What's French for Atkins? This New Diet Sounds Awfully Familiar

Everyone is buzzing about the coming-soon high-protein Dukan Diet. I say, been there, done that, pass the bread, please

The Dukan Diet -- created by French neurologist Pierre Dukan, beloved by Jennifer Lopez and Kate Middleton's mom -- requires you to eat nothing but protein for one whole day every week for the rest of your life. In France, the diet has gotten so popular that they've unofficially dubbed Thursday as "Protein Day" reports Jezebel.

The diet also requires you to just about eat your weight in oat bran, cut out all vegetables for two weeks, all fruit for four weeks, and all grains for six weeks. Oh, and the plan only insists on 20 minutes of exercise per day.

Okay. Crazy pregnancy hormone diet it's not. The calorie intake seems survivable and there may be some wisdom in the only 20 minutes of exercise thing -- why set people up for failure with a crazy hard food plan and an unrealistic exercise goal at the same time? Baby steps are good.

But I am having a hard time getting excited about yet another low-carb craze. People, we've been on this journey already and we didn't get much out of it (other than the bad halitosis you get on Atkins -- what is up with that, anyway?). And we were finally starting to come to our senses and embrace the wonder and delight of whole grains, carrots, bananas and other plant-based, if yes, carb-loaded foods. What's with the backpedal?

We've learned it over and over: Any diet that forces you to eject food groups results in a temporary weight loss (while you're fired up and diligent about ejecting them, which results in you eating fewer calories) and then an eventual backslide where you regain the weight when you finish the initial hardcore phase and try to go back to eating like a normal person--  or life without pasta becomes too sad to endure. Restricting foods (unless you have an allergy or other medical condition that requires you to do so) is generally a recipe for failure.

And diets that kick out whole grains, veggies and other plant-based foods seem particularly punitive, even if it's just for a few weeks. America is not fighting an obesity epidemic because of our rampant consumption of oatmeal and carrots. As Frank Sacks, a professor of nutrition at Harvard Medical School, told the New York Times last week: "This is just another one of those diets invented by a charismatic individual who makes a lot of promises and has loads of testimonials but is not based on any scientific data whatsoever."

And yet, there's a reason Dr. Dukan's American publisher forked over a $1.5 million advance. We love diets invented by charismatic individuals that come with lots of promises and testimonials. And we love the concept of a diet that promises "all you have to do is stop eating X and the weight will miraculously fall off." It sounds so easy, in theory. Even freeing.

Unfortunately, it usually turns out to be a lot harder than that -- and that's when the guilt kicks in. We assume that cravings are a failure of willpower, when they're actually hardwired into our brains for complex reasons of evolution, nutrition and biology.

So that's why I'm less than excited about this latest import from Paris, which promises to kick-start that restrict-fail-guilt cycle all over again. No thanks. If you need me, I'll be at my nearest patisserie, enjoying a lovely pain au chocolat.

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