Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Dukan Diet

DUKAN, PIERRE. The Dukan Diet. New York: Crown Archetype, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-307-88796-2. Pp. 279. $26.00.

To give this diet a proper test-period, I'll have to wait another month before I can officially say that I've lost a good deal of weight by following its guidelines. Because the whole point of the diet, really, is not only to lose weight, but also to keep it off permanently. Let me just say this: I lost five pounds in one day, and have not gained it back yet. That was almost a week ago, and I haven't eaten a proper portion of carbohydrates and Koch made himself a pizza tonight and I had to watch him eat it and then I ate a genetically modified chicken breast that could feed a family of four to compensate and oh dear God kill me.

Here's how the diet works. The "Attack Phase," which is really a purely motivational phase, involves losing an enormous amount of weight in a very short period of time, less than a week. This extreme weight loss then motivates you to continue the diet until the day your previously-over-weight body expires. This initial phase involves eating nothing but protein: low-fat meat, eggs (limiting yourself to two egg yolks a day), and non-fat dairy products. Let me tell you, doing this for one day was rough, given that my meals tend to subsist of a vegetable, some chicken, and a pound of melted cheese. Knowing the strength of my cheese-addiction, I went out and bought a bag of shredded fat-free cheddar cheese, which, when melted, adopts the same consistency and tastelessness as old chewing gum. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this until my lunch hour at work, when I stuffed my face with a quarter pound of turkey topped with this awful stuff. Also, a quarter pound of turkey with a little bit of melted, fat-free cheddar cheese will not provide you with a satisfying meal. You will then wander around the deserted university where you work, looking for something that adheres to the rules. The only thing you will find is a bag of "beef nuggets" in a vending machine. In my case, I chose starvation. Then, five hours later, when you go home, you will throw two eggs, another quarter pound of turkey, and some more fake cheese into a pan and then eat the monstrosity that you've created. I'm telling you all this, because Dr. Dukan does not.

Anyway, the next day I was five pounds lighter than I've been in the last five years. The trick now is to not gain it back. This is hard too. It involves eating only two servings of carbs a week, one serving of cheese a day (that's a third of my usual intake!!), and one serving of fruit a day. It's rough.

As far as reading material goes, this is classiest-looking diet book I've ever seen. It also seems to have been designed to deter male user-ship. Maybe this diet doesn't work well on men? Someone look into that.

And, although too repetitive to be read straight through, which is what I did, this book made me laugh more than Tina Fey's memoir. Dr. Dukan isn't intentionally hilarious, he's just so damn French. The North American edition begins with a special preface thanking America for saving France from the Nazi Occupation, on behalf of Dr. Dukan's Jewish father. Dr. Dukan is thus offering us the Dukan Diet in compensation. Pretty weak. Then, in the preface, he describes the patient who inspire the diet, who was "obese, jovial, and tremendously cultivated" and whose chair "creaked under his weight" when he sat down. I don't think this snide remark would have been acceptable for an American nutritionist to put in his diet book. But coddling his patients isn't Dukan's style. Most people have "found in food an easy 'escape valve' through which they can release excess tension, stress, and life's all too frequent disappointments". Whoa. Also, "People who have lost weight know instrinctively that on their own, and without any support, they will not be able to preserve this victory". Here are some of my other favorite blunt Dukavisms: "too much fat, apart from our inevitable disgust, would pose a major risk to the cardiovascular system"; "To my mind, [chewing gum] is extremely useful in the fight against weight problems...I do not usually chew gum myself, as chewing is inelegant"; "If you have lost [25-35 pounds], you will have to relearn how to use your body, which you once considered, and understandably, as just another weight to carry around and a burden to your freedom".

In a months time, I will let you know if I've regained the weight I lost. I do know that Koch has turned into a giant slice of pizza wearing an orange t-shirt. I may not be able to resist...


  1. I was just talking to Andrew's band mate Brad last night about diets, and since he actively researches weight loss and muscle building, I figure he's qualified. He said that losing weight fast is the worst thing you can do, because you're body is guaranteed to get it all back. And then since you lose fat and muscle in your initial weight loss, but you generally put back on just fat, you've now made it even easier to gain more weight after the diet.

  2. Dukan does address all of these points, although whether or not he does so properly is something to think about. As far as losing a lot of weight quickly goes, I wasn't actually starving myself: I was probably consuming as many calories as I usually do, but not from starch or sugar, and almost none from fat which, according to Dukan, keeps the dieter's body from losing muscle mass, given that everything I ate was protein-rich. I don't actually know if this is absolutely true. The reason I decided to actually test this diet was to see whether it can work for at least a month. Hopefully this will clarify some concerns. Obviously in two months time I'm ten pounds heavier, I'll inform my readers.

  3. This was by far the most interesting post yet... I like all the posts where the book forces you to dramatically change your lifestyle. HOWEVER, I see a conflict on the horizon. What happens when, a week after the diet book, another Ina Garten cook book tops TBR? Good luck finding recipes to cook, sucker.

    Anyway, eagerly waiting the result. That first comment does cast some doubt on the plan.

    And chewing IS inelegant. If you haven't noticed, I quit chewing gum in high school and haven't gone back since. Not for that reason completely, it was also because if i chew gum, in my sleep I grind my teeth down to the gums.

    Good luck

  4. Best buy ever! I am 71 and had low expectations of losing the unwanted pounds. Within 6 weeks I had lost 20 pounds and as promised in the book, the weight has stayed off. The book is concise and easy to understand with no measuring or weighing. Just plenty to eat. Have recommended it to my friends who are amazed at my new healthy shape. You are never too old to make a difference.