Wednesday, 20 June 2012

You Can with the Dukan

Apologies if you’ve had the misfortune of speaking to me in the last couple of months, because I have officially turned into one of those people. Yeah I’ve started doing a “fad” diet and it is now all I can talk about, all I can tell you is what I can eat, what I am going to eat, how much weight I’ve lost, how much weight I have to lose and how regular my bowels are. Though in fairness I always talk about how regular my bowels are so you probably haven’t noticed the difference! So far I’ve managed to keep diet talk off this blog, but no more I must break free and speak my mind, as I have nothing else to talk about. Though I am hoping that I will contain all the diet talk in one blog-sized burst and not bore you incessantly for weeks to come. But apologies if this article does read like a copy of Woman’s Own.

Google any fad diet and you’ll find articles about how it does work, how it doesn’t work, how it will give you cancer and how it is responsible for the death of Diana, Princess of Wales – but then that’s your own fault for reading the Daily Express’ website. The diet I chose to embark upon is called the Dukan diet, named after it’s French creator Dr Dukan, and not chosen for some clever alliterative pun such as the one I have used to name this blog entry. Though that is helpful.
I embarked on the Dukan lifestyle, as he likes to refer it (lifestyle being that you can now only talk about dieting and annoy waiters by asking for special things from the menu), after seeing a colleague at work follow the same plan and rapidly disappear in front of my very eyes. Now I know I am hardly obese (don’t disagree that’s rude). I haven’t had to be taken to London Zoo’s elephant house to be weighed, I don’t have to be positioned correctly on a plane in order to keep the plane aerodynamic nor do I need to be hoisted out of a Piccadilly line carriage chair at the end of my daily commute. Though sadly that last statement is only true because I live on the Northern line. However, I have noticed a little bit of tummy, an annoying bit that even with a token amount of exercise and broadly healthy eating won’t go away. Every now and again it occasionally grows, at Christmas or bingey weekends, like a plant you occasionally get round to watering. Given enough time and slices of cake my tummy was sure to develop its own postcode if left unchecked. And with the recent 30th anniversary celebrations of my birth I felt now was the time to get in check before middle-aged spread, like a virulent fungal infection, took hold. Also I’ve never really felt comfortable being topless anywhere, I don’t look obese but if I lie down people have mistaken my belly for a speed hump. When I tend to get changed for swimming I find myself holding a towel around at nipple height to cover my modesty, like a pregnant women. But enough was enough, no more would I be ashamed of my body it was time for a change.

This is the book I’ve been using:

It looks lovely and fluffy on the outside, but the inside is like the culinary edition of Mein Kampf a strict list of rules and regulations that need to be adhered to in order to achieve weight loss. Dr Dukan takes great pleasure in reminding you every step of the way that even one false move will result in you being a fat bastard.

I’ll give you a quick overview of how the diet works, but on a serious note (for once) if you are following any weight loss plan make sure you do it sensibly and check you are following all the rules. Don’t just follow some half-baked summary some idiot has written on a blog – get what I mean? Good, now I’ve finished being your disapproving mother I can get on.
Dukan is primarily a high protein diet, by feeding your body just protein it’s forced to raid its fat stores to supplement your carbohydrate and sugar deficiency – like a crooked builder raiding a pensioner’s bank account. The diet is broken up into phases, Phase 1 is called The Attack Phase, this doesn’t involve any attacking, unless you actually unleash the pent up rage you will find quickly builds up against Dr Dukan when you’ve been following the diet for any length of time. In Phase 1 you can only eat lean proteins (poultry, lean beef or ham, fish, eggs etc.), 0% fat dairy products (skimmed milk, yoghurts, cottage cheese etc.) and a few selected condiments, and that is it. Drinks can only be coffee or tea (skimmed milk and sweetener only), non-fruit based diet fizzy drinks, water and skimmed milk. Sounds about as an appetising as a bowl of sawdust!

Here’s a typical meal from Dukan Day 1:

Personally I don’t find anything on that list actually disgusting. The main problem, I found, is what your tummy craves that it can’t have rather than having to eat horrid things. Though saying that mention “cottage cheese” enough and bystanders do seem to have a terrible affliction where they spontaneously projectile vomit in your face. And I soon learnt that bringing prawns into the office was about as welcome, with my colleagues, as if I’d brought a plague of locusts in, or turned up for the day with the rotting corpse of Bernard Manning.

Another delightful meal was this one, which I arranged into the shape of a bearded face simply to add some excitement to dinner:

During Phase 1 you can eat as much of the above foods as you like, but only them. This is a rapid weight loss phase, I lost 2kgs (4lbs) in just three days, this weight lost I suspect was almost entirely made up of taste buds jumping off my tongue in a bid to kill themselves. However this phase is only a temporary phase, up to a week and then you have to move to Phase 2, or you will die (possibly – almost certainly from taste boredom).

I found Day 1 of the Phase 1 wasn’t too bad, I was detoxing from the 40kgs of birthday cake I gorged on the day before. By Day 2 I wanted to kill people, slowly and painfully. Day 2 was awful and there was lots of grumpiness (apologies to those in the office that day). By Day 4 the worst was over my stomach surrendered even if now again I would start hallucinating about chocolate and pizza.
The Dukan book helpfully provides some recipes for this stage to turn the bland range of foods into a selection of bland meals.

Unfortunately the quantities in the book are absolutely mad, the very first recipe is for a selection of salmon voul-a-vents (without any pastry!), that serve 50. Fifty!!! I am not organising a f**king Dukan dinner party, why would I want 50 of the bloody things. It’s as if Dukan himself knows that anyone on the diet would have to instantly form some kind of group therapy organisation to get through it, and of course there’d need to be catering.

I made one recipe in this phase, this was these Mint Mousses:

It was primarily fat-free fromage frais, mixed with sweetener, green food colouring and peppermint flavouring. And tasted like you’d accidentally inhaled the contents of a dentist’s hoover bag. It had the consistency and flavour of what you spit out of your mouth when brushing your teeth. No matter how bored I was of fat free vanilla yoghurts I never became so bored that I had a second one of these, and most of the contents of the above photo went in the bin (except the ramekins which have to be destroyed).

There was a depressing point in Phase 1 where I started getting jealous of what I was feeding the plants!

After a few days you advance to Phase 2 – The Cruise Phase. In order to stop your gastric system completely collapsing, Phase 2 alternates the protein days from Phase 1 with days where you can add in most vegetables and a few more condiments. As long as you do the same number of protein days as protein and veg days you’re fine, so you can do this in any combination you like. Given that protein and veg days are a little easy to do when eating with friends or being cooked for by other people, I tended to mix up the pattern to get the protein and veg days to fall favourably.
By the time you get to Phase 2 you’ll be craving a lettuce leaf, your body will want anything to add to its restricted menu. I had a particular lust for cherry tomatoes that was happily filled in Phase 2. I found the protein & veg days so much more tolerable than the protein only days.

At this point the Dukan book happily provides some top tips to get you through the challenging times. First tip is that it’s really easy to order off a restaurant menu on Phase 2. Just choose something like salmon or an omelette or a salad and avoid dessert. Dukan is lying. It’s bloody impossible to find any menus you can eat anything off. I looked through five before going out for a meal with friends, pretty much every salad required four things to be taken off – breadsticks, oil, cheese, avocado etc. By the time I’d gone through all those changes with any waitress she’d already start lining up a massive turd to drop into my dinner. I found that the simplest thing to order, in terms of least changes, was to go to Pizza Express and order the Goat’s Cheese Salad – without any Goat’s Cheese. Which is about as exciting as rushing out and buying a brand new games console, without buying any games for it.

His next top tip, is if you wish to avoid the embarrassment of explaining to family members your new diet. Then just dip pieces of chicken in your boiled egg instead of toast soldiers, they’ll never know. Really?! How much does Dukan think toast and cooked chicken look the same? Or how far away does he think family members sit at the breakfast table? Is there about 100 meters distance between the chairs in his dining room, strategically placed so no one can clearly identify the foods going into their fellow diner’s mouths? Of course your family will notice, they probably won’t mention it in front of you. Mainly because they’ll be discussing the fact that you madly started dipping bits of chicken in your boiled egg, behind your back for fear that any moment you’re going to crack and start killing them. Even if your family did fall for your rouse, and believed the chicken you were dipping in your egg was toast, that’s the only “secret” meal Dukan recommends. After how many meals of just boiled eggs and toast do you think your family will think you’ve gone bloody mad anyway?

Another problem is Dukan isn’t really very portable. Eating on the move doesn’t really work as meats and dairy products aren’t really that travel friendly. Recently I went on a week filming with work, where I was on the road all day and found that while the crew were sitting eating lunch in a pub I was sat in the van in the pub car park eating luke warm vanilla yogurt and fish sticks. A more tragic site could not be imagined, well not without the death of a well-loved family pet or the cancellation of The Apprentice or something.

That said Dukan is an effective diet, after the first month I lost an impressive 7kgs (15lbs), and a large number of invites to dinners out – which for the social reclusive like me, can only be a good thing! I’ve tried a couple of Dukan’s other recipes namely the Iced Chocolate Soufflé and the Tofu Choc Cream, and they’re ok. Don’t get me wrong they’re not amazing chocolate desserts, if you went to Hotel Chocolait and got those, you’d piss in the shop assistant’s face in disgust. But when your taste buds are crying out for variation and new flavours they seem to do the job. If you’re wondering how they can be on the list, they’re primarily made with zero fat fromage frais, egg whites and a low fat cocoa powder. In fact the whole dessert is so low fat, it’s like the anti-matter version of Vanessa Feltz, put them in the same room and the resultant explosion will destroy of all BBC London Radio station. Which isn’t necessarily the worst idea ever?

After 50 days I lost a total of 11 kgs (or 24 lbs) and reached my final target weight, a healthy slim
Matty not afraid to bare his new svelte chest – though don’t worry I won’t be doing it in the office or on the Underground or anything. From my experience Dukan worked for me, if you can put up with the tough rules, and the taste boredom oh and the bad breath – ketosis takes hold in the first week and if you don’t use regular mouth wash your breath could be used to cut through steel. I’m now in Stage 3: Consolidation, where I start introducing normal foods again slowly, so I don’t balloon up instantly like the deployment of a car airbag. I am allowed things like cheese and bread again, which when you’ve not had anything tasty for 50 days is amazing:

Most excitingly I can have two “Celebration Meals” a week where I can eat anything I like – as long as I don’t go silly with quantities.

For my first free choice meal I had this:

Followed by this:

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Finally I’ll be back to a normal diet after this phase, and hopefully I’ll never need to write another blog about tedious dieting. And if you’re lucky you’ll never need to read another blog about tedious dieting!

Sadly, for you, I’m off filming in a glamorous and secret location for the next week so no blogs for a little while but I will be back soon!