became obvious to me that I could not make an overweight person lose weight and stay slim simply by giving sound advice, even if that advice was based on common sense and scientific research.
Support is what overweight people determined to lose weight really want and is what they need from a counselor or a method-support so that they are not left alone to face the ordeal of dieting, which deliberately goes against their own instinct for survival.
What overweight individuals are looking for is an outside will, a decision maker who walks ahead of them offering guidance and specific instructions, because what overweight people most hate and simply cannot do is decide for themselves when and how they are going to deprive themselves of food.
As for managing their weight, overweight individuals will admit without shame-and why should there be any-that they are powerless when it comes to controlling what they eat. People from every social and economic background have all sat in front of me and described themselves as being astonishingly weak when it comes to food.
Obviously, most of them have found in food an easy "escape valve" through which they can release excess tension, stress, and life's all too frequent disappointments. Any logical, reasonable, and rational instructions just cannot stand up to those pressures-at least not for long.
During my years of practice, I have seen many diets come and go. From analyzing these diets and the reasons behind their various successes, as well as the efforts of my own patients, I am convinced of the following: Overweight people who want to lose weight need a fast- acting diet that brings immediate results, fast enough to strengthen and maintain their motivation. They also need precise goals, set by an outside instructor, with a series of levels to aim for so that they can see their efforts and compare them with the results expected. However, I have also observed the strength of my patients' resolve at certain times in their lives and then seen how easily they lose heart when the results do not match their efforts.
Most of the spectacular diets that rocketed to success in recent years did in fact have that fast-off-the-mark effect and delivered the promised results. Unfortunately, their instructions and guidance faded away once the book was closed, leaving the overweight individual once again all alone on the slippery slope of temptations, and the cycle would start all over again. Once the goal was reached, all these diets, even the most original and inventive, abandoned their followers with the same old commonsense advice about moderation and balance that a formerly overweight person will never manage to follow.
None of these famous diets managed to find a way of protecting and guiding individuals during the period that follows their weight loss, giving advice and precise, simple, and effective landmarks like those that made their initial program so successful.
People who have lost weight know instinctively that on their own, and without any support, they will not be able to preserve this victory. They also know that left to their own devices, the pounds will creep back on. They need instructions that are simple, specific, effective, and not too frustrating-guidelines that can be followed for the rest of their life.
Dissatisfied with the majority of the diets in vogue, which are only concerned with a dazzling but short-lived victory, and aware of the ineffectiveness of low-calorie diets and the kind of commonsense advice that despite all the evidence hopes to reform overeaters into careful eaters, I developed my own weight loss diet. Years of medical practice allow me to consider it both the most effective and easy-to- follow diet available today.
I realize that the preceding statement may make me appear immodest. But I will take that risk because it is my most heartfelt conviction, and not saying so in the face of the growing scourge of weight control problems would amount to a failure to assist people in danger.
The Dukan Diet takes into account everything that is essential for the success of any weight loss program:
It offers overweight people trying to lose weight a system with specific instructions that get them on track, with stages and objectives, leaving no room for ambiguity or deviation. The initial weight loss is substantial and sufficiently rapid to launch the diet and instill lasting motivation. It is a low-frustration diet. Weighing food portions and calorie counting are banned, and it allows you total freedom to eat a certain number of popular foods. It is a comprehensive weight loss program, an integrated whole that you either take or leave. The diet can be broken down into four successive phases:
1. The Attack phase. The initial Attack phase is a pure protein diet that creates a stunning kick start, almost as quick as fasting or powdered protein diets but without their drawbacks. 2. The Cruise phase. In the Cruise phase, pure protein days alternate with days in which you eat pure proteins plus certain allowed vegetables. This phase lets you reach your chosen weight. 3. The Consolidation phase. The Consolidation phase is designed to prevent the rebound effect that occurs after any rapid weight loss. This is a period of high vulnerability when the body has a tendency to very easily regain those lost pounds. The duration of this phase is based on a precise formula: 5 days for every pound lost. 4. The Permanent Stabilization phase. Permanent weight stabilization is based on three simple safety measures that are easy to follow but which are indispensable if the weight loss is to be maintained: The pure protein phase of the diet must be followed 1 set day per week-for example, every Thursday-for the rest of your life; do not use elevators or escalators; and take 3 tablespoons of oat bran a day. These three rules are non-negotiable, but they are sufficiently specific and effective for you to stick to them over a long period of time.
The Theory Behind the Dukan Diet
Before discussing the diet in detail and explaining exactly how it works and why it is so effective, I want first to give you an outline of the whole four-phase program to make clear from the outset precisely for whom the diet is intended, along with any possible contraindications.
One of the major merits of the Dukan Diet is its educational value. It allows you to learn in real life and with your own body the relative importance of each food group from the order in which they are integrated into the diet. That is, the diet starts with vital foods, then introduces, in succession, indispensable foods, essential foods, and important foods, finishing off with unnecessary but pleasurable foods.
The Dukan Diet provides a system of perfectly interwoven instructions that will clearly and directly set you on the right track, avoiding the need for that never-ending effort of willpower that can slowly undermine your determination.
I will be giving these instructions to you in four successive diet plans. The first two make up the actual weight loss stage, and the second two ensure that the weight loss you achieve is consolidated and then permanently stabilized.
1. The Attack Phase: The Pure Protein Diet
The Attack phase is the conquest phase. Here dieters are always extremely motivated. They are looking for a diet plan that, however arduous it might be, meets their expectations in terms of effectiveness and quick results and that allows them to tackle their weight problem head-on. The length of this phase depends on how much weight one wants to lose. The Attack phase can last as little as 1 day or as many as 10, with most people falling in the 2- to 7-day range.
The diet plan for this initial phase of the Dukan Diet, great for a fast-track approach, limits food to just one of the three food groups- namely, proteins.
Except for egg whites, no food is 100 percent protein. The pure protein diet of the Attack phase selects and groups together foods whose composition is as close as possible to pure protein, such as certain kinds of meat, fish, seafood, poultry, whole eggs, and nonfat dairy products.
Compared with low-calorie diets, the pure protein diet is a real war machine, a bulldozer that, if followed without fail, crushes all resistance. It is effective in the most difficult cases, in particular for premenopausal women suffering from water retention and bloating and for menopausal women. It is just as effective with dieters deemed to be resistant because they have tried and given up on too many diets or aggressive courses of treatment in the past.
2. The Cruise Phase: The Alternating Protein Diet
As its name indicates, this phase works by alternating two diets: the pure protein diet followed by the same diet to which any nonstarchy vegetable, raw or cooked, is added (see "100 Natural Foods That Keep You Slim," page 168). Each alternate cycle works like the injection- combustion cycle of a two-speed engine burning up its calorie quota.
In the alternating cycles of the Cruise phase you can eat the authorized "as much as you like" foods at any time of day and in the combination and quantity that best suits you. This gives you both complete freedom and an effective way of neutralizing your hunger by eating. Satisfaction through quantity makes up for any lack of variety.
Later I will discuss the precise timing for the alternating pattern of the Cruise phase, which will depend on how much weight you want to lose, how many diets you have already attempted, your age, and your level of motivation.
The Cruise phase must be followed without a break until your target weight is reached. Although influenced in part by previous bad experiences, the alternating protein diet is still one of the diets least affected by resistance induced by previous attempts at weight loss.
3. The Consolidation Phase: The Transition
Diet-5 Days for Every Pound Lost
After you have achieved your goal weight comes the soothing phase of the Dukan Diet. Its purpose is to get you eating a wider variety of foods again, while avoiding the traditional rebound effect that occurs after losing a lot of weight. When you lose weight, your body tries to put up resistance. It reacts to its reserves being plundered by gradually reducing its energy output and, above all, by assimilating and getting as much energy as possible from any food that is eaten.
The successful dieter is therefore sitting on a volcano: Your body is just waiting for the right moment to win back its lost reserves. A large meal that before you reached this phase of the Dukan Diet would have had little effect will now, toward the end of the diet, have far- reaching consequences.
This is why the Consolidation phase opens up to include foods that are richer and more gratifying, but their variety and quantity will be limited so your body's metabolism can adjust to your new weight. Think of it as the first step in stabilizing your weight loss.
In the Consolidation phase, you will be adding 2 slices of bread and
1 portion of fruit and cheese into your daily diet, along with 2 servings of carbohydrates and 2 "celebration" meals a week.
The purpose of the Consolidation phase is to avoid the explosive rebound that is the most immediate and one of the most frequent reasons for failure in weight loss diets. It is now necessary to introduce foods as significant as bread, fruit, cheese, and some starches as well as certain unnecessary but extremely pleasurable dishes or foods. These added foods must, however, be introduced in a certain order to avoid the continual risk of slipping backward and to protect your weight loss. How long this phase lasts depends on how much weight has been lost-a very simple calculation based on 5 days for every pound lost.
4. The Permanent Stabilization Phase: Ultimate
Long-Term Weight Control
Having lost weight and avoided any rebound by following the rules of the first three phases of the Dukan Diet, you may sense instinctively that your victory is fragile, and you may fear that, without support, sooner or later-more often sooner rather than later-you will be at the mercy of your old demons. One thing you may be even more certain of is that, when it comes to food, you may never acquire the discipline most nutritionists recommend as the way guaranteed to maintain weight loss. However, the Stabilization phase is designed to give you a way to maintain your hard-won goal: the original pure protein diet of the Attack phase-the most effective and the strictest weapon of my program- once a week, every Thursday, for the rest of your life.
As paradoxical as this might seem, once you have reached your desired weight, you are quite capable of making this effort 1 day a week because it is a very precise rule and because 1 day a week is a very limited amount of time. And, above all, this specific and non- negotiable rule bears immediate fruit, allowing you to eat normally for the other 6 days of the week without putting any weight back on.
THE DUKAN DIET SUMMARIZED
The Attack phase: Pure Proteins
Length: 2 to 7 days, with the average being 5 days
The Cruise phase: 100 Unlimited Foods in Alternation
Average length: 3 days for each pound you want to lose
The Consolidation phase
Average length: 5 days per pound lost
The Permanent Stabilization phase
1 pure protein day every Thursday for life
No more elevators and escalators
3 tablespoons of oat bran a day
Some Useful Information About Nutrition
The CFP Trio:
All food is made up of only three nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Every food gets its taste, texture, and nutritional interest from the particular way that these three elements combine.