Foreign diets seem to have a certain appeal with North American audiences. Seven years after the release of Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat, another book revealing the secrets of an effective French weight-loss plan is rapidly gaining popularity. A number of celebs are reportedly on the diet’and, as royal-wedding fever is heating up, Kate Middleton’s mom, Carole, has been rumoured to be using the diet to shape up for the event’so attention on this trendy regime is as intense as ever.
The book is called the Dukan Diet and it claims to be “the real reason the French stay thin." It was developed by Dr. Pierre Dukan, an MD with 35 years of experience in clinical nutrition. There are four phases to the diet: two to quickly and dramatically lose unwanted weight and two to keep it off forever. In the first part, dieters eat unlimited lean protein and a "daily oat bran galette." In the second part, healthful vegetables are introduced into the former protein-only diet to assist dieters in achieving their "True Weight.” In the final two phases, dieters can introduce other foods’and wine!’into their diet, in a controlled manner, while one day a week, they can only eat lean protein (and the oat bran galette).
Simple enough and no counting calories’but is it healthy? First, this isn’t a diet where exercise isn’t accounted for. The book recommends a daily 20-minute walk and taking the stairs when you can. Also, the book claims you never go hungry on the Dukan Diet. However, dietitians are concerned about balanced nutrient intake in a diet that encourages extremes of indulgence and asceticism alternately, without any focus on nutrition. Plus, for some, this can mean eating too many foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium.
Many have suggested that the Dukan Diet is remarkably similar to the Atkins diet, which was harshly criticized too. Low-carb diets are generally low in fibre and calcium and without carbs, the body lacks the energy it needs to do activities and keep fit, not just thin.
Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, told Bloomberg Businessweek that the Dukan diet was "Atkins reincarnated." Still, 5 million people outside of France (where, the book claims, another 5 million are followers) have taken on the Dukan diet. What exactly makes the diet so marketable? Like Guiliano, Dukan emphasizes the pleasure of food. The books walk the line between stressing the importance of weight loss and glorifying the pure pleasure of gourmet delights, like a pure butter croissant. For anyone who has indulged in yet another cookie… and needs to work it off before bathing-suit season (read: most everyone), this contradictory attitude surely strikes a chord.