Thursday, April 21, 2011

Do you Dukan?

Sound the Royal horns… Here comes the best-selling Dukan Diet book, amidst widely publicized rumors that Kate Middleton and her Mom used the now famous diet to slim down for the big day. Written by eminent French nutritionist Dr Pierre Dukan, the four phase program is being touted as the French dieter’s secret. Dr. Dukan developed this diet to treat his morbidly obese patients, not for a duchess-to-be who wanted to lose a couple of inches off her slim waist.

I was going to bulldoze the Dukan Diet’s credibility until nothing but a paper-thin smudge was left, because I don’t like “diets”, especially the trendy variety. Fad diets tend to create failure by making promises they can’t keep, until the dieter becomes so frustrated, weight and food obsessed, they’ll try an even more risky or unproven diet.

Here comes the lowdown. This is probably a slightly risky, rather inconvenient way to lose weight. You can lose weight with nasty side effects, roller-coaster trips up and down the scale, food-obsessions and a sense of deprivation, or without those things. Here are my “Bests” and “Worsts” of the Dukan Diet. You can apply these to any eating regimen/diet and test it like a paper airplane to see if it’ll fly.


Once you eliminate sugary treats, baked goods, and oily french fries
you can actually start to taste, with pleasure, the more subtle flavors and textures of protein and vegetables that are not smothered in rich, gooey or sweet sauces or toppings. Something about sugar, cream sauces, and butter triggers cravings in us, and the habit of it makes us less adventurous with herbs, spices and cooking methods that bring out the subtle aromas and tastes of fresh food.

The Dukan Diet encourages walking and other aerobic exercise.
Thirty minutes or more of consistent exercise releases endorphins, which are little reward chemicals for your brain. When you are trying to stay out of the kitchen and remove yourself from places where you normally eat your extra or junk calories, going for exercise is great not just for burning calories but for enhancing your mood, without extra food.

The Dukan Diet doesn’t rely on counting calories...
which can be a nuisance, and a tempting rule to break. But, if you want to lose weight, you still have to have a basic idea of your daily calorie intake.


It’s not Practical.
The Dukan Diet has four official phases. In the first phase you are on a strictly lean protein and water diet, plus a couple of spoonfuls of oat bran each day. Can you see being at a conference, a restaurant, or your aunt’s 50th birthday dinner? What are you going to do, pull some deli turkey out of your purse and munch on it? There are ways to start a diet without all that social embarrassment and self-torture.

You can eat “all you want”.
What could be wrong with that, eh? How are you going to learn to recognize what is “enough” and when you are full, if you can eat “all you want”? For most Americans, all you want means, go ahead, stuff yourself. This is not a way to keep your BMI in the zone.

It makes you Obsess about Food.
Even in phase two and three, the Dukan Diet is very particular about which proteins and especially vegetables you can eat, and how many days of the week you follow a certain regimen. It would make a crazy food obsessed person out of me, I’m sure. The last thing you should do to your relationship with the food you eat, is to let it devour all your attention, and trigger your guilt switch every time you see a sweet potato.

It throws you Out of Balance.
The more I learn about nutrition the more I see why cutting out whole food groups for more than say, a few days, is a really bad idea. A natural, varied diet contains a whole carnival of vitamin interactions, fiber, fatty acids (the Omega 3’s and 6’s), minerals and nutrients that regulate your blood sugar, iron levels, liver function, skin structure and immune response. You name it, if it involves your cells and organs there’s a group of foods for that. They all work together, and that’s why eliminating say, 99% of your carbs will lead to some sort of deficiency.

If you aren’t morbidly obese or trying to shed ten quick pounds for your wedding day, (and don’t care if you gain it back) I suggest you skip the Dukan Diet and try something less complicated, safer, and more long term. So, hey Princess (and Prince Charming) lay off the second helpings, hide the cookies and cream, and look for a diet that’s going to keep you physically and emotionally in balance.

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