Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The ‘Dukan Diet’: Another Fat-Free Fad or a French Revolution?

The student party season, although painfully premature, is fast approaching. For the more body conscious of you that may be considering trying to shift a few pounds this winter, let me introduce you to the ‘Dukan Diet’; invented and brought to the UK by Dr Pierre Dukan, loved by countless celebrities, numerous French women, the royal in-laws and my very own mother!

For many of us, the wild and care-free frivolities of Fresher’s week seem like only yesterday. Memories of hurling our loans at Topshop cashiers, falling out of taxis, spending numerous drunken hours in McDonalds and chundering before, after and during Fruity still seem fresher than a Bodington Common Room. (un)Fortunately it’s all about to come around once again, whether we like it or not.

For numerous female students, the inevitable prospect of an upcoming society/hall/work Christmas social means hunting down, or perhaps more importantly fitting into, that killer dress. While some may be blessed with a ridiculously enviable metabolism (I hate you), others will be hitting the gym harder than a rugby-tackled Varsity streaker. For the rest of us exercise-phobic individuals desperate to shift a pound or two, we may end up resorting to one thing, that oh-so-menacing ‘D’ word: a DIET.

So have you heard of the recently-famed ‘Dukan Diet’? As something I have tried, tasted and witnessed thanks to a very dedicated (and now very slim-line) mother, I share with you my thoughts and observations:

The ‘Dukan Diet’ Guidelines
The diet is based on a list of over 100 allowed foods, as well as four specific phases known as: attack, cruise, consolidation, and stabilization.
The initial attack phase is designed to enable dieters to rapidly lose 0 to 3 kilograms (up to 6.6 lb) in 2–7 days by kick-starting their metabolism. Dieters are allowed to eat as much as they want of 72 protein-rich foods. Tea, coffee and diet drinks are allowed, but no alcohol.
The cruise phase is designed to allow dieters to more gradually achieve the weight they aim for by eating protein-rich foods with the addition of 28 specific vegetables. The length of this phase is usually calculated as 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of weight loss per week, but this is based on specific personal conditions. Tolerated foods are also allowed as per the programme, but any weight gain will ban some of these
The consolidation phase is designed to help in preventing any future massive weight gain. During this phase, fruit, bread, cheese and starchy foods are reintroduced into a normal diet, leaving two celebratory meals a week as directed by the plan
Finally, in the stabilization phase, dieters can essentially eat whatever they want without gaining weight by following a few rules: protein day once a week, eating oat bran every day and making a commitment to "take the stairs". According to Dukan, dieters shall follow this last phase for the rest their lives to avoid regaining weight.

All phases fully explained here: http://www.dukandiet.com/The-Dukan-Diet/4-Phases as well as in this short video...

In short, the diet is all about enduring an ugly few days of protein, protein and more protein and then gradually introducing the somewhat more exciting food groups as time goes on.

Having begun the plan with my Mum in January after a slightly over-indulgent Christmas, I have acquired pretty mixed feelings about the diet. I ashamedly lasted all of two days in the ‘attack’ phase. As serious bread, cereal and general carbohydrate addict I crumbled, literally, to freshly made bread and a pack of chocolate digestives.  The thought of another lunchbox brimming with ham and eggs after a measly bowl of Oatbran porridge made with skimmed milk, aka water, was all too much for me. I inhaled the calories I had missed out on in two days in the space of fifteen minutes. My Mum on the other hand heroically stuck it out and saw through every single protein-packed phase. She reached her target weight within eight weeks and has managed to keep it off ever since in the 'stabilization' phase.

When I ask myself if the diet is student-friendly I would definitely have to say no. It’s expensive (meat is not cheap), doesn’t condone alcohol (definite no then) and leaves you with a breath so bad you most definitely won’t be pulling on Friday night. Health-wise it’s also very questionable and has faced its fair share of media criticism. Surely no diet advocating copious amounts of diet coke and artificial sweeteners but limited fruit and veg can be healthy?

Nevertheless, there are some positives I have taken from my brief encounter with Dr. Dukan’s plan, some of which I feel have left me at a more stable weight throughout the year. In truth, I have found one of the diet’s super-foods, Oatbran, a god-send for good digestion and for making low calorie but delicious snacks (http://mydukandiet.com/recipes/chocolate-oat-bran-muffins.html). Health benefits have also proven fruitful for my mum, who has significantly lower cholesterol, blood pressure and has shed 1 ½ stone.

So if you are planning on dieting this season I'd urge you to research a little more into Dukan's method and have a real think about whether this sort of strict regime is really suited to you and your’ lifestyle. I wouldn't advise starting it and then giving in after 2 days as I did, but if you love nothing more than a whole chicken with no sides at Nandos, it could be worth a try.  I think it is a manageable diet for getting weight off quickly and potentially keeping it off, you just have to be extremely dedicated, and really really like meat.

Although I’ll always maintain the mantra that diets do not work, who am I to argue with the likes of Carole Middleton, Jennifer Lopez, Penelope Cruz, Gisele Bundchen and my very own flesh and blood, who are living proof that they do!

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