For the 5th and final week of my wellness series, I wanted to talk about something that is always a pretty hot topic at the start of any year; and that is weight loss. And today I’m going to share how I lost 20 lbs of baby weight I was struggling to lose for several years – that I finally lost last year (and have kept off!).
When I had my first son almost 9 years ago, I admit I was really concerned about how my body would change and if I would be able to lose the baby weight. To my surprise, the weight really just melted off. And then some! I ended up being about 5-10lbs below my pre-pregnancy weight simply by running and nursing. It really was so easy I expected it to be the same with my 2nd. However, after having my youngest, I struggled with getting rid of the last of the baby weight. I would fluctuate about 10-20lbs above my pre-baby weight. Blame it on being older perhaps, but for the first time in my life I really felt I didn’t have control over my weight and wasn’t exactly sure how to get back on track.
I did keto for a period of time. I was able to lose 10lbs, but then I plateaued. I found myself obsessing over macros & the number of carbs I was eating in a day…and yet the scale wasn’t budging. I finally got burned out & I ended up going off keto. I did keep most of the weight I had lost off until last winter. We had a pretty cold & yucky winter last year & I just was feeling a bit of seasonal affective disorder. As a result, I wasn’t running & definitely splurged on treats over the holidays. I ended up gaining almost 10lbs back, and was determined to finally take control of my weight & be down to my pre-pregnancy weight for summer.
When we were living in California, a friend of mine had been struggling with losing her baby weight & started the Dukan Diet. (The diet was really popular at the time because supposedly Kate Middleton had done it for her wedding). My friend’s results were jaw dropping. She lost SO much weight and looked like a completely different person. I remembered her success with the diet and bought the book and cookbook – and I started right before Easter last year.
Within 3 1/2 months of being on Dukan, not only did I reach my weight loss goal of 20 lbs, I actually exceeded it and ultimately dropped 25 lbs and am back to my pre-pregnancy weight. And not only have I lost the weight, I have kept it off even through the holidays and having periods where I’ve definitely indulged (I just make sure to get back on track! This diet has been amazing for me, and today I wanted to share this secret to my weight loss success.
What is the Dukan Diet?
The Dukan diet was started by a French physician (Dr Dukan!) who wanted to come up with a plan to help his patients who were struggling to lose weight. This diet has four phases, with the first two being very strict. But once you obtain your goal weight (or “true weight”) you are able to slowly incorporate other foods back into your diet, and eventually go back to eating whatever you choose, but must follow a few simple rules for the rest of your life. This diet centers around lean protein and limits fats and carbohydrates. Because protein is so filling, you are able to consume small amounts of calories and feel incredibly full. (Although there is NO required calorie counting or limit to how much you can eat!) Protein is also harder to break down so your body burns more calories as well simply by digesting.
The length of time for each of the phases of the diet are individual to each person and how much they want to lose. You can go on their website and fill out a profile where they will tell you how long to do each phase for. They will also help you figure out what your “true weight” is – which I think is important so that you aren’t setting unrealistic and unhealthy weight loss goals for yourself.
Phase 1: Attack
This is the strictest, but also shortest phase of the diet. This can be anywhere from 1-7 days depending on how much weight you have to lose. I believe mine was originally recommended to be 3 days, but I actually ended up doing 5 simply because I wasn’t finding it to be too difficult. The attack phase is “pure protein” and you will eat nothing but lean protein from a list of approved foods during this time. However there is no restriction on how much you can eat. You are also required to eat oat bran daily for fiber and continue to do so through all stages of the diet.
Phase 2: Cruise
In this phase you can incorporate almost all vegetables back into your diet (with the exception of starchy, high carb things like corn, beans, potatoes, etc). However it is recommended for maximum weight loss to only eat vegetables every other day, or on a 5:2 plan (vegetables + protein 5 days a week, and 2 days of pure protein). This is entirely up to you to choose depending on what works for you and your weight loss goals. For the first few months I did 1:1 to really lose as much as possible. After the first few months I followed more of a 5:2 schedule. You are also allowed nonfat/low-fat dairy including milk, yogurt, and cheeses.
Phase 3: Consolidation
In this phase you are getting your body acclimated to accepting your true weight and are focused on maintaining. The length of this phase should be 5 days for every pound lost. (For me this was 125 days – a little over 4 months). You are allowed protein and vegetables every day (except 1 day a week should be a designated pure protein day), as well as 1 serving of fruit, 2 pieces of bread, and 1 serving of full fat cheese a day. You are also allowed 1 carb meal a week (e.g. pasta, beans, potatoes) and 1 cheat meal a week for the first half of this phase, and you can increase to 2 carb meals and 2 cheat meals a week in the 2nd half.
Phase 4: Stabilization
Now that you have reset to your new true weight – you are allowed to eat as you like! But you must continue to have one pure protein meal a week, oat bran daily, and get 20 minutes of exercise a day. (Dr Dukan recommends that you take the stairs instead of the elevator). Now…that said…I personally don’t think one can truly just go back to eating whatever and expect to maintain their weight. I think you must continue to practice portion control/moderation, and still choose to continue to eat healthy most of the time focusing on lean protein, veggies, and fruits. I typically stick with primarily lean protein and veggie options during the week, and will have healthy carbs on days I’m doing longer runs. I allow myself whatever I want on weekends and special occasions (in moderation!).
My Keys To Success:
I think the key to my success with the diet comes down to a few things. One – I really like the foods and like eating this way, so it doesn’t feel difficult to me. Although this way of eating has been great for me, I don’t believe in “one size fits all.” I think it is so important to find a plan that you are willing to commit to that works for your lifestyle. There are so many diets out there, and it will be very hard to be successful if you don’t feel that a particular diet is a good fit for you. If you are liking the foods you are eating – it certainly makes it a whole lot easier to stick to the plan! Also, I am someone who can definitely get “hangry” and really dislike feeling hungry and deprived – and this diet is so incredibly filling.
Although not required, I did choose to count my calories and track my foods for the first 3-4 months of the diet, simply so I could get a better handle on portion sizes and what my calorie intake needed to be to lose and maintain. This also helped me continue to be successful as I phased out of each phase of the diet. I have read many times, that people who track their intake, are typically much more successful in losing weight. I very much believe this to be true, as it helped keep me on track and accountable when I had to write everything down. I used the My Fitness Pal app to track and I also use a food scale to measure portions.
Incorporating intermittent fasting has also helped me tremendously. I have always been someone who hates eating in the morning & after hearing for years that it’s bad for you…I’m feeling a little validation that intermittent fasting is now being seen as a good thing! I don’t believe in forcing yourself to eat just because it’s “meal time” and prefer to just eat when I’m hungry. Most days I don’t want to eat until anywhere between 11am and 1pm. I also typically quit eating by 7pm so I shoot for around 16 hours of fasting. On the rare occasion I’m hungry, I don’t force myself to stick to this schedule, but most days I find this really easy to do.
Remember stalls or even slight weight gain is normal. Through the first few months of the diet, I had periods where my weight loss would stop for a week or more, or even go up a few pounds! In the very beginning it is easy to want to weigh daily and obsess over the scale. I really pushed myself to not get frustrated when this would happen, and stopped weighing even weekly. I now only weigh every 2 -3 weeks or so – as this gives a more accurate picture of what is really going on, rather than day to day fluctuations.
I continued to exercise but cut back during the strictest part of the diet. I completely stopped doing longer 7+ mile runs once I started the diet, and just did slow leisurely 3-4 mile runs 3-4 days a week (in addition to biking with the kids and other light activities). I switched my focus more to eating healthier and not looking at exercise as a way to burn calories – but as a way to further my health and overall well being.
What I found most challenging:
There were a few things I have found challenging about the diet in the early phases. The biggest was dealing with going out to eat. Most restaurants do not offer low carb and low fat options, so eating out can be hard to stick with the diet. Your best bet is a breakfast place with a veggie omelette – or somewhere that has a salad with fish or grilled chicken, and a light dressing on the side. In a pinch I requested lettuce wrapped burgers or sandwiches as well – and most places will accommodate you. And when you end up someplace that nothing seems diet friendly…just do the best you can and get the healthiest option possible. Even if it’s not an ideal Dukan meal – one meal isn’t going to derail your progress!
Another thing to note – this diet requires a lot of planning and cooking. I do think this diet would be a challenge for someone who doesn’t like to cook as most restaurant food just will not be Dukan friendly. I don’t like eating the same things over and over, so I do like to experiment with new recipes periodically to ensure I don’t get bored. I also like to make sure I have Dukan friendly snacks on hand for when I get hungry, so I don’t reach for junk when I’m starving and haven’t properly planned.
Here’s a few helpful tools that helped me get started with Dukan!
If you would like more information, be sure to check out the Dukan website linked here.