Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Dukan Diet - Some Unfocussed Ramblings

"what do you think of this Dukan diet thing then?"

"what you mean that "new" diet where you reduce your carbs and increase your protein?"

It's pretty clear that the Dukan diet is a repackaging of the Atkins diet, which was itself based on pretty well established weight loss diet principles prior to Ancel Keyes leading us on a 50 year low-fat wild goose chase. This "new" diet adds nothing meaningful to what we already know about weight loss, and is an example of successful marketing rather than interesting and novel nutritional concepts. So far so obvious, what then can we actually learn from the success of this diet?

1- Look for the commonalities. low carb high protein does work. In this regard the Dukan diet is spot on. This is just another case of the good information being the big principles that are common to successful programs rather than the minutia. Low carb high protein works. Focussing on real food not processed crap works. Lifting weights and moving more works. Really, though we tend to get caught up in debates about selenium or front squats vs back squats, these things are all just details.
Personally I would focus on food quality before macro nutrient ratios. Make sure you're eating real, whole foods that walked, swam or grew in the ground before you worry about how much carbs or protein you're taking in. There also seems to be quite a lot of dairy products in the Dukan diet which I'm not the biggest fan of. But low carb, yes I'm on board with that.

2- proximity bias is universal. It always amazes me when people I'm close to, and who I would therefore happily advise on diet and training for nothing, decide to go on something like the Dukan diet or weightwatchers. But I shouldn't be, because of proximity bias.

Proximity bias is the tendency to discount information that comes from a source that is familiar to us. You may tell your mother she should reduce her intake of bread til you're blue in the face, but if an actress says it in Hello magazine suddenly it's gospel.

The tricky part is this can happen with long term personal training clients too. I've seen it a number of times where I'll have advised a long term client on an injury for a few weeks before just referring them to a therapist, only for them to come back and tell me the therapist told them what I'd been saying for the past two weeks. This only tends to happen with clients I've been training for years, and shows that proximity bias is part of human nature. We need to take it into account and figure out ways around it.
(just realising I could get a whole blog post on this alone so I'll shut up about it for now)

3- people love a system. The rules of nutrition are very simple, they'll never change, they've always worked and will always work. But if you just tell someone "eat real food. Meat, fish, poultry, veg, fruit" they'll say "yeah but I already knew that." Now, at this point I feel like responding "well then why are you still fat?" but clearly this would get us nowhere.

What's weird though, is if I present the same information in the context of a specific "system" with phases and it's own unique language and principles, (repackaging the same information in a new way just like the Dukan diet) I get a much greater buy-in from the client.
There's no point fighting it, it seems to be hard wired into our behaviour . So instead I try to use this behavioural quirk ethically to the clients advantage. I present the information without making wild, unscientific claims but I present in the form of a unique system. This gets greater compliance initially, and once the client is on board I can start to emphasise the importance long term healthy eating over "going on a diet."

Good grief that was a bit of a ramble! I'm off to drag a sled .


Raffi Tanielian said...

Interesting what you say about proximity bias. I wonder if that applies to training. Not just for normal people like me but pro athletes who have the same coach for two years but hit a ceiling. When they change their coaches they have a temporary improvement in their results although it levels off after a year to 18 months by which time they change again.

Team Aegis said...

Definitely Raffi, I think it happens in all aspects of life. We naturally put more value in the opinion of an external "expert" than people closest to us even when they are better qualified to advise.

Sagar Jagdish K. said...

really great information about bias. as per my experience after at a initial level you got 60% improvement and it will be decrease day by day.Zumba classes