Former French medical doctor and nutritionist Pierre Dukan knows a thing or two about successful dieting. The best-selling author is the brainchild behind the Dukan Diet, otherwise known as the Kate Middleton Diet. Other than helping the Duchess of Cambridge slim down for her wedding day, the plan’s claim-to-fame is that it requires no calorie- or points-counting. Absolutely none. It may sound too good to be true, but the four-phase plan detailed in the The Dukan Diet is helping people in over 20 countries worldwide lose pounds—forever, according to Dukan. We sat down and talked to the good doctor about the popular plan.
Spry: You have been a doctor for over 35 years. How has your experience as a doctor informed the Dukan Diet, also known as the Kate Middleton Diet?
Pierre Dukan: During my extensive career as a doctor-nutritionist, I noticed the frustration and challenges that come with other diets, like counting calories or points. Inspiration came from the need for a change. Unfortunately, this way of dieting is often useless for most people—either they keep gaining weight back, or don’t lose any at all. They feel restricted. My diet is not like that. If you stick with the 100 foods I recommend, you can eat them limitlessly, with no counting or point tracking.
My diet is based on the fact that the main cause of obesity and diabetes are carbohydrates, which the body cannot manage when taken in excess. So my diet highly promotes not only non-starchy vegetables, but also proteins, a fundamental food group that human beings have been eating since the era of cavemen.
Spry: The Dukan diet was popular in France for several years before making its way over to the States. You were quoted saying that the United States represents the “ultimate test” of the Dukan diet. What do you mean by this?
PD: North America’s obesity problem has escalated at an alarming rate. As a doctor, I felt compelled to do something about it. The ultimate test is two-fold: America is technologically advanced, and with these advances comes an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Secondly, America is a “time is of the essence” country, with hectic work and home life schedules leaving little time or opportunity for proper nutrition choices.
I knew my diet could make a difference, but penetrating the U.S. market has had its challenges, namely because there are so many other diet and weight-loss plans to compete with. Globally, my plan has been successful due mostly to “word of mouth” recommendations and personal testimonies. So, the ultimate test for me in North America has been cutting through the clutter with a limited marketing budget.
Spry: It is a popular saying that “French women don’t get fat.” But they must, or otherwise the Dukan Diet wouldn’t be so popular in France.
PD: In France, there is an overweight population; but while they may be slightly overweight, they are rarely obese. The big difference between an American woman and a French woman is that the French one will react quicker to weight gain. Typically, as soon as she gains 10 lbs, she does something about it and this makes her weight loss easier.
Spry: What sets the Dukan diet apart from other high-protein diets out there?
PD: First of all, the big difference is the simplicity—100 foods, 72 proteins and 28 vegetables. It’s simple and easy to follow. Furthermore, these foods come with a magic word: UNLIMITED, which means no hunger. Also, the strongest part of the diet is its four-phase structure, which is carefully designed to stabilize your weight.
I can say that I have never met anyone who followed the first 2 phases of my diet and did not lose any weight; and not a single person gained weight after following the 2 last phases. It may sound crazy but it is the truth. On the contrary, I don’t know anybody who followed the first 2 phases only and kept the weight off without doing the last 2 stabilizing phases. My diet—if you want it to be 100 percent efficient—must be done in its entirety, following all four phases.
Spry: During the initial phase of your diet, the “Attack” phase, which is designed to promote rapid weight loss, participants can only consume lean protein—no fruits, vegetables or carbs. Why do you think this initial weight loss strategy is important? Some might argue that people will only gain all of the weight back.
PD: The first accomplishment is to get people to lose weight successfully in a quick and timely manner so they feel self-confident right away and have more energy to get through workouts. Self-confidence is the key to success. When you feel good, healthy and attractive—you won’t give up and you will keep going.
Gaining weight back is very common with all diets, especially those with food restrictions. Compared to other diets, though, my diet was created to prevent this natural tendency to regain the lost pounds. I created a Consolidation Phase, which lasts a period of five days per pound lost; it is like learning how to eat normally again. It incorporates all foods from the food chain—vital proteins, important vegetables, fruits, whole grain bread, real flavorful cheese, good carbs and two “celebration” meals, just for fun.
Finally, the Stabilization Phase is based on three simple principles to protect the dieter from rebound: Protein Thursdays, a 20 minute walk every day and 3 tablespoons of oat bran, for the rest of your life.
Spry: So in this final phase—or “stabilization” phase—of the Dukan diet, dieters can eat whatever they want as long as they return to eating only pure protein for one day a week. Doesn’t this run the risk that people will simply eat whatever and however much they want?
PD: Good question! Do not look at the rules of the Stabilization Phase as nutritional barriers, but more as a new way of eating and a new behavior towards food. Following this last phase shows that the dieter is still in a victory mode and still pays attention to what he/she eats. Most people take what they learn from the previous phases and apply these principles to the Stabilization phase. They also realize how unwell they feel when they eat foods that are not healthy (like when they enter Consolidation and have a Celebration Meal). This stresses the point that processed foods high in carbs, sugar and trans-fats are not meant to be eaten at most meals.
Spry: Your diet emphasizes oat bran as a key ingredient for weight loss. Why?
PD: First of all, oat bran expands up to 30 times its original volume when it comes into contact with water or other liquids in your stomach. This slows down digestion while helping you feel full. Another advantage to eating oat bran is that it aids in healthy digestion, which can help counter constipation or irregular bowel movements, a common side effect of any weight-loss plan. What’s more, oat bran plays an important role in cholesterol reduction and the prevention of colon cancer.
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Structurally, oat bran is similar to oatmeal—the main difference is that oatmeal is whole grain, while oat bran is just the bran of the oat. But it contains about 50 percent more fiber and soluble fiber than oatmeal, making it more effective at lowering cholesterol and helping digestion. It also has more protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, phosphorus, riboflavin, magnesium and zinc. Finally, because oat bran is creamier (due to the finer texture of the product), it satiates hunger more than oatmeal.
Spry: You’ve said that your health philosophy is, “I’ve decided to be happy because it is good for my health.” Can you explain what you mean by this?
PD: There is a deep connection between happiness and health, especially when it comes to being overweight or obese. I have never met a “random” obese person. Usually, people gain weight because of emotional distress, which they try to quell with food. But, while eating can bring you temporary happiness and comfort, it also makes you fat. When you want to lose weight, it is important to find other pleasures. The most obvious is to lose weight first, but also to discover things such as love, creativity, music, friends, shopping and sexuality. There are many options available to dieters in order to find happiness; they just need to find it.