Despite popular belief, it's not olive oil and red wine that ensures French women stay thin. According to 5m of our Gallic cousins, it's nutritionist Dr Pierre Dukan and his eponymous diet that keeps muffin tops and double chins at bay across the channel.
Pierre is not interested in quick fixes. No, monsieur. This regime is all about getting the scales down to your pre-determined 'true weight' and then learning to maintain it for life. To help you on your way, the Dukan box of tricks includes daily 'personal coaching', an online forum, 100 allowed foods (plus recipes) and a detailed plan tailored to your individual needs.
All the resources you need for the Dukan diet are online. Once you've registered, calculated your true weight and filled in a detailed questionnaire, the Pierre's team put together a personalised programme for you, which includes a timeline (set over three stages - attack, cruise and consolidation) and daily instructions.
Although each person's rules are different (two of us have put it to the test, so we know this is true), the basic tenets are the same. The attack phase usually lasts for two days, and you're restricted to eating low-fat, high-protein food (lean meat, seafood, eggs, cottage cheese, etc).
The cruise phase comes next, the length of which differs depending on how much weight you're planning on losing. For one of us, this phase was scheduled to last 88 days, while the other only had to persevere for 56. During this phase, you alternate between protein only and protein and vegetable days according to your programme.
The final consolidation phase allegedly sets you up for life. Again the length varies - 125 for one, and 80 days for the other. This is where life starts to get a fun again with some carbs, fruit and cheese. Hooray.
In addition to following the guidelines, you're required to do some light exercise as well as to fill in a daily report that plots your progress - so get your scales and your measuring tape ready.
How does it work?
According to the website, the Dukan method works by limiting nutritional intake to the food we used to eat when the human species first appeared on earth. It's all about the proteins and the vegetables that got our hunter-gatherer ancestors through the day - plus diet coke and coffee (it is French, after all). The secret to success also lies in the personalised programme, which makes you both accountable and gives you the support you need to succeed.
What will I be eating?
There's 100 permitted foods on this diet that you're allowed to eat as much of as you like - get used to lots of lean meat, fish, low-fat cheese, eggs, skimmed milk and fat free yoghurt. You'll also have free range with the vegetables, which include most things green and leafy, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers and asparagus. Oat bran is Pierre's secret ingredient because it fills you up and has been proven to reduce cholesterol.
Although alcohol and chocolate are prohibited, coffee is fine as long as you opt for skimmed milk and artificial sweeteners. Thank goodness for small mercies. Condiments - salt, pepper, herbs, and spices - are also given the thumbs up, though no oils or fats are allowed.
What are the pros and cons?
The personalised coaching is the most positive aspect of this diet - and the fact that you should never be hungry. Although you are at liberty to eat however much you like from the allowed foods list, the diet can at times seem restrictive, and the daily forums and emails you get from the team do encourage you to stay on the straight and narrow do come in handy.
We would be lying if we said Dukan was all plain sailing - we have at times craved a bowl of pasta and eating out can be tough. The website, though predominantly helpful, can also be a little confusing (and amusing) as a result of some of the French-English translations, but it's a small nuisance that is easily forgotten when you get back into your favorite pair of jeans.
How long before I see results?
If our testing team is anything to go by, you'll start to see results after the initial attack phase, and the weight continues to steadily drop off. We have been on the diet for three weeks now and one of us has lost close to six kilos, while the other has dropped three. And both us are halfway to our predetermined true weight. Sure it can be tough at times, but the Dukan team is there to support you and the results truly speak for themselves.
The Dukan team are offering MyDaily readers a 30% discount on their web-based, personalised weight loss programme. To take advantage of this, register at www.dukandiet.co.uk and enter the promotional code AOL30.