The Dukan Diet is touted as a quick fix for folks who want to lose a lot of weight. But is this diet what weight loss dreams are made of? (Spoiler: It’s not.)
Here’s everything you need to know about this complicated low carb diet — a step-by-step guide to the four phases, the deets on what you can eat, and all the reasons it’s prob not great for your health.
Before we dive into the details, here’s a bit of background.
The Dukan Diet was created in the 1970s by former general practitioner Dr. Pierre Dukan. In 2000, he published a book called The Dukan Diet that became a big hit around the globe. Recently, the diet has gained new fame thanks to TikTok.
And now, on with the show!
The Dukan Diet is a high protein, low carb diet. Unlike many similar diets, this plan requires limiting your fat intake too. The idea is that eating lean proteins will help you feel full and promote speedy weight loss.
Additionally, the diet encourages you to increase your physical activity and prioritize unprocessed foods.
Was Avril referring to the Dukan Diet when she asked, “Why you have to go and make things so complicated?” Prob not. But still, this plan is pretty darn difficult to follow.
The diet is broken up into four phases. Phases 1 and 2 are for weight loss, and phases 3 and 4 are for maintenance. How much time you spend in each phase depends on how much weight you lose, your age, and the number of diets you’ve done in the past.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the phases:
- Attack phase. This phase is meant to kick-start the diet. It’s extremely restrictive, and you can eat only lean proteins from an approved list of foods. Most peeps stay in this phase for 1 to 7 days.
- Cruise phase. You’re supposed to be in Cruise Phase for 3 days for each pound you want to lose. For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds, the phase will last 30 days. You’ll continue to eat a lot of lean protein, but you can also add approved veggies to your diet every other day.
- Consolidation phase. The goal is to do this phase for 5 days for every pound you lost during the first two phases. You can eat unlimited amounts of veggies and proteins. But one day a week you can eat only lean protein.
- Stabilization phase. The Stabilization phase is supposed to help you maintain weight loss long-term. While you can basically eat whatever you want, there are still some rules and restrictions.
The Dukan Diet is not a great way to lose weight. Fad diets like Dukan are rarely rooted in science. The focus is almost always on instant gratification, not healthy or realistic goals. Chances are that the rapid results are due to water loss or muscle loss. (Psst … That’s not a good thing if you want long-term results.)
There are much better diets to try if you want to:
So, what can you eat on this potentially dangerous diet? Well, that depends on the phase.
You can eat an unlimited amount of 68 approved proteins, including:
- chicken, quail, and duck eggs
- vegetarian protein sources like seitan and tofu
- fish and shellfish such as cod, shrimp, tuna, and crab
- fat-free dairy products like cottage cheese, yogurt, and milk
- poultry products such as chicken breast, turkey, and wild duck
- red meat like beef, venison, bison, roast beef, pork, and reduced fat bacon
You also get 1 1/2 tablespoons of oat bran each day. Is your mouth watering yet 😬?
Buckle up — things are about to get weird.
During this phase, you continue to eat Attack phase foods with the addition of 32 types of vegetables. But you can eat veggies only every other day. Some fan faves are:
You also get to add a single teaspoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of oat bran to your diet each day. Oh, joy.
You can eat a base of 100 foods that make up the first and second phases — mostly lean animal proteins and non-starchy vegetables. You can also slowly add certain carbs and fats into your routine.
BTW, you have to follow a set of rules when reintroducing foods to your diet. Here’s a chart to help explain things.
|First half of Consolidation phase||Second half of Consolidation phase|
|1 serving of fruit every day (excluding grapes, figs, cherries, and bananas)||2 servings of fruit every day (excluding grapes, figs, cherries, and bananas)|
|2 slices of whole-grain bread per day||2 slices of whole-grain bread per day|
|1 1/2 ounces of hard-rind cheese per week||1 1/2 ounces of hard-rind cheese|
|1 cup of cooked starchy foods per week||2 cups of cooked starchy foods per week|
|1 celebration meal per week||2 celebration meals per week|
FYI: Celebration meals include one appetizer, one main dish, one dessert, and a glass of wine. But you can have only one serving of each item.
The Stabilization phase is supposed to help you maintain your weight. No foods are forbidden, but there are three nonnegotiable rules:
- Take the stairs whenever possible.
- Eat 3 tablespoons of oat bran every day.
- You can eat only pure protein on Thursdays. You can’t eat any other types of food.
PSA: The Dukan Diet’s website urges folks to purchase coaching to help maintain weight loss (or, in their words, to “continue your path of living a healthy lifestyle”). Seems sketch, TBH.
Let’s be real: Any diet that involves a major calorie deficit can result in weight loss. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Not only is the Dukan Diet super complicated and restrictive, but studies also show it can be bad for your health.
A 2015 study that surveyed 51 women following the Dukan Diet found that participants lost an average of 33 pounds (15 kilograms) in 8 to 10 weeks.
But before you get stoked on their results, note that the researchers attributed the weight loss to the low calorie count. On average, participants ate only about 1,000 calories a day. To put that in perspective, the daily recommended calorie intake is 2,000 cals for women and 2,500 cals for men.
According to the U.K.’s National Health Service, very low calorie diets can lead to:
- dry mouth
- hair thinning
On top of that, the researchers in the 2015 study noted that following the diet long-term can cause more serious health concerns like:
- liver disease
- kidney disease
- cardiovascular disease
The Dukan Diet is a fad diet that’s promoted as a way to lose weight fast. But even if you do shed some poundage while on this diet, it’s def not worth it. This diet is restrictive AF and hella complicated.
There’s no research to show that the Dukan Diet can help you reach and maintain a weight that will benefit your health. And even worse, it might lead to some serious health problems.
You’re much better off following a well-rounded diet that promotes general health and wellness. You can also talk with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for weight loss advice that fits your unique needs and goals.