By Margaret Badore for DietsInReview.com
In the wake of the holiday splurging and indulging, you probably find yourself trying to choose between the various weight loss plans. If you're ready to make a change that will help you lose weight, look fitter, or simply feel better, the plans, products, and programs to help you do that are plentiful. Considering everyone is setting goals, even diet and fitness celebs made resolutions this year, the task of choosing a diet can be daunting. The number of pounds you will shed is far from the only consideration. A diet should be healthy and safe, allow a little flexibility and yet be structured enough, and fit within your lifestyle.
We've rounded up the most popular diet plans from the past year, being sure to call out the good, the bad and the debatable.
Best Diets of 2012
One of the oldest commercial diet plans, Weight Watchers has been proven effective by several research studies. Weight Watchers currently uses the PointsPlus 2012 program, which teaches users how to think about calories and nutrition while permitting them a great deal of freedom in what they eat. There are no "off limit" foods with Weight Watchers, but the points program does encourage dieters to eat fresh, high-fiber foods. Many people find Weight Watchers weekly meetings to be a particularly helpful component of the weight loss plan because it provides accountability and a support network. However, Weight Watchers can also be done entirely through an online membership.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 83%
17 Day Diet
If you're looking for a more structured diet, The 17 Day Diet, created by Dr. Mike Moreno, may be a better choice for you. This weight loss plan is based on four 17-day cycles, and emphasizes fresh produce and reducing processed foods. The first cycle is high protein with some healthy fat, and as the cycles progress more complex carbs are added back into your regimen. The 17 Day Diet dictates when you eat certain nutrients. Although the principles of The 17 Day Diet are supported by research, there is less information about the long-term success of this diet plan since it's only a little over a year old. However, many people experience dramatic weight loss at the beginning of the diet.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 93%
This meal delivery diet also has considerable research behind it, and is also one of the most affordable diets of its kind. Most health experts agree that NutriSystem's low-fat, portion-controlled meals are healthy and many users say the diet is extremely convenient. The plan consists of three meals per day, plus a snack and dessert. All the meals are packaged and should be supplemented with several daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. NutriSystem customers have the option to individually select each meal, or they can opt for an automated meal and snack menu. Nutrisystem also has a number of programs tailored to special diet needs, including a diabetic meal plan and a vegetarian option.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 56%
P.I.N.K. Method Diet
The P.I.N.K. Method is a weight loss plan designed specifically for women that includes workout DVDs, an online membership, and meal plans. The program is broken in to four phases, each designed to help women transition to a healthy exercise and diet plan. The diet emphasizes low-calorie vegetables, lean proteins, slow carbs and fruit. On the P.I.N.K. Method, you will cut out refined sugars, most processed foods and fast food. Because the program only released in November, long-term success data is not available; however, the P.I.N.K. Method has all of the key components of a successful weight loss program.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 77%
Worst Diets of 2012
The idea that HCG, a hormone that's produced during pregnancy, could be used to aid in weight loss dates back to the 1950s. The theory is that when combined with an extreme near-starvation diet, HCG will mobilize fat and prevent hunger. However, multiple studies have disproved this theory, yet the myth persists. HCG is administered either as an injection or as homeopathic oral drops. Although the hormones themselves are not likely harmful, the recommended diet consists of only 500 calories, which can lead to a number of serious health risks. HCG is FDA-approved for use in fertility treatments, but some medical clinics will also administer the hormone for weight loss purposes despite the dangers of the accompanying 500 calorie diet. The homeopathic oral drops have been made illegal by the FDA, which only confirms the fraudulent nature of these products.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 79%
While rumors fly that this diet is a celebrity secret, including Kate Middleton, we can't recommend the super low-carb diet created by the French doctor Pierre Dukan. Although the Dukan diet is often likened to the Atkins diet, the French "slimming" plan consists almost exclusively of lean protein during the first phase, eliminating even vegetables. Eating a diet with virtually no carbs and very little fat often results in a number of flu-like symptoms such as nausea, headaches and fatigues. In some cases depriving the body of carbs can also result in liver and kidney damage.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 81%
Cabbage Soup Diet
This weight loss plan has been around since at least the 1970s, and is pretty much the stuff of folk lore. No health professional would ever recommend this super-low calorie diet, although it is sometimes called the Sacred Heart Diet. Various versions of the diet have been circulated, however no medical institution has ever endorsed this diet. Not surprising, the main component of this diet is a watery cabbage and vegetable soup, which the dieter can eat in unlimited amounts. Typically, the diet dictates other permitted foods for each day of the week. You may lose up to 10 pounds per week on this diet, mostly water weight that will be regained quickly after abandoning the unsustainable plan.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 88%
Most Controversial Diets of 2012
Although the Atkins Diet is often lambasted for being too high in cholesterol and saturated fat, this much misunderstood diet will produce results for those who are able to stick to the plan. Unlike the Dukan Diet, the Atkins Diet does contain some carbs in the form of vegetables. Like the P.I.N.K. Method and The 17 Day Diet, the Atkins features four phases to help you lose weight with minimal plateauing. Although many people find it difficult to maintain a low-carb diet for as long as the Atkins Diet requires, high-protein diets have been shown to promote satiety. In addition to high-protein foods and some moderate fats, you will also eat a number of non-starchy vegetables until you near your weight loss goal, when you will slowly add carbs back into your diet. The key to maintaining weight loss after the Atkins diet is finding your "carb tolerance," which is the amount of carbohydrates your body can use in a day.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 88%
The Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, promotes only eating foods that existed prior to the agricultural revolution. The means eliminating not only processed foods, but also beans, grains, sugar and in many cases fruit. Because people on the Paleo diet often consume large qualities of red meat and other sources of saturated fats, health experts warn that the Paleo diet can put you at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Many people find they lose weight after eliminating grains and sugar from their diets, however this is not guaranteed.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 67%
Many people choose to eat a vegan diet for ethical reasons, but the debate over the health implications of an exclusively plant-based diet rages on in the medical community. Some studies have shown real health advantages to a plant-based diet, and the USDA endorses a plant-based diet as a healthy choice. However, some research has also shown vegans are more likely to be at risk for conditions like anemia and strokes. Generally, vegans need to be better informed about nutrition than people who eat the standard American diet in order to avoid dangerous nutrition deficiencies.
DietsInReview User Approval Rating: 94%
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