Spry and Spryliving.com editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.
DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: A friend of mine who is looking for a good diet to go on is thinking about doing the Kate Middleton diet. Do you know anything about this plan?–Betsy
DEAR BETSY: Sure. This super-popular plan in both the UK and France is officially known as the Dukan diet, after French physician Dr. Pierre Dukan. It got dubbed “the Kate Middleton diet” after the Duchess of Cambridge purportedly used it to drop pounds prior to the royal wedding to prince William. You tell me how effective it is–by some accounts, Kate was positively skeletonian in her Sarah Burton gown.
The first strike against any diet, in my book, is that it’s a diet at all. The way we talk about diets—going “on” and “off” them, for instance—goes completely counter to the way we need to be thinking about getting to a healthy weight and staying there long term. What we all need to do is learn how to eat healthfully and be active for life—not for a certain period of time, after which we can go back to our slovenly ways.
Whew. Sorry for the rant!
That said, there are a couple of positive things about this plan—and some pretty serious flaws. First, here’s the Kate Middleton diet in a nutshell:
Phase 1: The Attack Phase. Basically, you can eat as much lean protein a day as you want, but nothing else. That means lean meats, fish and shellfish, skinless chicken breasts and nonfat dairy products. Dukan advises to stick with foods as close to pure protein as possible, with little or no sugar or fat. This phase of the Kate Middleton diet lasts 2 to 7 days–the longer you commit to this phase, the more weight you will eventually lose.
RELATED: Dukan Diet Recipes
Phase 2: The Cruise Phase. During this period, you alternate protein-only days with days where you can eat any green vegetable. No carbs, no calorie-counting, just unlimited veg on one day, unlimited lean protein on the next. You’re supposed to stay on this phase until you reach your goal weight, which Dukan estimates will take you five days for every pound you want to drop.
Phase 3: The Consolation Phase. During this, the maintenance phase of the diet, you’re allowed to add two slices of bread and one portion of fruit and cheese daily to the veg and protein days. You also get two servings of carbs and two “celebration” meals a week. You’re supposed to stick with this phase five days for every pound you’ve lost.
Phase 4: The Permanent Stabilization Phase. At this point in the process, you can go back to eating what most of us think of as a basically healthy diet—lean proteins, fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy. The only catch is that one day a week, you circle back to the Attack Phase, where you eat only lean protein.
Of course, I’ve left out some details, but I think this gives you a good picture of how the diet works. I have to say that there are some things I like about it, and others, not so much. For instance, although the Attack Phase is SUPER-restrictive, I agree with the concept behind it. Basically, Dukan believes that you have to start out by making big changes so you see results quickly—that will increase your motivation and get you to start believing that you CAN lose the weight. I am a big believer that confidence is really important when you start to lose, that it pushes you forward and helps you overcome the challenges you face in trying to stick with a healthy lifestyle day in and day out. When I went on Weight Watchers back in the day (I did the program in the mid- to late-1980s), the first few weeks allowed me very few servings of starches (breads, pastas, grains, starchy veggies). I don’t recall the exact number, but it was a DRASTIC change for this girl, who was used to packing away a pound of pasta at one sitting. It is not ideal by any means to cut out everything but protein, but I don’t see anything wrong with the Attack Phase if you only do it for a couple of days—but I certainly wouldn’t go beyond the five-day limit.
I also like the emphasis on lean protein and greens. As someone who never willingly ate a green veggie that wasn’t slathered cheese sauce, bathed in butter or doused in creamy salad dressing into my late 20s, I can see how those veggie days during the Cruise Phase could force me to experiment with different greens, and even (maybe) look forward to eating them. I did much the same thing on WW, when the only “free” foods were non-starchy veggies. I learned to appreciate flavors and textures once I stripped away the sauces and dressings and butter—and when my only choice was to eat broccoli or go hungry, I started looking at veggies a whole different way.
BUT—and there’s a big but—the most important thing to consider when you’re looking at a weight loss plan is whether you can stick with it long term. While on the surface, the Kate Middleton Diet sounds simple, your friend needs to do the math before she commits. If you want to lose 25 pounds, you’d have to be on the Cruise Phase alone for 125 days—that’s four-or-so months. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine life without chocolate … or at least a piece of bread … for that long. The Consolation Phase doesn’t sound so bad, but assuming you did lose that 25 pounds, you’d be in for another 125 days of pretty restrictive eating.
Five pounds on this plan might be doable. But I don’t know about you—or your friend—I have a life, and I don’t know that I could be as disciplined as I would need to be to make this plan work. An MD might have other concerns—I would discuss the plan with yours before adopting it—but I’m not a big fan simply because it’s too restrictive to live with long term.