It has dominated European headlines for over a decade and has the biggest stars in a tizz. Yep, it’s the Dukan Diet! The high protein French eating plan, which helped Catherine Middleton squeeze into her royal wedding frock and bounced A-list mums Jennifer Lopez and Gisele Bündchen back to their pre-baby bodies.
But just how good is it? While there’s no doubt the Dukan bible helps you shed kilos fast, thanks to the low-carb, high-protein approach, there’s a lot more to this fad diet. We take it to the experts.
But first, let’s learn a bit more about it…
WHAT IS THE DUKAN DIET?
The Dukan Diet, created by French doctor Pierre Dukan, aims at helping people lose weight… fast! It’s all about high protein, low fat, and very, very little carbs. Since it was introduced in 2000, the diet has swept across Europe and is now an international phenomenon. Like the famous Atkins diet before it, the Dukan Diet has four stages:
PHASE 1: ATTACK – The “ultimate” kick-start. This phase can last between 2-10 days and you’re required to stick with 67 high-protein foods, as well as oat bran, fat-free dairy and sugar substitutes. No carbs are allowed.
PHASE 2: CRUISE – The next few weeks (roughly 54 days) will have you balancing protein and vegetables. You’re allowed 100 different foods, as well as oat bran, fat-free dairy and sugar substitutes.
PHASE 3: CONSOLIDATION – This stage is designed to prevent regaining lost pounds. You’re given two “celebration” meals per week, where you can eat any food you like. This usually lasts 5 days for every pound lost (usually around 77 days). Carbs are now introduced slowly.
PHASE 4: PERMANENT STABILISATION – Welcome to the rest of your life! From now on you must eat 3 tablespoons of oat bran a day, dedicate one day a week to the “Attack Phase” (ie: a protein-only day) and of course exercise regularly.
Lisa Renn, Accredited Practising Dietitian and author of Body Warfare – The Secret to Permanent Weight Loss and Con Karson, qualified Nutritionist and director of Better Health and Body, give us their thoughts on the latest miracle diet…
BEWARE OF RAPID WEIGHT LOSS
Lisa says the Dukan Diet’s biggest pro is the weight loss itself. “People will always jump at the chance at something that promises rapid weight loss,” she says. But while the thought of slimming down fast is tempting, and phase four promises to keep you there for life, the results will most likely be short term only.
“A high protein diet is difficult to sustain,” she says. “Any diet plan that doesn’t teach you what to eat and how much or why you eat when you are not hungry will result in weight loss in the short term only.”
Con agrees. While eating oat bran daily is good for you and eating protein can help you feel full for longer, the Dukan Diet is “too restrictive and doesn’t build long term habits,” he says.
The strict eating means you may also be missing out on essential nutrients your body needs. Lisa adds: “You can lose weight by eating a wide variety of healthy foods, and teaming this up with regular exercise... this is the healthiest approach to weight loss.”
HIGH-PROTEIN = HIGH RISKS
When it comes to high-protein diets, Lisa puts it simply: “A high protein diet is not good for you,” she insists. “When you start to avoid food groups and prioritising protein only, this can lead to problems with a lack of fibre and constipation, bad breath and poor concentration in the short term and potential nutrient deficiencies in the long term.”
Con also says a high-protein diet isn’t the best approach when wanting to lose weight. “Eating protein at every meal is important and should lead to getting better results for weight loss,” he says. “But equally important is including enough healthy fats in the diet and a little complex carbohydrates. Eating lots of vegetables is also a given!”
YOUR LONG-TERM PLAN
Con says he’d be surprised if he found someone who stuck with the Dukan Diet for life, as it’s too restrictive and complicated to follow. “Most diets will work initially and unfortunately people look at diets as a temporary measure rather than look for something that they can follow for the long term,” he says. “The perfect diet is the one that works for you, is enjoyable, fits into your lifestyle, and you stick to.”
Lisa agrees. “Any diet plan that doesn’t consider the individuals lifestyle is doomed for failure in the long term -with the person potentially ending up with more weight on than they started.”
So there you have it! Now you just have to ask yourself… is losing weight fast really worth it?