If you're big on food rules and have some weight to lose, the Dukan Diet may be right up your alley. While on the diet (basically your whole life), you're taken through four levels of different strategies, with each one less restrictive than the last. The first stage is the most constrictive, but it only lasts for up to a week. And by the end, you can (mostly) eat what you want. So, what's it all about?
The first phase is called the "Attack Phase." In this step, you kick-start your weight-loss journey by eating only natural sources of protein. While you're restricted to 68 specific protein sources, you are allowed to eat them in unlimited quantity. You are also instructed to eat a bit of oat bran and participate in mild exercise (daily walking is recommended) — and to help your body deal with eating mostly proteins, you must drink tons of water. Why? Because gobbling up tons of protein can ultimately damage your kidneys if you don't drink enough water to compensate. So drinking six to eight glasses — yes, every day — is encouraged.
The second phase is known as the "Cruise Phase." Your initial weight loss has already happened, so you can start working on a more gradual weight loss by adding more food choices while maintaining your earlier new habits. In addition to the approved protein list, you can add 32 new non-starchy veggie choices for a total of 100 "approved" foods. This will continue to whittle your weight down, but the rate in this stage is slower — about a pound every three days, which is still a pretty solid pace. The diet can be customized so you alternate days of only protein with days of protein and vegetables. This phase is maintained until you've reached your goal weight. Feeling like you're not making enough progress? Have more protein-packed days. Feel good about where you're going? You can up your veggie-and-protein days.
During the "Consolidation Phase," you are allowed to add in even more foods. Additional added foods are most types of fruits, certain kinds of cheese, whole grain breads and even some cooked starchy foods, plus "celebration meals" once (and then twice) per week. Every Thursday, you should continue to eat protein only, which has the goal of maintaining your weight loss throughout this phase. This step is crucial because it is during this time that you would be most vulnerable to rebound weight gain.
While in the "Stabilization Phase," you are — in theory — allowed to eat whatever you like. However, there continue to be rules about how you go about it, and you're expected to continue to eat only protein on Thursdays. Oat bran, exercise and water should remain components of your diet for life. And if you start to backslide, you can incorporate more total-protein days in your week until you've regained some control.
Like any "diet," a huge component is making sure you're moving around enough and also that you commit to a lifestyle change instead of hopping onto a trend for a quick fix. If you can stick with it, the Dukan Diet promises to change your life.
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