We at Shine have spent as many dark nights of the Internet soul as the rest of you have, searching desperately for new weight loss methods. We’ve PayPal-ed $9.95 for an anti-binge-eating newsletter (that then haunted us for decades). We’ve ordered questionable supplements, despite knowing from size-ballooning experience that fad diets and weeks of starvation-deprivation actually cause…long-term weight gain. But then what’s a person who doesn’t fit her pants to do? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this question, as your top 10 most frequently searched diet terms of 2012 make clear. You searched for a few well-established diets, but many of the others are either unproven (best-case) or dangerous and illegal (worst). A 500 cal day boosted by illegal hormone shots? Sprinkling every meal with ranch-flavored crystals? Which is worse? Which one works. Find out about these and other popular diet terms below.
Weight Watchers has been around since the 1960s, and relies on the establishment nutritional philosophy that fat and calories are bad, exercise and portion-control are good, and motivation, encouraged by calorie-counting and group weigh-ins, helps people lose weight. Some people find it difficult to stick with the restricted portions, but the method is comparatively reliable and safe, and consistently ranks highly in studies of diet effectiveness.
Also known as the “Sprinkle Diet,” this one asks you to dust your every meal with “flavor enhancing” Sensa Crystals, which, the brand’s website claims “work with your sense of smell,” to make you feel more full and thus eat less. The method probably won’t hurt anyone—unless you consider having your food dusted with synthetic banana-strawberry flavor to be a painful prospect—but the only scientific evidence that it works comes from company-sponsored studies.
Raspberry Ketones diet
The raspberry ketones boom was started by Dr. Oz back in February, when he claimed on his show that the organic compound was a “miracle in a bottle.” Supposedly, the ketones help the body “burn fat more easily,” a claim supported by a few Asian studies involving animals (not, most experts agree, a relevant metric for human weight loss). Do the ketones work? Are there even ketones in your ketone-pill? These mysteries are still unsolved. The Mayo Clinic points out that over-the-counter dietary supplements are not closely regulated, and recommends talking with a doctor or pharmacist before purchasing or using supplements.
The Mayo Clinic website says the HCG diet does not work and is not safe. HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone produced during pregnancy that’s usually used as a prescription medication for fertility issues. “Companies that sell over-the-counter HCG for weight loss are breaking the law,” according to the Mayo Clinic website. Nonetheless, there are many shadowy websites doing just that. The diet involves a combination of HCG shots and extremely restricted calorie intake, and promises a dramatic average weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a day.
A “meal replacement plan,” Nutrisystem requires dieters to order customizable menus of frozen delivery food, which can be combined with fresh grocery items. Adherents eat five times a day. The meals are designed to stabilize blood sugar (a method that many nutritionist endorse, these days, even for non-diabetics) with a combination of protein and good carbs. The cost varies, but ends up being around $8 to $10 a day, and has been proven to promote safe, steady weight loss of a pound or two a week. As with all diets, the challenge is keeping the weight off once the deliveries stop.
Few diets have been as popular and controversial as the 1970s phenomenon the Atkins diet, which enjoyed another boom in the early 2000s. Known as the Red Meat Diet, the Atkins methods radically limits carbs, but allows users to eat as much bacon, cheese, lobster and other protein as they want, which creates a rapid-fat-burning state called ketosis. The very-low-carb diet also suppresses appetite, so initial weight-loss can be dramatic. Some of the effects have been proven, but many dieters run into trouble in phase 2, when adding back carbs.
ViSalus/Body By Vi diet
ViSalus sells energy drinks and meal-replacement shakes and runs marketing campaigns through several websites offering a “Body by Vi 90 Day Challenge.” The challenge offers encouragement and prizes in exchange for purchasing products and hitting exercise and weight loss goals. There is no independent scientific proof of the diet’s effectiveness.
Green Coffee Bean Extract diet
Another supplement that some claim promotes weight loss, green coffee bean extract pills are available from a variety of manufacturers. Some reports have found the pills to be of variable quality, and of course, there’s no scientific evidence that they work. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you speak with your doctor or pharmacist before purchasing or using supplements.
Gluten free diet
A gluten-free diet used to be something people did if they had celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat and wheat-family grains like barley, spelt and rye. Gluten-free eating is now becoming popular for weight-loss, though without much evidence that it works, especially if dieters replace wheat products with gluten-free substitutes. Experts point out that gluten-free products are often higher calorie than ordinary gluten-containing ones. They are also more expensive.
In a program that will make whole-food lovers scream, Medifast instructs dieters to eat six times a day—five Medifast supplement products and one “lean and green” entrée of low-fat protein and non-starchy vegetables that the dieter prepares themselves. The Medifast supplements—bars, shakes, soups, cheese puffs—are easy to prepare and allegedly designed to make dieters feel full. In the short term, it’s a restricted calorie diet that can promote weight loss, but the long-term outlook is less promising, according to U.S. News and World Report.