The Dukan Diet: Real Weight-Loss Solution or Celeb-Endorsed Hype?

This almost 21-year-old diet is still quite popular these days even though, Pierre Dukan, its creator breached medical ethics and was banned as a doctor in France, in 2013. Some of the best-looking celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Gisele Bundchen, Kate Middleton, and her mother, Carol Middleton are known to be followers of the Dukan diet, which only makes it even more popular.


  • ? Popularity Among Celebrities: The Dukan Diet, created by Pierre Dukan, has gained popularity partly due to its endorsement by celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Kate Middleton, despite Dukan being banned as a doctor in France in 2013.
  • ? True Weight Concept: The diet emphasizes determining one’s ‘True Weight’ before starting, taking into account factors like age, gender, weight history, and pregnancy history, aiming for a realistic weight loss goal.
  • ? Four Phases of Diet: The Dukan Diet consists of four phases – Attack, Cruise, Consolidation, and Stabilization. The Attack phase focuses on lean protein foods, the Cruise phase adds non-starchy vegetables, the Consolidation phase introduces additional foods to prevent rebound weight gain, and the Stabilization phase maintains weight loss with a less restrictive diet and a weekly Pure Protein day.
  • ? Critiques and Limitations: The diet has faced criticism for its heavy emphasis on protein and restriction of other food groups, particularly in the early phases. It also requires a high level of self-control and may not integrate well with certain fitness routines due to limited carbohydrate intake in the initial phase.
Gisele Bundchen
Gisele Bundchen – H&M Summer Campaign 2014

It’s really hard to accomplish something if you don’t know what your final goal is. That’s why you must first calculate your target weight, as instructed by Pierre Dukan, before starting to follow his famous diet. In fact he calls it True Weight – perhaps not that dream weight you’ve always wanted, but more of a realistic goal.

Finding out your True Weight takes into account multiple factors like age, gender, your target weight, the most and least you’ve ever weighed, how many times you’ve been pregnant, how prone you are to weight gain, and a few more.

The biggest selling point of Dukan diet is its promise to rid you of that extra weight without ever having to see it come back.  Plus, you won’t have to worry about portion size. But does this protein-heavy diet really work, and more importantly, is it healthy for you? Find out the answer as we break down the diet’s four phases.

Lean proteinAttack Phase

The first phase is meant to jump-start your weight-loss process by eating only lean protein foods. You get a list of 68 foods that are allowed during this phase and you need to stick with them until you’re ready to go to the next one.

For the Attack phase, the food list includes lean meats like beef tenderloin, center-cut pork chops, reduced-fat bacon; poultry such as any kind of skinless chicken with the fat removed, chicken liver, fat-free turkey, quail and wild duck; various species of fish and shellfish like sardines, cod, flounder, salmon, lobster, clams, shrimp and oysters; a few vegetarian protein rich foods like soy foods, tofu, tempeh and seitan; fat-free dairy products such as cottage cheese, Greek-style yogurt, ricotta and sour cream; and chicken, duck and quail eggs.

The only allowed carb, which you have to eat on a daily basis is 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran. It’s one of those fiber-rich, filling foods that really helps with appetite control.

There’s just one more food allowed during the Attack phase that stands apart from the others – plain, unsweetened gelatin. You might think that’s a weird choice, but gelatin is in fact a great source of protein, needed for healthy skin, bones, and joints. Actually, everyone (you don’t even have to be on the Dukan diet) should try to include more gelatin in their diet – it can be used in powdered form, as capsules or simply taken from gelatin-rich foods like a homemade bone broth.

You can eat unlimited portions and no calorie counting is required, as long as you stick to the 68 allowed foods. The duration of the Attack phase depends on how much weight you need to lose as follows:

  • 1-2 days if you need to lose less than 10 lbs
  • 3-5 days if you need to lose between 15-30 lbs
  • 5-7 days if you need to lose 40 lbs or more, although the Dukan diet marketers recommend you consult your physician first and ask for advice

You should increase daily exercise gradually during the Attack phase and the marketers recommend you at least walk every day.

Cruise Phase

In this phase you might see your weight-loss rate slow down to a steady pace. Along with the 68 lean protein foods you could eat during the Attack phase, now you can add 32 non-starchy veggies to the list.

These include some of the most popular vegetables like carrots, cabbage, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, onions, peppers, lettuce, spinach, squash, zucchini and tomatoes. Obviously, being able to eat a fairly large number of vegetables will add a lot more variety to the meals you can cook.

You might have noticed there was no mention of fats until now. In fact, during the Attack phase, dodging fats was a must. Starting with the second phase you’ll be allowed to eat 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil every day. The rest of the allowed foods can be eaten without limitation just like during the Attack phase. It would be best if you still ate oat bran, but now you have to up your daily intake to 2 tablespoons.

For every pound you still need to lose to reach your True Weight you’ll have to stay 3 days on the Cruise phase – that’s how you determine how long it will last. Also, those who have reached a plateau are encouraged to alternate between Protein Vegetable days (Attack phase) and Pure Protein days.

You can alternate from 1/1 (1 day of Protein Vegetable followed by a day of Pure Protein) up to 5/5 (5 days of Protein Vegetable followed by 5 days of Pure Protein) – the maximum alternating rate is recommended for those that need to lose a lot of weight.

There’s no emphasis on exercise during this phase either – the official recommendation consists of 30 minutes of brisk walking every day.

Whole grain breadConsolidation Phase

The third phase was designed to help your body become accustomed to its new weight and prevent rebound weight gain. You can start the Consolidation phase once you’ve reached your target weight.

The Consolidation phase lasts 5 days for each pound you’ve lost during the first two phases – going through it is absolutely necessary to prevent gaining back all the lost weight. Once you determine this phase’s duration, for the first half, you’ll be able to eat all the foods allowed in the Cruise phase plus the following:

  • 1 serving of fruit every day (except bananas, figs, cherries and grapes)
  • 2 slices of whole grain bread per day
  • 1.5 ounces of hard rind cheese
  • 1 serving of cooked starchy foods every week
  • 1 celebration meal every week

The above additions are also allowed during the second half of the Consolidation phase but you’ll be able to eat 2 daily fruit servings, 2 weekly servings of starchy foods, and 2 celebration meals every week.

Like in the other phases, you still need to do your daily 30-minute walk and eat the 2 tablespoons of oat bran every day.

Justice scaleStabilization Phase

The main problem of dieters is what to do once you’ve lost all the weight you wanted and the diet is over. Well, the Stabilization phase keeps you in a barely-dieting sort of state. It’s not really a diet anymore but you do have to follow a few simple rules.

Firstly, you’ll need to have a Pure Protein (PP) day once a week, in which you should eat only the lean protein foods permitted during the Attack phase. Secondly, you’ll now have to eat 3 tablespoons of oat bran every day. Thirdly, you’d still have to do 20-30 minutes of brisk walking every day or other types of physical exercise, and even more – try to be as active as possible throughout the entire day.

Dukan Diet Pros and Cons

The Dukan diet offers a few undeniable advantages:

You don’t need to count calories, and even more – you can eat as much as you want from the allowed foods.

It doesn’t encourage consumption of processed foods. Sure, there are bacon, ham, and hot dogs on the list, but even these foods are not so bad if you find some made by reputable manufacturers – they’ll probably be more expensive though. What is missing from the allowed foods list is in fact the vast majority of processed foods, like fast food and tons of other takeout foods, sweets (those lack completely), sodas, and many more.

Even if you’d only prepare simple recipes, home cooking is still required – which means you’ll be eating more natural foods since you know exactly what the ingredients are. This diet is not very focused on exercise, but it doesn’t encourage a sedentary lifestyle either since it recommends walking for at least 20-30 minutes daily.

Last but not least, once you get to the Stabilization phase, you’ll be able to eat pretty much any foods you want – and make your diet as varied as it should be – except during the mandatory Pure Protein day once a week and the daily 3 tablespoons of oat bran.

Negative aspects of the Dukan diet:

There is no portion restriction on lean protein foods. This means that someone who was used to eating too much before starting the diet can STILL do that. The only difference is now they can only do it with only some foods. That’s because the Dukan diet relies on daily oat bran intake to keep your stomach full longer and avoid cravings and overeating. Eating mostly protein also has the same effect.

tired woman diet

Nevertheless, self-control is still required, just like for many other diets and weight-loss plans. After all, no one else can do that for you.

During the first two phases (which can last quite some time if you need to lose a lot of weight), it really cuts back on fats – in both quantity and variety.  Virgin olive oil is an incredibly healthy vegetable oil but other than that, the only way you could get some fats until you get into the Stabilization phase would be from some fatty species of fish like salmon.

Saturated fats are still under media-powered heavy fire, but don’t forget that scientists have repeatedly proven there is no significant link between intake of dietary cholesterol and risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. There are plenty of health benefits you can get from a moderated intake of saturated fats, plus they are great for cooking!

The Dukan diet marketers advise followers to get a minimum half an hour daily walk, but this is certainly not enough to get the tone and preserve muscle mass while losing weight. If you’re not the type that enjoys hard, sweaty workouts, you can try gentler forms of physical exercise such as biking and yoga. If you do like to walk, then make sure you walk at a fast pace to get a bit of cardio during your sessions.

If you’re a fitness enthusiast, this diet can provide proper nutrition to sustain your efforts, but not during the Attack phase. During the first phase, you’ll get very little carbs, which are needed for post-workout muscle recovery. So keep your workouts lighter during the Attack phase and return to your regular ones starting with the second phase, when carb intake becomes higher.

Although it can last quite a while, the Dukan diet is easy to follow. No calorie counting, plenty of easy-to-make recipes, and it lets you control your appetite rather well. However, it cuts out some important food groups during the first two phases, and I can think of a few other diets that mix better with workout plans.

These may be just rumors – but most of the celebs that tried the Dukan diet just went on the Attack phase for a few days to shed a few pounds fast. This I can understand, and it really makes sense.

Have you tried the Dukan diet? And more importantly, did it work for you?

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