Stacey Frattinger, RD, CHFS, Certified Integrative Health Coach, currently resides in Sparks, NV. She owns a virtual health coaching and nutrition counseling practice, mainly focusing on one-on-one, individualized whole body wellness practices.
This plan is essentially a protein-based diet, similar to the Atkins and Paleo diet. The Dukan diet emphasizes fat and protein as the main staples of your diet to initially get one into the state of ketosis, and then later reintroduces carbohydrates methodically. The plan specifically lists 100 foods considered “acceptable”, 72 animal-based foods and 28 plant-based foods. You can eat as much as you like, as long as you stick to the list of 100 acceptable foods, and follow a series of 4 phases. The first phase, or “Attack phase”, lasts 5-10 days. You have 72 high-protein foods to choose from, and will not be including carbohydrates other than 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran. The second phase, the “Cruise phase”, reintroduces approved vegetables into your plan and is your main phase until you reach your goal weight. The third phase, the “Consolidation phase”, reintroduces fruit and dairy gradually. It is during this phase where you are allowed 2 “celebration meals”, allowing you to temporarily go off plan. The final phase or the “Stabilization phase”, is your phase for life, as you now reintroduce carbohydrates as desired to help stabilize your weight. In addition you will incorporate 1 pure protein day each week and continue to use oat bran daily.
The Dukan Diet was developed by the French doctor Pierre Dukan. This eating plan originated in France and first gained popularity in 2000 after Dr. Dukan published his book outlining the Dukan method. Starting out as a specialist in neurology, Dukan allegedly switched to a specialty in nutrition after recommending a high-protein diet to a friend who was desperate to lose weight. After watching his friend experience success in following the doctor’s recommendations, the doctor committed his practice to researching and developing the diet that resulted in the publication of his book.
If you absolutely love following a strict plan, with very clear cut rules, compliance may not be an issue. For those of you who want to be told exactly what to do, exactly what to eat, and are up for a challenge, it won’t be difficult to adhere to this plan. The majority of individuals, however, will find the first two weeks rather restrictive, and it may be after a very short period of time that one decides this plan isn’t worth the effort or amount of willpower needed to experience weight loss.
Animal protein sources, including dairy, can be fairly expensive, particularly if you are buying organic or grass-fed protein sources, but smart consumers will soon learn to shop the sales and buy in bulk to avoid excessive spending. Considering the bulk of your meals will be made from protein and vegetables, you may spend some extra money on herbs and spices for flavoring enhancements, but will save on the cost of whole grains or fresh fruit.
Given that you are mainly eating protein, with some vegetables and oat bran on the side, this diet will become repetitive very quickly and won’t require much time in the kitchen. Cooking up protein sources in bulk, such as hard-boiled eggs and chicken breasts, and having your freezer stocked with steam-fresh bags of veggies is a real time saver. A quick trip to the grocery store for some rotisserie chicken and bagged salad could also help to have your meal ready for consumption in no time.
Causing the kidneys to work this hard for long periods of time does raise some concerns, though Dukan claims drinking a lot of water will help one to avoid this problem. Monitoring changes in your mental and physical functioning to better assess potential nutritional deficiencies over time is definitely recommended.
The Dukan diet does have a known history of causing controversy, attracting criticism from a number of health professionals. Much of the debate surrounds the long-term effects of eating such a high protein diet. Protein breaks down into uric acid through the digestive process, which must be eliminated and excreted via the kidneys. This process may cause the kidneys to work in “over-time” and eventually lead to damage. In addition, there is almost always concern when an individual is asked to remove whole food groups, such as fruit or whole grains.
Benefits: It is easy to plan, shop, and prepare the required foods for this plan. There are no special supplements to purchase, and you have the creative freedom in the kitchen to experiment with herbs and spice to keep your meals exciting. Dukan also his own line of products which can be ordered online if you need a little extra variety and ready-to-eat snacks. Eventually, if Dukan’s theory proves to be true, you can stabilize your weight while incorporating some treat meals and reintroducing carbohydrates from time to time.
Downsides: The Dukan Diet may not be the healthiest or most versatile plan compared to many other alternatives. Be prepared to follow a very structured plan, which may start to feel rather repetitive and boring. In addition, some of the reported side effects, such as lethargy, dry mouth, and constipation are not necessarily pleasant and may not be tolerable after a certain period of time.
The Bottom Line: While the Dukan Diet is likely to help you shed some stubborn weight, the highly restrictive nature of the Attack and Cruise phases raise some concern in terms of the rigid and restrictive nature of the plan. If you are using the scale to gauge your success, your weight loss may be the result of water weight or muscle loss. The actual body-fat lost through this plan remains unclear and could make long-term weight maintenance more difficult.