The Dukan Diet Is Back!

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The Dukan Diet, made popular when Kate Middleton and her mother reportedly followed the plan to slim down in preparation for the royal wedding, is back. French physician Pierre Dukan, M.D.’s third U.S. book, The Dukan Diet Made Easy, comes out May 20.

Overall the diet is the same, with four phases: attack, cruise, consolidation, and stabilization.

The attack phase is geared for fast weight loss to boost motivatation and can last up to seven days. During this phase, the diet consists of unlimited amounts of only lean protein-lean beef, poultry, lean ham, organ meats, fish and seafood, eggs, and nonfat dairy (except cheese)-in addition to supplementing with 1 1/2 tablespoons of oat bran daily.

Next comes the cruise phase, where you alternate between days of all protein and days of protein and non-starchy vegetables, along with the oat bran. You stay in this phase until you reach your goal or “true” weight, as Dukan likes to call it.

Then you move on to the consolidation phase that lasts for five days for every pound you lost. At this point you can reintroduce limited amounts of fresh fruit, whole-wheat bread, and cheese into your diet, plus enjoy two weekly servings of starchy foods, such as pasta, beans, or potatoes. However you must still follow the pure protein diet from the attack phase for one day a week (for some reason, the plan says on Thursdays) and continue to supplement with the oat bran.

Lastly is the stabilization phase where you can basically eat whatever you want, but you need to include one Thursday of pure protein each week and 3 tablespoons of oat bran daily. This phase is suggested for the rest of your life.

RELATED: 10 Portable High-Protein Snacks

With this new book, you can now follow the program online. The website promotes personalized, individual counseling for a membership fee. You start by having your “true” weight calculated and by answering 80 personal questions, which then creates your diet plan. Every morning you receive daily instructions and tips, and in the evening you report back on how are you feeling. Chat rooms, recipes, and many other tools are made available.

I think this type of membership could be helpful for many people, and it actually reminds me of Weight Watchers, of which I am a fan. Unfortunately though, online counseling or not, the diet plan is still the same. There are some pros to this diet; for example, eating plenty of veggies (even though he does limit the types) and lean protein, drinking lots of water, and daily exercise are all things I recommend too, but the cons still outweigh these high notes.

The main problem with the Duakn Diet is that for the longest time the diet consists of mostly protein. Sure you will lose weight, but at what cost? No diet should leave you feeling poorly, and with a restrictive, low-carb and low-fiber diet, you probably will. It can cause constipation, and most importantly put your body into ketosis (without adequate carbs your body breaks down fat for energy), which can cause fatigue, bad breath, and dry mouth; and eventually damage your kidneys and liver. Why anyone would even want to deal with that is beyond me.

  • By Keri Gans

Is the Dukan Diet a Safe and Effective Way to Lose Weight?

A 1-Day Sample Meal Plan for the Attack Phase

  • Breakfast: one serving of low-fat cottage cheese
  • Lunch: spicy chicken kebabs
  • Dinner: chicken tandoori and shirataki noodles

The Cruise Phase

The second phase is when you can start adding nonstarchy vegetables to your eating plan. You’ll alternate between one day of only lean protein and one day of lean protein mixed with nonstarchy vegetables, plus you’ll increase to a 2-tbsp serving of oat bran per day. The Cruise phase length is based on a schedule of three days for each pound you want to lose, and in most cases runs anywhere from 1 to 12 months.

To help with weight loss, proponents of the Dukan diet recommend 30 minutes of brisk walking each day.

What You Can Eat

  • All types of lean beef, pork, lamb, or any other red meat
  • Chicken
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Vegetarian proteins, including soy, tofu, tempeh, and seitan
  • Fat-free dairy, such as cottage cheese, milk, cream cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream, and ricotta
  • Water
  • Nonstarchy vegetables, like leafy greens, root vegetables, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp oat bran
  • Shirataki
  • 1 teaspoon (tsp) of oil in a salad dressing

What to Avoid

  • Fruits
  • Starchy vegetables, like potatoes and corn
  • Carbohydrates and grains
  • Sugars
  • Fats
  • Alcohol

A 1-Day Sample Meal Plan of the Cruise Phase

  • Breakfast: scrambled eggs with smoked salmon
  • Lunch: turkey on a bed of lettuce
  • Dinner: meatloaf with mushrooms

The Consolidation Phase

After the first two phases have helped you lose weight, the Consolidation phase gradually introduces more food groups again. This phase lasts five days for every pound lost and is designed to prevent rebound weight gain.

You’ll continue eating lean protein and nonstarchy vegetables, along with some carbs and fats, with one day of lean protein only each week. Your oat bran serving stays at 2 tbsp per day.

To maintain the weight loss, try to aim for 25 minutes of brisk walking each day.

What You Can Eat

  • 1 to 2 servings of fruit per day (except those indicated below)
  • 2 slices of whole grain bread per day
  • 5 ounces (oz) hard rind cheese
  • 1 to 2 servings (1 cup when cooked) of starchy foods per week
  • 1 to 2 celebration meals (including only 1 serving of each: appetizer, entrée, dessert, and a glass of wine) per week
  • 2 tbsp oat bran per day

What You Can’t Eat

  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Figs
  • Cherries
  • Alcohol (other than the one glass of wine in the celebration meals)
  • Sugar

A 1-Day Sample Meal Plan of the Consolidation Phase

  • Breakfast: omelet with vegetables and cheese
  • Lunch: grilled chicken in a salad with greens and a low-fat dressing
  • Dinner: crab and tomato-stuffed flounder

The Stabilization Phase

The final phase lasts indefinitely and is meant to help you keep the weight off. It’s very similar to the Consolidation phase, but allows you to be a little looser with the carbs and fats. One day out of the week should still be lean protein only, and each day you’ll have 3 tbsp of oat bran.

Twenty minutes of brisk walking per day is still recommended to maintain weight loss. You’re also encouraged to practice lifestyle fitness habits, like taking the stairs instead of an elevator.

Use the same guidelines from the Consolidation Phase to plan meals:

What You Can Eat

  • 1 to 2 servings of fruit per day
  • 2 slices of whole grain bread per day
  • 5 oz hard rind cheese
  • 1 to 2 servings (1 cup when cooked) of starchy foods per week
  • 1 to 2 celebration meals (including only 1 serving of each: appetizer, entrée, dessert, and a glass of wine) per week
  • 3 tbsp oat bran per day

What You Can’t Eat

No foods are forbidden, but you need to continue monitoring the amounts carefully.

Confession: I’m a carb fiend.

Pancakes, waffles, and French toast are about the only reasons I brunch. Cake, muffins and scones? Can’t resist. And don’t even get me started on donuts. Thanks in part to my love of these and other carb-rich treats, my weight has gone up and down over the past 10 years.

That’s not to say that I’m technically overweight or obese. I’ve managed to keep my weight in check thanks to a dedicated fitness regimen—which includes a hearty dose of cardio and strength training. But you know that saying that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet? Well, I have a stubborn stomach pudge that no amount of HIIT or heavy deadlifts seems to melt. The cure, I knew, would be found in a diet featuring fewer simple carbs and more stomach-satisfying proteins and veggies.

I’ve tried to curb my carb obsession for years, with mixed success. And so, desperate to finally get rid of that extra stomach flab that has always made me feel self-conscious, I decided to try a low-carb, high-protein diet known as the Dukan Diet.

While The Dukan Diet book was first published in 2000, the weight-loss plan gained international attention when Kate Middleton reportedly followed it in the months before her 2011 wedding to Prince William. And hey, Kate looked pretty damn good walking down the aisle.

The Diet

Lauren Bedosky

With the Dukan Diet, you move through four distinct phases: “Attack,” “Cruise,” “Consolidation,” and “Stabilization.” How long you spend in the first three diet phases depends on how much weight you want to lose.

For example, the first phase, “Attack,” typically lasts two to five days, and you’re only allowed to choose from a list of 68 high-protein foods, such as beef tenderloin, chicken, seitan, reduced-fat bacon, and fat-free dairy products (fatty meats and full-fat dairy products not included).

In the second phase, “Cruise,” you can add 32 different kinds of veggies to your diet (think: kale, lettuce, artichokes, squash, spinach, and tomato, although the last one is technically a fruit). According to the Dukan Diet website, the average length of this phase is three days for every pound you want to lose. What’s still not allowed? Grains. Of any kind.

The third phase, “Consolidation,” is designed to prevent the rebound effect we’ve all experienced as we’ve gone “on” and “off” diets. In it, you slowly reintroduce previously forbidden foods by giving yourself two “celebration meals” per week. The average length of this phase is five days for every pound you want to lose.

The fourth and final phase, “Stabilization,” is supposed to last for the rest of your life. In this phase, there are no forbidden foods, but you’re advised to control your eating to prevent weight regain.

And to keep your weight in check, the website advises you follow three non-negotiable rules for the rest of your life: eat three tablespoons of oat bran per day, walk 20 minutes and take the stairs whenever possible, and eat nothing but protein-rich foods every Thursday. (I can get behind the second rule, but the other two? Not so much.)

Find out what happened when one woman tried the keto diet:

To learn more about what I was getting myself into, I chatted with Samantha Heller, R.D.N., adjunct professor of nutrition and health at the University of Bridgeport, and senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Health. Heller is most decidedly not a fan of the Dukan Diet.

For one thing, the diet is highly restrictive. In it, you’re cutting out carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, and even fruit which, as Heller argues, is antithetical to what our bodies actually need. “Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for our brains, our exercising muscles and most of the cells in our bodies. So why would you want to cut those out?” she says.

What’s more, the Dukan Diet results don’t include learning sustainable weight-loss habits, such as eating in moderation, Heller adds.

Heller also broke it to me that U.S. News & World Report had recently named the Dukan Diet one of the worst popular diets out there, for many of the same reasons she’d offered. (Womp womp.)

Related: ‘Khloe Kardashian’s “Revenge Body” Helped Me Lose 50 Pounds—But This Is How I Kept It Off’

The Experiment

Lauren Bedosky

Before starting the diet, I had to calculate my target weight (what the Dukan Diet refers to as “True Weight”). Using a free tool on the website, I plugged in a host of info about myself, including my gender, current weight, age, height, diet history, average weight, tendency to gain weight, and body frame size.

Then, I hit “Calculate” and received a personalized plan, plus the option to participate in a paid coaching program. (I opted out of the coaching program.)

According to my personalized plan, I had about 11 pounds to lose, which was what I’d expected. If I followed the diet as outlined, I would reach my “true weight” by February 4 if I started on January 1. That included one day in “Attack,” six days in “Cruise,” and seven days in “Consolidation.” Then, the theory goes, I would be able to hang out in “Stabilization” forever.

Related: 6 Things You’ll Have to Give Up if You Want to Lose Weight FOR GOOD

The first day—the protein-only “Attack” day—was by far the toughest. I was so used to reaching for a granola bar or piece of fruit when I felt hunger pangs, that suddenly needing to find and prepare my meals and snacks was a huge shock. I (barely) survived by scarfing large amounts of Greek yogurt, a protein shake made with 100 percent whey protein and skim milk, and shredded chicken in chicken broth. (It’s worth noting that protein powder isn’t actually listed as one of the 100 foods allowed on the diet; I took some liberties.)

In fact, I took many liberties during those two weeks. Or, as my husband put it when he caught me drizzling diet-unapproved honey on a bowl of Greek yogurt one day: “I feel like you’re reading between the lines of this diet.”

It didn’t help that I’d sooner eat peanut butter sandwiches for days on end than cook a healthy, delicious meal. But since peanut butter and bread were off-limits, I swallowed my distaste for cooking and threw together a couple of simple, protein-rich soups designed to last the entire two weeks. I also mixed up a large salad that was chock-full of romaine lettuce, peppers, onion, and feta cheese, and topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The six days I spent on the protein- and veggie-only “Cruise” phase were rough, but the soups and salad helped tide me over for most of my meals. When I needed a quick snack, I’d share a small bowl of yogurt with my cat, grab a couple of cheese slices, or give in to my carb cravings and sneak a Kind bar or a few squares of chocolate.

Things went a lot smoother once I reached the “Consolidation” phase and could re-introduce previously forbidden foods. Yes, technically I’d already been doing that, but at least now I didn’t feel so guilty about it. I’ve found that I don’t cope well when someone tells me I can’t eat something; it only makes me want that something (i.e. carbs) even more.

Related: ‘I Tried the Paleo Diet for 30 Days to Lose Weight—Here’s What Happened’

My Dukan Diet Results

Lauren Bedosky

Even though I strayed from the diet here and there, I managed to lose five pounds by the end of two weeks. It’s hardly noticeable in photos, but I can definitely see and feel the difference.

And you know what? I’m glad that I broke the rules on this diet. Sure, I probably could have lost more weight if I’d been strict, but the truth is, the way I ate during those two weeks was actually sustainable for me. Instead of relying on nothing but carbs, carbs, carbs to keep me fueled throughout the day, I was learning to reach for alternatives like protein- and veggie-rich soup, heaping salads, and healthily large doses of Greek yogurt. And in the process of adding more variety to my diet, I also cut back (a little) on unhealthy snacks, like handfuls of chips and extra granola bars.

Now that the diet is officially over, I plan to keep up the healthy habits I practiced, as well as develop some new habits. Namely, I plan to expand my protein options, so I’m not stuck eating Greek yogurt and chicken all the time. (Heller recommends trying plant-based proteins such as beans, hummus, veggie burgers, tofu, edamame, and seitan, which are all allowed on the Dukan Diet.)

But don’t get me wrong, I still plan on eating the occasional donut. Or two.

Not without controversy, Dukan’s weight loss plan has come under criticism from health professionals, many believing that the diet promotes an unbalanced way of eating. In recent years, Pierre Dukan’s controversial claims have also brought unwanted attention upon the Dukan brand.

The original diet

The original Dukan diet is similar to a ketogenic diet as both emphasise the consumption of fat and protein but omit carbohydrates. The body will turn to glycogen stores (carbohydrates) for energy first if supplies are plentiful. Ketogenic diets essentially force the body to switch from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat. This often has the desirable effect of weight loss, though high levels of ketones in the body can be problematic and may lead to a state known as ketosis.

The four phases of the Dukan diet summarised from dukandiet.co.uk:

  1. Attack phase.
    This first stage lasts between five-ten days and promises immediate results. Dieters have 72 high-protein foods to choose from, with absolutely no carbohydrates allowed.
  2. Cruise phase.
    While pure protein days are still encouraged, carbohydrates are slowly reintroduced in the form of 28 pre-approved vegetables. Dukanites stay in this stage until they have reached their ‘goal weight’.
  3. Consolidation phase
    Previously forbidden foods such as fruit and dairy are gradually reintroduced. Followers are even granted two ‘celebration meals’ a week where they are allowed to eat almost anything they like (some restrictions still apply).
  4. Stabilisation phase
    If you’ve managed to reintroduce carbohydrates back into your life without putting weight back on, you’re allowed to smugly step into stage 4 and unlock the ‘rules for life’.

How long people stay on the diet depends on their current weight, fitness and desired goal weight.

The Dukan Diet 2

Since the development of the original Dukan diet, a second programme has been formulated which in essence reflects the original consolidation phase. Dukan 2 involves seven steps – each step represents the dietary inclusion of a food group. Steps one and two involve eating unlimited quantities of 100 allowed foods, which include natural proteins (step one) and vegetables (step two). Subsequent steps involve the graduated addition of fruit, breads, cheese and other starches, such as pasta.

Nutritionist (MBANT) Kerry Torrens says:

During the initial, very restrictive phase you can expect to lose weight quite quickly which of course acts as a great motivator. The diet is especially attractive for those who don’t like counting calories and prefer a more prescriptive way of eating because it sets out exactly what you can have.

Unlike Atkins, the Dukan diet restricts fat and omits vegetables completely in the first phase, with a gradual re-introduction of some fruit, veg and carbs in the subsequent phases of the diet. Some reports suggest the stabilisation phase – the last of the four phases – is the one that causes the most problems. That’s because it’s hard to re-introduce a wider selection of food, without putting weight back on, and many followers find it difficult to stick to the dedicated weekly “protein day”.

There is limited scientific support that the Dukan diet is effective and sustainable in the long term, so although you can expect to lose weight in the initial very strict phases of the diet, most go on to regain the weight they originally lost. One survey suggests that 80% of people regain the weight over a period of more than 4 years.

More importantly, though, the diet ignores key healthy eating principles – including the importance of fruit and veg, the benefits of whole-grains and fibre and the health benefits achieved by selecting from a variety of food groups. For these reasons the diet is likely to be nutritionally imbalanced. It may be argued that the Dukan Diet 2 attempts to address the issue of nutritional imbalance by introducing a wider inclusion of food groups within a prescriptive format over a shorter period of time. Weight loss as a result is said to be slower and more gradual, requiring a longer term commitment to the plan.

As a result of following a restrictive, low-carb diet people sometimes experience the following:

  • Lack of energy, fatigue and dizziness because of the low levels of carbs
  • Bad breath and a dry mouth
  • Constipation and potential bowel problems because of the low levels of fibre
  • Nutrient deficiencies because of the restricted food choice.
  • Subsequent weight gain, most notably around the waist

Please note, if you are considering attempting any form of diet please consult your GP first to ensure you can do so without risk to health.

More information…

If you want to read more about the Dukan diet you can do so at dukandiet.co.uk

Weight loss and good health can be achieved by following a healthy, balanced diet. Our nutritionist approved plan helps you find your perfect portion size, guideline daily amounts and nutritionally balanced breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks:
A balanced diet for women
A balanced diet for men

Want facts and information on other diets? Read more from our health editor and nutritional therapist on other popular weight loss plans:
The Atkins diet
The Paleo diet
The 5:2 diet

This article was last reviewed on 18 January 2019 by Kerry Torrens.

A nutritionist (MBANT) Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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