Dukan did…

Today’s post is a big one. Big in the realisations it contains. It started off as a post on my first week on the Dukan Diet and turned into a complex examination of my relationship with food and the reasons we eat. It’s lead to some really deep thinking, on my behalf anyway, so I’d love to hear what you think.

Jennifer Aniston

I planned to start the Dukan for 2 reasons. The first, and I won’t pretend it wasn’t the main one, was my forthcoming holiday and the threat of being pool side in America, land of the botoxed brow, filled cheek and cosmetically enhanced (other) cheek. I don’t normally feel uncomfortable in a bikini, but being in mine next to others in theirs around a hotel pool seemed suddenly daunting. Secondly, although a previous fan of Weight Watchers, I have come to the realisation that trying to eat in moderation, or healthily, just seemed beyond my will power these days. I have always had a sweet tooth, but where I usually don’t have anything in the house that could be eaten in moments of temptation, first Christmas, then Easter brought piles and piles of chocolate into the house which I steadily consumed nibble by nibble mouthful. I had to face the fact that just one block of chocolate was never enough, and I ended up grazing. I needed a diet that was going to cut through the crap, that clearly defined what I could and couldn’t eat, and I needed results fast. So Dukan it was then. I won’t cover the ins and outs of the diet itself, you can read more here in the Daily Mail’s article and the ones that follow, but I started on what is the initial ‘attack’ phase, which consists of pure protein and 0% fat dairy products only.

I honestly debated sharing this. On the one hand, I (rather optimistically) thought that if I turned up on these very pages significantly smaller, I was going to have to come clean and why not share something that I thought would benefit you guys? The other part of me was horrified at the thought that people reading may take away the wrong message, that I would encourage women to feel the way I did, that slim-ish isn’t quite enough. I hold my hands up now and say that I would never recommend this as a doctor, but like you all, I’m only human.

So here goes…

Day 1 – Starting weight unknown, but three days earlier I was 10st 3lbs.
Breakfast: 2 eggs, scrambled, with smoked salmon.
Lunch: Smoked mackerel fillet with a dollop of cottage cheese.
Dinner: Surf and turf! Steak with a prawn skewer.
Water: 1.5L
Exercise: The prescribed 20 minute walk (part of the diet plan).

Day one, and I am already wondering what all the fuss is about. I was at work and didn’t have any more difficulty concentrating than I would during any other Friday(!) and the only unusual effect I had was a niggling headache. When I thought about it, not only was I forgoing carbs, but any form of sugar plus my usual caffeine intake, so it’s no wonder there’s some real effects to be felt.

Unknown source

Day 2 – Weight 9st 13lbs
Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled, and smoked salmon
Late lunch: Smoked mackerel fillet and cottage cheese followed by 0% yogurt with oat bran mixed in.
Dinner: (out with friends) seared scallops in sweet chilli sauce, sea bass on tomatopurée and wilted spinach, with dauphinoise potatoes (which I ate a few mouthfuls of) and then the big cave, warm chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream.
Exercise: My usual Saturday morning BMF class.

Today we were already booked for dinner with friends and but when I decided to try the Dukan, there was always an excuse not to. Instead I decided to extend the recommended 2 days of the ‘attack’ phase for my weight to three days and just consider Saturday night a write off. I chose high protein dishes at dinner, tried to avoid the carbs and chose wine instead of sugar packed cocktails. I was too embarrassed to tell the people we were out with what I was doing which lead to me eating the dauphinoise in an effort to reduce its conspicuous presence on my plate and go on to have desert. Fortunately, I managed to get rid of the ever-present headache just before we went out for dinner.

I also got my hands on some Oat Bran. This is a non-negotiable part of the diet which is included for its (medically proven) ability to increase satiety and to cling onto fats and transport them through the bowel to be excreted. I wasn’t going to turn down something that resembled carbs although there was no cereal-like sweetness to satisfy my craving for sugar.

Day 3 – Weight 10st
Breakfast: Oat bran mixed with 0% yogurt.
Lunch: A tin of tuna (in brine) drained with some smoked salmon and cottage cheese
Dinner: 2 Chicken Fillets

After getting weighed this morning, I wasn’t too disheartened to see the increase on the scales. I have always retained water the morning after drinking so expected something and I’m now waiting with bated breath to see if I can rectify it with another protein packed day.
As of yet, I haven’t been to the toilet, (to, you know…) so I took a laxative and carried on glugging the water.

As day 3 went on I felt more and more depressed. It was the bank holiday Sunday. Everyone was out having a good time. Normally, I’d be dragging Pete out for cake, or lunch, or both and I started to realised how ingrained my happiness is in food.To me, food means socialising, friends, chatter and laughter. In an effort to take my mind off things, we went to the cinema and literally everywhere I turned, it seemed there were adverts for treat bags of chocolate and Ben and Jerrys. The final straw was sitting down next to a man tucking into an ice cream sundae. I felt truly miserable and all day the headache was there taunting me.

Day 4 – Weight 9st 13lbs

Last night I lay in bed thinking about the Dukan, my diet. I was completely listless at the thought of another day without any enjoyment in the form of food. Bank Holiday Monday and no nice lunch out or dinner out, no baking, no time spent with friends doing either of those things. I began to think about caving, giving up. I had pinpointed my problem, I was desperate for sugar. Perhaps like some people say, it takes days of abstinence to quit the habit but every time Pete had asked me what I wanted yesterday the answer had been to eat cake or ice cream!

I started to think about my upcoming holiday and the effect suddenly going back to carbs would have on my body, or weight. Unfortunately, the bikini part of my holiday is coming at the end of a 7 days stretch of travelling (and eating more than likely,) none of it in clothes that will remind me to watch what I eat. I worried about undoing the progress I had made already by the time I got to bikini o’clock. I started to think about going back to ‘normal’ food and felt wracked with guilt, a failure and even more depressed. The strongest feeling however was that never had I felt more miserable, for such an insignificant reason. Was being a few pounds heavier that I would like worth feeling like this?

The diet had made me feel all these things and I decided to stop. I don’t consider it quitting, or failing, it was the right decision. It wasn’t sustainable, healthy or right for me.

Neon sign

It has made me think long and hard about my relationship with food though. I doubt I’ll ever extricate my personal happiness from the social pleasures of eating. What I’ve come to realise is that I need to address the internal monologue of ‘you’ve worked hard today, you deserve that glass of wine/piece of chocolate/dessert.‘ or ‘what a rubbish day, let’s have pizza‘. I need to stop putting food in my mouth when I’m not thinking about it or savouring it and I need to start thinking about what my body needs as opposed to what my mind tells me it needs or deserves. I need to take the time to shop properly and make healthy choices, to make sure I have appropriate snacks and I probably need to cut the sugar down. But for now anyway, I’m going to stop focusing on my weight and I’m going to focus on my health instead. Things I’m taking away from my attempt at the Dukan will be the daily 20-30 minute walks – something I always found boosted my efforts at Weight Watchers, and trying to have a drink of water first when I feel hungry, not immediately reaching for a snack. Of course, I hope these small changes will make a small difference and help me lose a couple of pounds pre-holiday but what is most important to me is being happy, not losing a few pounds or the number staring at me when I step on the scales.

The feelings of self doubt I had over the last few days were horrible to experience and hard to share too, I even felt ashamed to admit that I wanted to even try a diet, that I wasn’t strong enough to rise above the pressure I put on myself to be the perfect size. (I hasten to add that the definition of perfect was entirely self imposed… why as women are we so hard on ourselves?) However I’m sure there isn’t a woman reading who can’t identify with the feelings I’ve described at some point in this post. I wrote about it all because I don’t ever want people to look at my what to wear posts and feel inadequate, or think there is some super-humanly confident person staring back at them. I wrote it because I know there are women who through self confidence issues or mental illness would never be able to step back and choose happiness over weight loss rather than equating weight loss with happiness and I wish I could change that.

As ever, please let me know if this post has made you think, if you have had a similar experience, or if I’ve struck a chord today. It’s an emotive subject and I look forward to hearing your opinions…


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31 thoughts on “Dukan did…

  1. “Things I’m taking away from my attempt at the Dukan will be the daily 20-30 minute walks – something I always found boosted my efforts at Weight Watchers, and trying to have a drink of water first when I feel hungry, not immediately reaching for a snack.”
    I’m going to join you in these activities Rebecca in an effort to be a bit healthier. I’m also going to resume eating oats for breakfast because I genuinely like them and I’ve started eating badly in the mornings and can feel a big difference in my energy levels.

  2. I’m having a similar thing right now, did Scottish Slimmers ages ago but trying to go back to it to lose those Christmas/honeymoon extra pounds is proving difficult. I’m just not in the mindset and there isn’t really a class I can go to now so I’m going it alone! But I’ve bought lots of nice healthy stuff to have in the house and am trying to resist having too much of the sugary stuff – damn sweet tooth. Planning my meals also really helps me.

    I completely agree with you about linking personal happiness with eating. It’s why I’ve never attempted a really restrictive diet. Anything that completely takes the fun out of eating isn’t for me, and I’d break very quickly. I just like food too much! And the people behind that ridiculous phrase ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ have clearly never had chocolate covered pretzels or Rocky Road before!

  3. Hi Rebecca
    Love this post, thank you for sharing your experience. I too have spent too many years obsessing over my weight and also my appearance. Ive been a size eight and a fourteen and neither time have I been truly happy with the way I look. Something snapped inside me in the last year, I was fed up of being miserable because of my yo – yoing weight and wasting soooo much time onsessing on the way I looked. I gave in and stopped dieting and weighing myself everyday. I now try and listen to my body and eat what I want, and what I feel I need and I only do exercise I enjoy. Low and behold I lost the elusive half a stone without really trying over a period of about six months and nowadays, touch wood, my weight stays the same, no more fluctuating. Its a revelation! XX

  4. Awwww Rebecca. I think everybody in the world can relate to how you felt. We are all so damn hard on ourselves! Everybody has something they would change or are always improving on.

    Dukan isn’t a sustainable method of weight loss anyway and why on earth would you continue when you felt so crap?! You did the right thing in my opinion. Being happy is the most important thing in life.

    I am (nearly) a dietitian and pretty much everyday I feel guilty about what I eat. I sit in clinics with people and throw advice out left, right and centre and it feels very much “do as I say not as I do” which makes me feel fake. Every time I try a diet I feel ashamed as really I should know better. And I do as a general rule eat healthily – just a typically overloaded western version of a healthy diet!!! if we have the basics of a healthy diet all we can do is try to balance input with output, put some lippy on and smile.

    Oh and remember statistically 2/3 of Americans are obese or overweight – you don’t appear to fall anywhere near that category! So forget the botox and enhancement, put on your bikini and relax!


  5. Excellent post Rebecca. Despite being a size 8 to 10, I often feel a bit podgy but don’t feel I can talk about it because I know that I’m not overweight. However, I am short and very slight up top with narrow shoulders, so I am conscious that lots of clothes gather round my tummy which is my widest part. So I know I don’t need to diet, but am still not that happy with my tummy! I do quite a lot of exercise so my weight doesn’t really fluctuate despite my like/penchant/obsession with chocolate, cakes and basically all things sugar! I’m sure if I kicked the sugar habit then I would generally feel better and probably would lose that inch from around my tum, but I really am addicted and do use it as a pick-me-up in the same way that you describe. The other issue is I have quite fluctuating blood sugar and I know that sugar kicks really aren’t good for me, but it is still very difficult to convince myself not to have that afternoon chocolate bar, or that whole chocolate orange whilst watching TV. Oh well.

    One thing I do find help is graze boxes – you mention trying to find healthy snacks etc and if you haven’t tried graze then I would recommend them. http://www.graze.com

    Katie x

    • I’ve seen these before Katie but you might just have spurred me into trying one. Why not?

      Since stopping the Dukan, I had a big of a piggy day on Monday with a pub lunch of delimeats and cheese etc (whoops!) then a healthy salmon dinner with veg and a couple of new potatoes. And you know what, I felt so much better. Since then I’ve been back at work and being sensible. A sandwich for lunch, cereal at breakfast and lots of fruit as snacks, then a stirfry with prawns and udon last night and tikka marinated turkey and veg kebabs with rice the night before. Spag bol tonight 🙂 And my weight is the same, 10st dead on.

  6. Thanks for this post Rebecca. I am a bit overweight and get married in 3 months. Although I have tried to lose weight, I haven’t lost much (although I have made healthy changes to my diet and am getting more exercise). However, the constant dieting makes me focus on what I look like ALL THE TIME and thinking I don’t look ‘good enough’ is taking all my enjoyment out of wedding planning and every time I eat I feel guilty. I beat myself up and feel miserable that I am not going to look like all these perfect brides you see on blogs and in magazines. There is no one other than me putting this pressure on, but at the moment, I can’t wait for the wedding to be over to get back to normal and stop worrying about what I look like!

  7. Rebecca, so interesting. Thank you for writing about your experience. You don’t often hear the side of diets that doesn’t work, or how hard it is because ultimately it takes a huge amount of, for want of a better word, balls, to admit that it wasn’t for you. I am now 6 weeks away from my wedding and 4 months into a diet which goes hand in hand with a personal training programme. And it has been hard, really really hard. The only thing which stops me from jacking it in is knowing that there’s someone there with the calipers every 4 weeks, and maybe a little bit to do with wanting to impress my trainer :-p!! But, I have been thinking about how I’m going to deal with it all after the wedding and amongst the many things I have learnt through doing this programme is that life is far too short to not enjoy yourself – and like you, food is such an important part of life for me. So I will just have to find a happy medium where I am fit, healthy and there is cake, just maybe in more moderation than previously!

    • Ah I wish I had done something like this and taken my measurements before starting BMF in january. Pete realised this week that he has gained half a stone in the last 5 months – unheard of for him, he has weighed 11stone dead on for the entire time I have known him, apart from after holidays for example and he goes straight back to his normal weight within a week. He looks no different and we have concluded it’s muscle gain therefore I think I can claim a couple of pounds in muscle too, where I was previously uncovinced and thought it was a bit of a ploy when people say, ‘but muscle weighs more than fat!’ 😉

      • It’s so true! Mr D is a real string bean and he only weight he can put on is muscle. He weighs himself more than I do and we have to high five if he goes over 80kg (he’s verrr tall!!). We are high fivers, it’s embarassing!!

  8. P.S. Another oh so important lesson I’ve learned is that weight is just a number. I have lost absolutely no numerical weight at all, I have however lost 10% of my starting body fat. Go figure!!!

  9. Having tried Dukan myself and lost a lot of weight, quickly, I also thought a lot about my need for food and why I eat. I too noticed that socialising for me revolved entirely around some form of food or drink, and vowed to change that. While it’s not a sustainable diet, it gave me the little boost to know that it IS possible for me to lose weight (was starting to think it was physically impossible after many failed crash diet attempts) even if it wasn’t the right way about it. I got none of the supposed bad side effects and my doctor told me that at age 20, my kidneys could cope, and so if I was losing weight how I wanted to (was just into the ‘overweight’ category before) and felt good, that I could carry on how I was.
    Realising I couldn’t do it forever, coming off it was hard, as it leaves you thinking you’ve failed for the day if you let carbs slip into your diet, but that feeling goes eventually. I’ve learnt now that carbs, not sugar or fatty foods, are my weakness and that I’d often choose a huge bowl of pasta over cake any day. This has helped me to reduce the amount of carbs I have on a daily basis and increase my protein intake which while I’m not achieving the crazy weight loss I had originally, I am still not getting fatter, which is what I felt like on a regular healthy diet before.
    Plus if I’ve got a certain dress to fit into, or I’m having a ‘fat’ day, now I choose to have another 4 day/1 week attack phase rather than reaching for the pasta that would usually comfort me.

  10. Hey Rebecca,
    I’m really glad that you shared this post and think you reached a sensible and healthy conclusion. I seem to be about the same size as you, and have a very similar relationship both with food and my weight, and the frequent urge to lose a few pounds. It is frustrating to know exactly what I should be eating less of, (cheese is by far my biggest weakness!) but struggling with that temptation for treats and lovely social meals with friends and family.
    I’ve had fairly short-term success with both Weight Watchers and Slimming World, but I found planning and noting down everything that crossed my lips to be something I just don’t have the time or inclination for. I found I had to be extremely focused, in fact bordering on obsessed, to achieve success, which bored both me and my lovely supportive boyfriend!
    Like you, I know I need to stop worrying about the number on the scales and just focus on being healthy and taking more exercise – a big challenge as I work from home! I’m considering signing up for 10k run to get some motivation – let me know if you fancy it too!

  11. Urgh, it’s so hard – I think most women struggle internally with their relationship with food, myself included, but I’m a firm believer in eating healthily and, most importantly, exercising. I lost weight last year before my wedding and it wasn’t a quick fix. It was only around a stone, maybe a bit more, but it was achieved through changing my eating habits, my attitude to food and taking up running and yoga. I know I love food too much to go on a really restrictive diet, but it is hard as I too have a bikini holiday looming. I just hate that we (women) seem to feel like this from our teens onward. I admire people with true body confidence.

  12. I am another one who’s tried the high protein, low carb way of eating, and it DID make me lose weight, but according to Mr C-S, turned me into a right cow. I think Rebecca you’re so right about eating as a reward being a mentality we need to change. Sending out another call for healthy-yet-yummy Friday foods ladies!

  13. Fab post. I tend to weigh anywhere between 9 stone and 10.5lb stone. I started the whole FF diet thing in January weighing about 10.7lb and I’m now 9.6lb. I’ve mainly done it by cutting out wine Monday-Friday and having my big meal at Lunch and then having something light and protein based in the evening. It has meant that as Rob is very tall and very very slim I often end up cooking two meals, or we eat separately. I tell myself its for a good cause but I do find if we don’t sit down and talk about things over dinner, then we end up not talking about anything much all night.

    In terms of exercise, I don’t get to walk as much as I would like but once the weather improves I will be walking to work, which is about an hour and 20 minutes. I used to walk every day with my Mum for an hour and its probably the most toned I’ve been. Nothing up hills or anything but it was fantastic to get some fresh air and spend time with Mum. At the moment I’m swimming and I have noticed that my legs, particularly my thighs are more toned and my waist has shrunk. I was starting to get a real tyre underneath my boobs but that has shrunk to pure flatness. I know I’ll never get rid of my tummy altogether, as a by product of having been REALLY REALLY big at one time, but its flatter and it makes me happy.

    We’re also going on holiday soon which is proving a bit inspirational for bikini wear. I actually lose weight on holiday. I guess we walk around a lot more, whereas my day job is sitting sitting sitting. I also tend to be so hot on holiday that all I want is salad and grilled chicken.

  14. I think this is an excellent post, Rebecca, and I’m pleased that you wrote it and shared your journey with us honestly.

    Having heard so many women talk about their diets, loosing weight etc., I have come to the conclusion that the only way to do it sustainably is to change the way you look at food so that you reach for the fruit rather than the chocolate. It’s hard, but it will improve your life in so many ways.

    Surely the only way to look good in a bikini is to have confidence? So start practicing that wiggle and you’ll look great!


  15. Great post Rebecca and as always so interesting to read what everyone is thinking/ doing on what is inevitably a universally relevant subject.

    I’m put in mind of an interview Sandra Bullock gave years ago in which she talked about her body confidence issues being laid to rest when she holidayed in Brazil -where all shapes and sizes were bikini-clad and loving it! Body confidence is absolutely the key, isn’t it? Easier said than done, maybe but a point worth reiterating, I think.

    I can’t claim to be there myself – many a time I’ve felt a burkini is more of the way forward for me than the dreaded two piece – but what I have learned to accept is that whilst my weight may fluctuate there’s always something about yourself that you can and should be proud of. For me, it’s my shoulders. I’ll cling to that for now!

  16. I’m sure you’ll get so many comments on this Rebecca, and I don’t feel I know my own feelings well enough to add my own experience to the mix. But I did want to share links to a couple of posts I’ve read recently on this topic that have stayed with me.

    This one is from The Conversation (if you’re not reading it, I’d recommend it). The part that really struck me was when she thought about all the awful, horrible things we think and say about our own bodies, and imagined saying those same things about, say, our daghters’ bodies. Unthinkable, right? So why do we do it to ouselves?

    The other is this post by Lisa Lynch, who is a young woman who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of secondary breast cancer in her brain. She laments, with real anger, the hours, days, weeks of her life she must have spent fretting about how she looks, what she weighed, what she ate, and what a monumental waste of time it all was.

    I try to keep both of these in mind when I’m tempted to think harsh thoughts about my body, or waste time worrying about falling short of my own idea of perfection. Really, it all comes down to simply being kind to myself.

    • Totally agree Kirsty and thanks for the links – I’ll enjoy reading those later. They both seem to make a lot of sense from the description and I do agree – thats what made me stop.

      I guess the message here is that even though I do consider myself quite body confident I still have wobbles and self doubt. This was a bit of a mantra to myself, you’re not that bad after all, take care of yourself and stop stressing! And the hope that will help some other people do the same.


    • Thanks for posting this Kirsty. I just read your second suggestion and agree, it certainly makes you think twice before complaining about what you look like. Thought provoking stuff.

  17. Hi Rebecca,

    I did the Dukan last August…I decided to go full steam into it and spent 5 days on attack, even though it was only recommended to do 2. I lost 10lbs in those 5 days….and stopped! I went from 9st 10 down to 9st. And promptly went back up to 9st 7! My stable weight is now 9st but at 5ft 3 and getting married next year I want to get back down to 8st – my target weight! Thoughts of doing the Dukan again have crossed my mind but like you I enjoy food a lot and as a primary teacher, quite frankly, I need the energy!! I’m now trying to eat healthily and make time to walk for 20-30 mins a day and I hope it will work and I’ll lose the weight healthily!


  18. best thing I ever did was just get a calorie counting app on my phone, the more you move the more you can put in per day, it made me stop stuffing giant bars of chocolate without thinking about it in front of the tv, and just eat healthier all round. I’ve reached that age now anyway ( mid-40’s ) where a bit of plump is far more flattering than scrawny lol.

    I could cry when my daughter (aged16 ) says “Im fat” she’s a healthy size ten but constantly bombarded by photoshopped models and tv stars who’ve had every procedure going and what does that tell her? fortunately I’ve brought her up to eat healthy, but more importantly to enjoy food, cooking, social occasions etc. several of her school friends have already got eating disorders, its heartbreaking to see them and their families going through it. I think this ‘quick fix’ mentality has a lot to answer for.

  19. I’m so pleased you’ve written this. Fab post.

    To me, your text reads like a very sensible and sane woman describing a weekend spent with her very insane twin sister! I know who i’d rather hang out with.

    I can guarantee that when it comes to your Top 10 Holiday Memories, wishing you had been 3lbs lighter will not feature.

    I reckon the chocolate brownie sounds like it was worth the Saturday night fail too ; ) xx

  20. I too love it when you write posts like this. I have a very similar approach to food and also use it as a reward which I need to get out of the habit of doing. We love eating out (its one of our fave things as a couple) so I loathe to cut this out but then I beat myself up about it. Definitely trying to include more exercise in my routine – I think that’s the key for me as i’m never going to give up cake! 🙂 xx

  21. I wasn’t going to comment on this post (not because I didn’t agree with it, I absolutely do, but didn’t feel I had much to add) but then today have discovered something absolutely amazing. For about the last 6yrs my weight has been 75kg. I have been through ‘healthy’ periods (6 months when I did sessions with a personal trainer twice a week and ate really sensibly) and ‘unhealthy’ periods (when I could never motivate myself to go to the gym and ate chocolate like it was going out of fashion) and that needle on the scales stuck firm at 75kg. I had accepted I would weigh 75kg for the rest of my life. But for the past few weeks people have been saying to me ‘you’ve lost so much weight’ and although I didn’t believe them, it spurred me to get on the scales today -and I weigh 72kg!! I am amazed and the only thing that has changed in the last few months is that I now walk LOADS more -I walk to work (3 miles/day in total) plus to the supermarket etc. I used to drive everywhere before. I am not going to the gym any more often than I used to, so I think the walking is what’s made the difference. Who’d have thought?! Simple, free, effective. Get walking ladies!

    • Great comment Anita – I totally agree, walking is a great way to lose or control your weight and it’s so restorative too, making time to go for a walk is energising and gives you a lot of time to think – something we often don’t have much off in this day and age!


  22. Pingback: Eat Healthy, Exercise More… | Love My Dress® UK Wedding Blog

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