Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Constipation and the Dukan Diet...

Ok, you must think I have a one-track mind... but constipation is not just a side effect of the Dukan diet, it also hinders weight loss in a huge way. One, what you don't eliminate shows up on the scale - and being on a diet like Dukan, where your weight is an important way of tracking your progress, you don't want something that silly throwing you off*. It slows down your metabolism, since your body is, well, backed up on elimination. And who wants to literally be full of it? But I digress...

I will assume that you know the basics here - drink plenty of water, get your recommended oat bran intake, add goji berries if you can find them (Seriously, I'm just going to start growing them myself if I can't find it!)

So let's debunk the myth that constipation is due to low fiber intake. It isn't.

Constipation will never let your abs look this flat...


Yes, shocking. In the Dukan diet, constipation is mostly due to overeating (cooked) meats/cheese, which produces beta-carbolines, and dairy foods, which are rich in opioid peptides - and gluten is also rich in this, but again, digressing. 

The opioid peptides in milk are designed to soothe babies/cubs as they nurse (remember, milk is a food designed for babies...) Babies can break down these peptides, but adults lose that ability. When these soothing opioids go through our digestive tracts, they numb everything on their way, which slows down metabolism and the peristaltic movements you need to pass stool.  

In the same fashion, cooking protein rich foods (which is the basis of the DD...) produces beta-carbolines, which has a similar effect of numbing the digestive tract and . (And I'm soooo sorry for that scholarly link, but I really couldn't find anything more reader-friendly as I was writing the post.) 

You're stylish, but it's all your fault, Mrs. Cow. 

Now, don't get me wrong - I am NOT advocating that you shouldn't follow the Dukan diet, and I have no intention to stop following it, either. But I came up with a few ways to fight the c-word.

  1. Alternating one PP and one PV day: for the sake of planning simplicity, I had been doing 5PP/5PV days. But alternating PV every other day allows you to eat lots of fibrous vegetables, instead of 5 solid days of constipation-inducing foods. 
  2. Eat lots of leafy greens: I'm contradicting myself a bit here, but adding some good, natural fiber will help move all that protein! Concentrating on dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale and lettuce allows you to splurge on veggies while not overdoing it on calorie-dense veggies like broccoli. 
  3. Substitute some of the dairy for soy: Maybe this doesn't make a big difference, so if you hate soy milk and tofu, sit this one out. I have been drinking soy milk instead of cow's milk, and eating tofu pudding (see recipe below) instead of greek yogurt for my daily snack. I haven't given up on dairy altogether, but have noticed a difference since I starting eating soy-based substitutes.

Tofu Vanilla Pudding


  • 1 brick of soft tofu (not silken) 
  • 1/2 cup soy milk 
  • 6 packets of sweetener, or more to taste 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 

Blend tofu, vanilla, and sweetener in blender or food processor. Slowly add up to 1/2 cup of soy milk, but just enough to blend the tofu. Chill for an hour. Other Dukan-friendly flavor variations are chocolate (add 2 tbsp of no sugar added pure cocoa), cinnamon, or any flavor extracts you find in the supermarket! (Look for the boxed cake section.)

You can also use this recipe on an ice cream maker for some Dukan-approved ice cream! Just add more sweetener.

(*I've never been a big believer on weighing myself, but with the rapid kind of weight loss like in the Dukan, where you're not really sure how much your body is changing, the scale is a great ally.)

Friday, July 12, 2013

A (Giant) Bump on the Road

I made a big mistake when I started the Dukan Diet: I did not weigh myself. I had just started reading the book and jumped right in, so I didn't know you could track your progress daily - I've always known that to be a bad move. 

I know that, roughly, I weighed 125lb around that time. So when I first weighed myself on Monday, 122lb didn't feel like a significant loss. Then 121 on Tuesday which, again, was blah but about 1lb a day on PP is not bad. 

I skipped the gym (and weighing in) on Wednesday, so Thursday weigh in was... 123lb! What?! Not cool, PP. It sucks not only because of the face value of not losing weight, but mostly because I've been so dedicated and so on point with this diet - I really should be seeing results! 

Instead, I see lots of bloating, although I can tell I'm losing fat - you can tell by limbs and face, whereas bloating usually shows up on the tummy and sometimes hands and feet. 

So of course I did some googling on Dukan weight stagnation, and it looks like the culprit was... My own skimming of the rules. Here is a mea culpa:

1) Cheese: but it's protein, right? Well, apparently if it's not fat free cottage/ricotta, I shouldn't be eating it. And I doused cheddar, jarlsberg, and asiago on so many of my meals... 

2) Oils: I noticed this earlier, and corrected it, but a lot of my meals were made with oil - healthy evoo and coconut oil, but I had completely overlooked the part where no oil is allowed. 

3) Fat-free everything: I'm not big on fatty stuff anyway, but I just tried my best with cuts of beef - the butcher seriously suggested filet mignon as the leanest cut, but I went with a more modestly priced (and more marbled = fatty) cut. I also got low sodium ham, but didn't ask for low fat. I may have had some chicken skin, I may have bought full-fat ricotta, I wasn't paying that much attention. This wasn't as bad as the cheese - I really overdid the cheese! - but it must have piled some calories I don't need, and hindered my weight loss. 

After all my "research", I came up with the following fixes:

1) More oat bran: I upped my intake to 2.5 tbsp a day, making it a meal for dinner, because I need...

2) Fiber supplement: Skip to #3 if you're squeamish or don't need the TMI. Constipation is a problem in the Dukan diet, and it's been especially problematic for me. None of the usual fixes has worked, including a mild laxative. I drink all the water I should, religiously, so I know that's not it either. So I got a fiber supplement - one of them said "made with real sugar!" so I checked the label before buying it. 

3) White Protein Day: when I realized I had made so many mistakes, my first impulse was to go back to the attack phase and start it all again. Then I realized it was a bit silly, and that giving up and restarting from scratch might make me less enthusiastic. I'm looking forward to being done with the cruise phase at the end of the month, and there is a good chance my mind will be done with it, so I better get the most out of July. 
I read that some people go for a white protein day - chicken breast, white fish, and FF ricotta, cottage cheese and yogurt - which I'm not 100% sure I can endure, but I will try to have fish for lunch and chicken breast for dinner for the next 3 days. 

4) Green tea: This is from the horse's mouth: drink only green tea for 3 days. I don't know that I'm able to substitute all water for green tea, but I'm trying to drink as much of it as I can. 

 And bonus:

5) Shirataki noodles: I have been skeptical of those since I've heard of them. Once I asserted myself that they didn't taste completely gross, I kept thinking they were some weird, overly processed food akin to eating a zero-cal hot dog. But then I found out the konjac root is dubbed "the broom of the intestines". So I will stop seeing it as "weird American zero-calorie over-processed non-food" and start looking at it as "ancient Japanese root of well being." Lol

I also can't wait till Monday (when I'm done with PP and get to PV) so I can have some big salads and other fiber rich foods! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thermogenic Foods

I lost 3lb! Ok, that's nothing, and I should be losing a lot more, but I just realized today that I'm eating a lot more fat than it is allowed in the Dukan Diet. I'm not curbing my cheese intake, and I'm cooking with oil. I guess from now on I'll be bringing out that can of PAM...

I've been really interested in thermogenic foods. They (supposedly) accelerate your metabolism, making you spend more energy (calories!) to process the food you eat - which may kill you a little faster, but that's a subject for another post. Which means that if you normally spend 15 calories to digest a 100-calories slice of bread, if you have a thermogenic food with it you will spend, say, 20 calories instead. Sounds like a small change, but it's a total freebie!

So here is a list of my favorite thermogenic foods:

  1. Coffee: it's also diuretic, and helps with digestion - have a little espresso after lunch and you'll see! I limit it to 2 cups a day, especially if I have a green tea.
  2. Ginger: supposedly helps with, um, flatulence. Not that any of us fancy ladies have ever had a problem with that... I have green tea with ginger - mostly because the ginger gives it an interesting flavor - or if I'm home, I make ginger tea from fresh ginger root. Or... I mix ginger powder with water and a packet of Splenda and down it like medicine (not fun, but if I am feeling lazy, it only takes 30 seconds and I'm done!)
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar: I'll try to hide it in any food that can handle a tablespoon of vinegar - as in, don't try to add it to your hot chocolate, unless you want curdled milk. I've been told to drink a tbsp diluted in water before lunch and dinner, but when I tried that, I almost cried. So gross. 
  4. Green Tea: For the price of a latte, you can buy a month's worth of green tea - a box with 20 bags. Keep it in a drawer at work, and make yourself some green tea right after lunch, when your salty mouth is begging for dessert. There, you just saved some money and kept yourself out of trouble! (I am not a big fan of the taste of green tea, so I get it with peppermint or ginger.)
  5. Red Pepper: Who among us didn't try the master cleanse when it was a thing, only to quit halfway through the first day because, well, that was just crazy?! So get that jar of cayenne pepper that has been sitting in the back of your pantry, and sprinkle cayenne pepper on everything you make! It doesn't have to be a lot, or even enough to make the dish hot if that's not your thing. Any other pepper - even black cracked pepper - will have the same effect.  
  6. Cinnamon: Sprinkle on everything that's sweet. Enjoy. Cinnamon is maybe the only delicious food that actually makes you lose weight! It's God's way of saying "I love you." 
The only pure protein "dessert" I was able to come up with has a thermogenic in it!

Hel's Dukan-Friendly Cannoli Cream:

Because you might as well just have the best part of the cannoli!
  • 1 container part skim ricotta cheese
  • 6 packets Splenda 
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients with a spoon, then whip with a beater - just so the cinnamon doesn't fly everywhere. Don't overmix - it will get to a sticky consistency. It tastes better after another hour in the fridge. 

Weekly planning

I like to plan my weekly menu and do my grocery shopping on Sundays. It has become a bit of a ritual, together with the cooking, and even though it means I'm eating Friday lunch that I cooked on Sunday, I manage to make delicious meals and always be satisfied. 

Marinating in snack size ziplock bags also helps with portion control

There are three main reasons this has helped me so much to stay on a diet. 

1) I don't get lazy and eat whatever is there. 
I always try not to keep cookies or other ready-to-eat junk in the house because I will have it for dinner, after a long day. So, by having my meals already cooked and ready to eat, I avoid the temptation.
Also, at work, it helps me eat something healthy - a meal I put thought into - as opposed to "I feel like having a..." Of the moment. 

2) it keeps me on a schedule
9:30am is breakfast, 12:30 is lunch. I start getting fidgety and have a yogurt or protein shake around 3:30, and that snack doubles as a way not to starve until dinner if I'm going to the gym after work. But none of this was prescribed to me, that's what came naturally with my needs - working 9-5, going to the gym after work, etc. Weekends are still a challenge...

3) it's the good kind of portion control. 
I know how much I'm supposed to eat. I can put it on my plate and be satiated by it. But if there is more, I might be tempted to go back for seconds... This way, when I buy exactly 2 portions of steak - one for lunch, one for dinner - I know I'm not supposed to go back for seconds. There is a delay between your stomach feeling full and your brain recognizing it, so only having a single portion available forces you to stop eating when you should stop, but still don't want to. Your brain catches up soon enough. 

So here is the menu for this week:

For breakfast, scrambled egg whites - I use 4 eggs and 100% egg whites from Organic Valley to make 5 servings - with ham and cheese, and whatever leftover herbs I have (chives, rosemary, parsley.) I drink a cup of green tea with ginger, and maybe a coffee as a midmorning snack - I have breakfast at 9:30 and lunch at 12:30, so no real reason for a mid-morning snack.

For lunch:

Monday: Grilled chipotle pork chops
Tuesday: Rosemary chicken skewers
Wednesday: Grilled hangar steak with onions
Thursday: Lemon chicken
Friday: Marinated hangar steak

Since I'm on the Dukan, the side has been shirataki noodles, but usually it would be grilled veggies. 

At around 4pm, I have fat-free greek yogurt with Splenda, and usually get to the gym by 5:30pm. By the time I'm done withe my workout, I'm ravenous! Which is not a good thing usually, but this diet makes me feel so full the entire time, it's good to feel an empty stomach for a little bit.

For dinner, some oat bran porridge - such a comfort food! - and a ham and cheese sandwich on a Dukan galette, and a glass of water with a tablespoon of ginger (I will have a post on thermogenic foods later, but basically it revs up your metabolism.) 

If I'm still hungry when I go to bed, a glass of skim milk with real cocoa and Splenda does wonders to quiet my stomach when it screams "I'm not letting you sleep until you feed me!"

Friday, July 5, 2013

Am I Obsessed? Or Just Taking Things Seriously?

Don't even know which one is worse!!! Hehe

Since yesterday was Fourth of July, I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted. But not because I couldn't resist the temptation, I just wanted to! So I made a huge lunch of shirataki noodles - to fill up on the no-cal noodles - and had my non-Dukan dinner without any guilt. Chips and guacamole, tacos, and endless, endless margaritas! It felt great, I had an amazing time. No regrets. 

I walked into work today, and the bagel/cream cheese/assorted pastries spread was the first one to greet me. All I did was get some coffee, then I went straight to my scrambled eggs with broccoli! Not even aroused by the croissants and muffins. 

Then, as lunch approached and the amazing pizza got here (yeah, it was a fully catered day...) I didn't even move from my desk... Eventually, I got up, grabbed a slice... And ripped out the cheese to eat with my South Beach Shepherd's Pie! 

This is very un-me behavior! But I'm on track, and plan on finishing up my cruise phase by the end of the month, no make up days. Let's just hope there are no more pizza lunches at work! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My First Experience with Shirataki Noodles

Or "the miracle noodles."

I have heard over and over about shirataki noodles and how they are miraculously calorie-free. But having also seen them in the supermarket, I always thought they would taste gross - because they come in a bag full of liquid, I always imagined them having the texture of overcooked spaghetti! I couldn't bear the thought of it.

I have been doing really well in the Dukan Diet - even though I wish it was healthier, I will be following the Cruise Phase until the end of the month as the doctor prescribed - so I decided to give this a try as a way to cheat myself into a pure protein day (which I have been dragging my feet to do.)

I decided to try this recipe for garlic noodles, and they tasted delicious! I tweaked it a bit to fit what I had the fridge, and added chicken for some actual calories and protein. Taste-wise, I made sure to rinse and soak them for a while as instructed. The recipe calls for lots of garlic and soy sauce, so that gave them lots of flavor, so they were not bland. I was really worried about the texture, but I was pleasantly surprised! They have a little bit of an "al dente" feeling, though the texture is not exactly the same as wheat pasta. I'm glad I tried it!

Happy cruising!


  • 1 packets spaghetti shirataki noodles
  • 1/2 chicken breast, diced
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • salt


  • Boil shirataki noodles for 3.5 minutes with 2 dashes of salt and strain. Use paper towels to dry off any additional liquid.
  • In a large skillet or wok, heat cooking spray on medium heat and sautée chicken and garlic until fragrant.
  • Add soy sauce. Add noodles and toss in sauce.
  • Pan sear noodles on medium-high heat until all liquid is absorbed and  noodles have a nice seared brown color.
  • Add green onions, cook for 30 seconds and remove from heat.
  • Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New Beginnings...

I spent this past weekend following the "Attack Phase" of the Dukan Diet. So I ate only eggs, cheese, yogurt, ham, steak, and chicken breast. For two days. So here is the breakdown of the schedule:

June 29-30: Attack Phase

The Attack Phase is a protein-only phase - as in, not even veggies are allowed! I "cheated" a little bit by making two of my meals a steak with onions... and sautéed an entire onion for each meal!  According to the website's plan, I should have spent two days on the Attack Phase, then 31 days on the Cruise Phase to achieve my "true weight." And I don't think I could have lasted a day longer! 

While I had some mild sweet cravings on day 1, I wasn't hungry or even felt like eating at all on day 2. I had to force myself to eat dinner, because I was both stuffed and turned off by the prospect of eating a steak with no sides. I had a  "meat hangover" both nights - I was feeling full, bloated, sluggish, exhausted. I was craving (gasp!) a green salad! 

July 1-31: Cruise Phase

It's day 4 and I still feel like I ate an elephant - and I added veggies to breakfast, lunch and dinner today!  

I am on the "Cruise Phase," which alternates a "pure protein" day and a protein + veggies day, and lots, lots of water. I have a calendar in my fridge telling me what I should plan for (PP or PV), and I am also going to make it to the gym at least once a day for the entire 31 days - it can be for just a yoga or a meditation class, all I want is to create a habit of physically going to the gym every day for 30 days. 

August 1 - September 13 Cruise Phase

Yes, apparently my last official day on the Dukan diet is Friday the 13th. Happy-go-lucky.