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Diets and Emotions

A Frenchman who lives in New York City with his family, Olivier joined our board to offer his legal expertise. In the meantime, he has expanded to other areas, including searching the French headlines for interesting pieces on exercise and fitness. A couple of weeks ago he sent me an article published in the French daily Le Monde on Dr. Pierre Dukan’s diet. A primarily protein-based diet, the Dukan nutrition plan differs significantly from Dr. Atkins’s, which includes too much fat. On the contrary, Dr. Dukan’s method seems to develop around the concept of four phases, the combination of which is a structured but simple long-term, real-food regime that ensures one’s metabolism works flawlessly.

I am not interested in diets. I am not trained to understand whether they are good or bad for one’s health. But the Dukan diet’s popularity in France piqued my curiosity and I decided to read about it. I discovered one fascinating fact. Dr. Dukan dismisses calorie counting, mainly because it sets “quotas, doses, and portions but it forgets that the people having to follow it are flesh and blood, made up of emotions and instincts.” (Louise Atkinson, “The Ultimate Diet: The French have kept it a secret for years. Now the protein rich Dukan Diet is coming to Britain,” The Mail Online, April 19, 2010)

Emotions and instincts are our motivators for mostly everything we do in life. While dieting usually makes us feel “bad” when we cheat (and therefore stirs up feelings of worthlessness) exercise makes us feel “good” (and worthy) because we are able to achieve something, to reach a goal. In fact, thinking back at my numerous short trips to the gym when my schedule gets way too heavy for me to handle long workouts, I remember stepping down from the treadmill and feeling sad because I have to go. This comes as a surprise every time considering that I, like everyone else, develop my enthusiasm for exercise while I am at it and not beforehand—but I do have my rare moments of pure athleticism when I simply cannot wait to leave the office and go to the gym. Other times, I recognize the feeling of slight annoyance when I must set my dumbbells down and leave the floor just when I could try a new routine. When I exercise the only quota I set are those of time. Time is the only constraint that is measurable. I never measure how many calories I burn to compensate for my eating. But I always measure how many loops I can climb in 30 minutes at a certain incline, and how many new exercises I can learn when I weight train. This is what I retain from Dr. Dukan’s regime: don’t count calories, allow yourself to feel the need to eat and experience your emotions. If you have not allowed yourself the pleasure of a challenge during physical exercise you are depriving yourself of a broad range of emotions, all positive, all inspiring, and all propelling you forward to an ever fearless version of yourself. As for Olivier, he is a fearless cyclist.

Post by Thomai Serdari. (We welcome guest posts. Email us at: