Having lost a lot of weight on the Dukan Diet last year, I was absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity to interview the man behind the diet, Dr. Pierre Dukan. The author of “The Dukan Diet” recently released his new book, “The Dukan Diet Made Easy.”
A French medical doctor with over 40 years of experience in clinical nutrition, Dr. Dukan started his career specializing in neurology before discovering and refining his weight loss strategy while working with his general practice patients. Since then, he’s devoted his career to helping people lose weight and maintain weight loss for life. Following is part one of my interview with Dr. Dukan.
Americans are used to hearing that Europeans eat much better diets than we do. How do the dietary challenges of the French and other Europeans compare with what you’ve seen of Americans’ eating habits?
Dr. Pierre Dukan:
The modern world and the new western lifestyle is responsible for the birth of the way we feed ourselves. Since 1944 and the Bretton Woods system, the world has entered a new economic order based on unlimited growth. This creates a desire to produce and consume more and more every year. This creates a richer, easier, more convenient, more exciting but stressful world and a bit more artificial. All this creates a need for healing and consolation that comes through a bad diet and especially foods high in carbs.
The USA is the richest country in the world where the production and consumption are the strongest and where advertising, marketing, packaging and lobbying were invented. It is for me why Americans get bigger a little more than the French. On a practical level of everyday life, I have found that Americans eat everywhere, including on the street, which is rare in Europe. Americans seem to cook little, take little time for lunch, eat fewer vegetables and according to statistics eat twice as much sugar as those in Europe.
My 45-pound weight loss has attracted significant attention from friends and coworkers. They often ask me to describe the diet, which I find challenging to do in just a few sentences. Do you have a 30-second “elevator pitch” for the Dukan Diet?
Yes, I am used to it because I am often asked this question. I would say it is a method based on 100 foods, 70 protein-rich and 30 vegetables accompanied by the magic words “As Much As You Want”. It consists of four phases, 2 to lose weight and two to keep it off.
Attack Phase lasts between 3 and 7 days depending on the weight to lose and allows protein foods, lean meats, fish, seafood, eggs, ham lights, fat free dairy products, 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran and 2 liters of water or tea, coffee and diet sodas AND a minimum of walking a day. Weight loss ranges from 3 to 10 pounds.
The Cruise phase keeps the proteins and adds vegetables except starchy foods. It requires 2 tablespoons of oat bran and 30 minutes of walking. It allows you to lose 12 pounds per week until you reach your goal.
Consolidation phase consists of proteins and vegetables as much as you want and add 2 fruits per day, 2 slices of whole grain bread, one serving of cheese (40 g) per day. And twice a week, you can have a portion (180 grams) of starchy foods and a celebration meal. Duration of Consolidation is 5 days for every pound lost.
Stabilization phase is for the rest of your life with just proteins on Thursdays combined with a 20 minute walk and 3 tablespoons of oat bran. To lose 22 pounds: 4 days of Attack, 8 weeks of Cruise (56 days) and 100 days of consolidation, a total of 160 days.
I noticed pretty quickly that if I ate just one slice of birthday cake as a treat, I’d experience strong cravings for sweets and carbs for about a day afterward. Do you believe that sugar and carbs are physically or psychologically addicting?
Certainly, the rapid carbs are processed in the brain. Neuroscientists call it ‘the circuitry of reward.’ Very serious studies have shown that mice conditioned to inject heroin by pressing a lever in their cage for 14 days and having to choose between heroin and sucking a bottle of sugar water on the 15th day, they choose sugar!
What are the most common reasons people fail on the Dukan Diet?
The first is a lack of motivation. Losing weight can be very easy if you truly and deeply want it but it is extremely difficult if not impossible if you do not really want it. The problem in the U.S. is that 70 percent of the population is overweight and the surroundings do not make it easy—just look at all the food trucks and delis and restaurants around!
The second is the incredible richness of the food supply, the low cost of food, hyper advertising, solicitation and the invasion of sugars in most foods including in those where there is no reason to be, for example, pickles.
The third is the hardness of the current lifestyle that tends to compensate the strongest and most rewarding of human pleasures, food. Finally, there are many who diet and lose weight but who do not follow the two phases to maintain their True Weight.
What are some of the commonalities among people who tend to succeed on the Dukan Diet?
Motivation: I sometimes see people being overweight for many years and obscuring the problem, avoiding to look past the mirror and then one day, suddenly like a hurricane that comes up, a strange need to lose weight, a force that rocks and that makes everything easier. They know that this strange motivation is fleeting and will not last if it is not maintained by strong and rapid results and especially a lack of hunger.
It is on these bases that I built my method. Moreover, people, as well motivated as they are, ask for help, and that’s why I built my personalized online interactive coaching service, and especially through dialog beteween the instructions in the morning and the daily report in the evening. It is to my knowledge the only site in the world performing this job.
What are some of the most inspiring success stories you’ve heard about people who’ve lost weight on your diet?
The one that affected me most personally is one of my patients, an obese baker that another patient of mine had brought me because she had pity on the cruel fate of this young woman. She began to lose weight quickly and received encouragement from people who came every day to buy bread. I saw her every month and gradually I saw a smile appear and her pretty eyes that I had never previously distinguished.
As the metamorphosis continued, she lost a little over 88 lbs. During the first months of stabilization, she met a strong man who really loved her and got married and relocated to another city. Two years later, she returned with a young child and she said she was happy and she wanted to show me her child whom she had given my name: Pierre. I can tell you many stories like this because I receive many messages and mails from all over the world and this gives a meaning to my life and makes me deeply happy, too.