Dukan diet Cruise Phase (Phase 2) week 11 – Are my kidneys failing? Is my cholesterol exploding? Plus vacation

by Marshall Brain

Here is my journey so far with the Dukan Diet:

And today I am reporting on my eleventh week (days 74 through 81) on the Dukan diet. This week is interesting for several reason. First, my doctor did blood work. So now I know definitively whether or not the Dukan diet is causing my kidneys to fail. I also started on a week of vacation, meaning that “vacation food” has become a big issue this week. I also did a salt experiment. Even so I lost lost 1.6 pounds, for a total of 34.8 pounds since starting the Dukan Diet. Here’s how the week unfolded…

Day 74 –
– So this morning on the scale I lost another 1.4 pounds, bringing my weight down to 194.4.
– Today I ate a pound of chicken, 2 cups of cottage cheese, a handful of walnuts, a serving of stir fry vegetables and chicken, some asparagus and half a pound of Tilapia (it is the “Steam Series Tilapia” on this page – it is really good and very easy and inexpensive ($4.50 per pound) at BJ’s).

Day 75 –
– This morning on the scale I lost 1.4 pounds. I now weigh 193.0.
– Last week I asked, “Do I keep excreting that salt and water, and lose more-than-a-normal-amount-of-weight next week as the remaining water weight falls off?” The answer, apparently, is yes. It also helps me to understand how long it takes to excrete a salt overdose. In this case, the salt overdose took place on Day 71 when I ate 8,000 milligrams of salt in a single day. On day 72 I gained 2.8 pounds. On Day 73 I lost 1.2 pounds. On Day 74 I lost 1.4 pounds. And today (Day 75) I lost 1.4 pounds. So in the last three days I lost 4.0 pounds – all the 2.8 pounds of water weight from the salt plus an additional 1.2 pounds from the dieting. Amazing.
– BP this morning is 122/83, which I would consider not great (following up on one of the comments from Last week). I would much prefer to see 115/75 or something like that.
– Now that my weight is back to “normal”, I decided to do an experiment today. We have a big picnic we are supposed to go to tonight with the kids that features Bojangles chicken as the entree. Fried chicken seems like it is sort of Dukan friendly, so what happens if I eat it? Keep in mind that I am eating this chicken in the name of Dukan science. And to add to the fun, I thought I would also have a McDonald’s salad for lunch. So here is what I ate today: A pound of chicken and 2 cups of cottage cheese for breakfast and snacks, a McDonald’s Southwest salad (plus dressing) for lunch, and 4 pieces of Bojangles fried chicken for dinner (and to be completely honest, a little mac and cheese that one of the kids hadn’t finished – quarter cup max). I definitely learned something – The problem with fried chicken, at least for me, is that it is like potato chips. Once I start eating it, it is hard to stop. Wow did it taste good though. So I will have to strike fried chicken from the menu.
– When I got home I looked up the nutrition info. The salad was not bad calorie-wise – 420 calories for the salad plus the dressing. The carbs were surprising, at 41 for salad+dressing. And the sodium was high at 1,300 milligrams.
– The fried chicken was bad – it seems like it should be Dukan-appropriate since it is protein, but the reality is different. Roughly 900 calories total, 45 grams of carbs, 2,200 milligrams of sodium.
– Adding in the cottage cheese and chicken, I probably hit 6,000 milligrams of salt for the day. Bad.
– And my carbs were high for the Dukan diet at about 100 grams for the day. A typical day on the Dukan diet is more like 30 grams for me. But compared to the typical Ameican diet at 300+ milligrams per day, it was a pretty good day overall on the carbs front. Calories for the day were probably about 2,200. Again that is high for me relatively speaking, but 600 calories below my caloric needs for the day, meaning I probably lost a little weight today.
– Having eaten 6,000 milligrams of salt in one day (in the name of science), what would you expect to happen tomorrow morning?

Day 76 –
– Yes, I gained weight today. On the scale this morning my weight has ballooned to 195.6. I gained 2.6 pounds in (I assume) water weight today. We will know more as we watch the water weight readjust itself over the next couple of days. Hopefully I am back down to 193.0 or lower on Day 78 or Day 79. Aren’t experiments fun?
– Today I was very careful with food. I ate half a pound of Tilapia (breakfast), half a pound of chicken (lunch), 3 eggs (dinner), 2 cups of cottage cheese (spread throughout all 3 meals and a snack), a handful of walnuts and a big serving of asparagus with dinner. In other words, I ate about 1,300 calories today to offset the big load of calories from yesterday. (It is important to mention that I never had this kind of control over food consumption prior to starting this diet).
– Today I went for a walk and something unexpected happened. I came to a hill that I don’t particularly like walking up, so instead of walking I jogged up it. And it felt good (long ago in college I used to jog all the time and enjoyed it). We are not talking a marathon distance here – it was like 500 feet. But still, it felt good to jog. Having lost 34 pounds, I notice there is a lot less joint pain in knees and ankles. Maybe when I get down into the 180s I will try jogging half a mile or a mile and see how that feels. That would be a fantastic example of “the rich getting richer” – it would indicate that once you lose a certain amount of weight, losing more weight is even easier because exercise becomes much easier for a lighter person. I would probably still prefer a bike though – much less stress on the knees.

Day 77 –
– This morning on the scale I lost 2.2 pounds. I weigh 193.4. Almost all of the water weight gained on Day 76 came back off today. My goal will be to have another really good food day today, and see if I can get the rest of the water weight off tomorrow. Fortunately there are no parties or picnics on the calendar today…
– So what are the lessons learned from this week’s experiment? First, if you eat a lot of salt one day, you will gain weight the next morning. That now appears to be a given, and there is nothing you can do about it. However, if you can then reign in and control your food and salt consumption over the next couple of days, that water weight falls off again. Or at least it does if you are a man. I have a growing feeling, from reading the comments over the last couple of months, that water retention is more complicated for women. So it may take longer for water weight to resolve itself if you are a woman, depending on where you are in the cycle. But the best mind set to have in that case might be, “I am gaining weight on the scale right now, but I know I am eating right and am therefore losing fat, so it is all water weight that will come off next week.” That mindset might help to eliminate discouragement.
– BP this morning is 112/78. In the comments Brian had suggested that low-salt+exercise is the key to low BP, and this would seem to bear that out. I got exercise yesterday and I was low-salt yesterday.
– I had to go to a new doctor this week, and he ordered a complete blood panel. The results came in, and they answer two important questions about the Dukan diet. First, is the Dukan diet’s high-protein, low-carb approach causing my kidneys to fail? No. These blood tests indicate that my kidneys (and liver) are in excellent shape. Second, what is the high-protein, low-carb approach doing to my cholesterol? My total cholesterol is 165, which is good (less than 200 is considered good). Triglycerides are at 49, which is good (less than 150 is considered good). HDL is 44, which is low (greater than 60 is the goal). LDL is 111, which is a little high (less than 100 is the goal). But the HDL/LDL ratio at 0.39 is OK. (See this page and this page for recommended levels.) So “all that protein” in the Dukan diet is not causing my cholesterol to blow up. These cholesterol numbers are actually slightly better than last time blood work was done. No, I am not taking any statins to skew the results. At least in my case, the Dukan diet appears to be having no measurable negative effects on things that can be tested in my blood. My cholesterol and my kidneys are fine.
– Remember this morning I said, “Fortunately there are no parties or picnics on the calendar today…” Well, I was wrong. Because tonight I officially started a week of vacation and I had not factored that in. The day started great – I ate a pound of chicken, half a pound of Tilapia, 2 cups of cottage cheese, a handful of walnuts and a serving of asparagus. Excellent. Then at dinner a mess of pork ribs became available, and of all things peanut butter filled pretzel bites, which I have been addicted to since childhood for some reason. Let’s just say that it was a bad night, and I ate 10 ribs and 40 pretzel bites. To calculate the damage, I looked up the nutrition information for the ribs and it is bad – 1,450 calories, 100 grams of carbs and a gigantic 4,200 milligrams of salt. Yikes. Looking at the package, the pretzel bites came in at 560 calories, 60 grams of carbs and 1,320 milligrams of salt. So we now know of 4 forbidden foods I can no longer consume: smoked turkey legs, fried chicken, pork ribs and pretzel bites. Probably 7,000 milligrams of salt for the day, 170 grams of carbs, 3,000 calories. Yuck. And this is just the first night of vacation. It does not bode well for the upcoming week.
– This is clearly my worst transgression ever. So what to do? Here’s how I approached it. We went on a four mile family walk tonight, and then I jumped on an exercise bike for an hour after the walk for some higher-intensity exercise. Combined, those two activities should have burned off something like 800 calories and sweated out some amount of sodium. We will see the actual damage in the morning…

Day 78 –
– On the scale this morning I was relieved to see that I gained only 1.0 pounds. I weight 194.4 today.
– BP is 121/85, which I would consider “higher than I like”. The exercise and the salt are competing with each other apparently.
– Yesterday does bring up an excellent point, as well as a deeply cautionary warning bell. This is the first time I have gone on vacation since starting the Dukan diet. Is the week going to ruin my weight loss program? Or, having seen the effects of just one night of vacation and “fallen off the wagon” as they say, am I now going to buckle down and get back on the wagon for the rest of the week? We will see…
– We can also see that one way to offset a bad day of transgression is to counter it with a lot of exercise. I definitely should have gained something like 2.5 pounds today from all that sodium, and instead gained “only” 1.0 pounds. That is good to know. I will be very interested to see if: a) I can get back on track today food-wise so that b) I can find out if the water weight falls off tomorrow. At this exact moment I am clearly painting outside the lines of the Dukan diet and I really need to get back on track.
– Today started out well – a pound of chicken, a pound of tilapia, 2 cups cottage cheese, a couple of handfuls of nuts. But then dinner came. Thankfully I stayed away from carbs like bread and rice, but ended up having a shrimp scampi restaurant-type meal. It was delicious, but who knows what was in the sauce, and it was salty. Maybe a pound of shrimp plus sauce? Something like that. Vacation is hard! That’s what I am learning. But compared to yesterday (Day 77) today was a win.
– I got no exercise today to speak of.

Day 79 –
– On the scale this morning (yes, we brought the scale with us – this is hard core) I gained 0.8 pounds and weigh 195.2. I assume that is from the dinner salt. And it means I am 2.2 pounds away from 193.0, which doesn’t feel really good.
– I did get in a 3-mile walk today.
– I also held it together and had a protein-only day. About a pound of Tilapia, a pound of chicken, 2 cups of cottage cheese, 2 handfuls of nuts and a bunch of lunch meat (perhaps as much as a pound). You may recall at the beginning of my Dukan Diet experience that I used lunch meat as a snack and a crutch. I find that I am really needing that crutch again while we are on vacation, so I am falling back on it.
– Let me tell you a little about this vacation. 25 people from Leigh’s family have descended on Myrtle Beach, SC and are sharing three condos on the beach. Leigh’s family is great, and the kids love seeing all their cousins, aunts and uncles. The condos have kitchens, which is nice because we don’t have to eat every meal out. But these kitchens are LOADED with junk food. I can look around me at the moment (I am sitting at the kitchen table in the condo as I write this) and there are big bags of Doritos and potato chips, crackers, pretzels and cookies on the countertops and tables. The top of the refrigerator is lined with boxes of tasty, tempting breakfast cereal (8 different kinds, all right there in clear view). Open the freezer and it is full of ice cream, frozen pizzas, frozen lasagna, etc. The refrig is loaded with tempting, tasty stuff too. At home we have cut back quite a bit on buying junk food, and stuff like cereal and chips for the kids are all stored out of sight in obscure cabinets so I don’t see them. “Out of sight, out of mind” works surprisingly well at home. But here this is a “mini kitchen” with no place to do the out-of-sight thing. Lunch meat is my way of coping I guess.

Day 80 –
– This morning on the scale I lost 0.8 pounds, making it back down to 194.4. I had really hoped to lose more.
– Today I redoubled my efforts and pulled off another all protein+vegetable day: 1 pound of chicken, one pound of salmon, one poundish of lunch meat and a serving of asparagus. It was a good day.
– I walked 2 miles and ran up and down the stairs in the condo’s stairwell a couple of times.
– We went to Wal-mart today to buy a boogie board and some supplies. BP was 121/75 on their machine in the pharmacy.

Day 81 –
– My body dumped a lot of water last night, and this morning on the scale I was rewarded for two days of decent eating with 1.6 pounds of weight loss. I weigh 192.8. I lost 1.6 pounds for the week and have lost 34.8 pounds since starting the Dukan diet.

Losing 1.6 pounds for the week is not great (I would have much preferred to lose 2.6 pounds), but then again this week has been kind of a disaster from a food standpoint. To lose any weight at all this week strikes me a good thing. Looking back at all the transgressions (and all the salt!) this week is somewhat embarrassing for me.

I think the good news is that, even in a food-hostile environment like vacation, the Dukan diet gives you a tool to combat weight gain. You can always buckle down and go pure protein. When I did that, I got back on track.

As I am sitting here writing this morning writing this, Grandpa just walked in with 2 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. They are still warm and smell wonderful. The kids are ecstatic. From my perspective it’s kind of funny – the last four days on vacation here have been like walking through a forest of Krispy Kremes. It is so obvious at this point why a majority of adults in America are overweight or obese. The food landscape in America – from all the fast food restaurants, to the foods you mostly find in the grocery store, to the bombardment of ads – is built to make us that way.

Once I get down to my target weight, I really think that the only way for me to stay thin in such an environment is going to be to reject the huge number of carbs that are so freely available. There is no way I would be able to go back to consuming the kinds of food that are available here, including Krispy Kreme donuts, breakfast cereal, chips, cookies, soda, pizza, lasagna, mac and cheese, ice cream and ice cream cones, etc. and still keep weight off.

Of course that assumes I ever get down to my target weight (which is 185 according to the Dukan Diet web site, and 175 according to the BMI scale). I am heading in that direction, but the past two weeks have been at half the pace I would like. I will be interested to see how the next week goes.

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