The French Fad Diet Du Jour

Illustration for article titled The French Fad Diet Du Jour

Meet the Dukan Diet: the French-born, Gisele-approved, Middleton-employed meal plan that is suddenly is ubiquitous. Put down your fat-free Activias, ladies, and listen up.


The Dukan Diet is the creation of Dr. Pierre Dukan. It's a high-protein diet — really high-protein. So high that if you sign on board, one day a week for the rest of your life (in theory) is protein-only. And this is so popular that in France Thursday is the unofficial "protein day." The diet caused a sensation in France, where politicians from both ends of the political spectrum have embraced it, and later it spread to the upper crusts of England. Describes the New York Times,

His own diet's high-protein, low-fat approach is organized into four phases: attack, cruise, consolidation and stabilization. The first encourages dieters to eat as much as they want of nonfatty, protein rich foods, including oat bran (a key component) washed down with oceans of water. The second stage introduces vegetables, but no fruit; the third brings with it two slices of bread, a serving of cheese and fruit and two servings of carbohydrates a day, with two weekly "celebration" meals with wine and dessert (the diet is French, after all); and the final stage six days a week of "anything goes" and one day of reversion to strict protein-only stage one - for the rest of your life. The only must-do daily physical exercises are a 20-minute walk and total elevator avoidance, fine in a city like Paris where five-story buildings are common.


If you're thinking "Atkins" or "South Beach," you're not the only one: the regimen's critics level the same complaints they did during the low-carb scourge of the early aughts. Dukan has been dismissed as a charismatic charlatan promising quick fixes, and worse. Says one British dietician, "We call it the ‘Do-can't' diet...Even if you can survive it for the first few days, it's hard to stick with it. It's hard on your kidneys. And it's expensive."

I'm guessing it's still going to be big here. I mean, French Women, people! Miraculous weight loss! No exercise! A guy with "Dr" in front of his name! Plus — Kate's mom is using it to drop weight before the wedding and the bride herself is rumored to do the high-protein thing! These things are inarguable!

But the French have their doubts about Dukan's prospects for stateside success. Why? Our food is too inferior. Sniffs one adherent,

In France we are very spoiled: we have great fish and meat...We have 20 different varieties of no-fat fromage blanc and yogurt in every supermarket. We French have a greater competency in cooking. And more Americans are vegetarians. Ah, no, this diet, it would never work for them.


Warmed-Over Atkins? Don't Tell The French [New York Times]
The Diet That Helped J.Lo Shift Her Pregnancy Pounds [MarieClaireUK]
Royal Wedding: Diet Used By Kate Middleton's Mother 'A Health Hazard' [Telegraph]

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Well, I live in the Bay Area and have access to fabulous organic, free range meats and sashimi grade fish, and I cook very well indeed. Still not doing this. I'm kind of attached to my kidneys, I'd prefer them to keep working.

French people are thinner than Americans because they eat less and walk more. It has very little to do with the specific breakdown of their diet and the quality of their meat, other than maybe in the sense that really tasty food is more satisfying, and heavily processed food tends to be unsatisfying and not great for your overall health. But the difference in weight, that's about overall caloric intake, activity level, and a culture in France in which stuff like this is viewed as quite normal.

I'd love to see comments from French Jezzies about how the culture around weight and food feels to them in France, especially if they've lived in other places and can compare. I know that when my parents were living in France they both felt a huge amount of pressure to stay thin, more than they said they'd felt in any other country outside Asia. It would be interesting to look at how that intersects with the fact that it's a foodie culture in general, but not in the dumbass way that media coverage tends to, in which they completely ignore the difference in overall caloric intake and activity level and act like just eating brie and coq au vin alone will make people who live in countries that are not France thinner.