The 10 Most Famous Fad Diets of All Time
We take a look at 10 popular weight loss plans: The benefits, the downsides, and whether it's the right match for your health goals.
Which diet will you choose?
Many Americans claim to watch what they eat and even try to improve their eating habits. Many tell of starting (or restarting) a diet, hoping their intentions do not fail again. In honor of all those good intentions, we've compiled a list of 10 of the most popular diets out there — weight loss plans and fad diets that have stood the test of time and helped countless people lose weight successfully.
When it comes to fad diets, it’s not hard to find popular diets on the internet. Just google the words “diet” or “fad diet” and the weight loss choices are overwhelming. Low-carb, high-protein, or liquid diet? There are so many. That’s why it’s important to choose one that’s just right for you, according to the Mayo Clinic. Start by talking to your doctor.
Your primary care physician can review any health conditions you have and medications you are taking, and then give personal guidance for a diet that might work for you. Whether you want to try the keto, paleo, Atkins or macrobiotic diets, your doctor can help you determine which one is best — and worst — for your body.
The Mayo Clinic suggests considering your personal needs before you start a new fad diet or popular diet. Here are some key factors to think about:
- Have you ever dieted before?
- Can you follow a strict diet?
- Which diet worked for you in the past?
- How did you feel on the diet — mentally, physically, and emotionally?
- Do you like to diet alone?
- Do you need diet support from a group?
- Do you like to have online support?
- Do you like to go to diet support group meetings?
- Does your budget allow for special diet supplements?
- Do you prefer using weight loss clinics?
- Can you afford special diet food or beverages?
- Are you limited by any health conditions?
Most importantly, before jumping into a fad diet it’s essential to know that rapid weight loss is not sustainable. Quick weight loss diets are not healthy, and the weight is likely to rebound when you begin eating normally again. Diets that claim you don’t have to exercise are not the best for your overall health. And if you cannot stay on a fad diet or popular diet the rest of your life, it’s better not to start.
If you’re still shopping around for the best diet plan for your needs and lifestyle, one of these top 10 just might be the right pick for you.
South Beach Diet Helps Control Hunger
Designed by a Florida-based cardiologist, Arthur Agatston, MD, who wanted to protect his patients from serious medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, the South Beach diet is one of the popular diets that stresses the importance of controlling hunger by eating before it strikes. Dieters are urged to disrupt the typical "hunger-overeat-gain-weight" cycle by cutting out bad carbs and focusing on lean protein, low-fat dairy, and good carbs — whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. While the first phase of the diet is strict, the third, "Maintenance," phase is meant to be a lifelong eating plan that allows you to enjoy occasional treats while maintaining a healthy weight.
Weight Watchers Has a Track Record of Diet Success
Though the Weight Watchers system (now called WW) has evolved over the years, this popular diet's tenets have remained the same: Eat a balanced diet, eat in moderation, and eat what you want. The diet uses a points system to track what you eat and provides motivation through local support meetings with weigh-ins (or dieters can attend "virtual meetings" online). Though the high level of flexibility and temptation can be difficult for some, WW has had a great track record of success for more than 40 years and remains one of the most popular diets today.
The Mediterranean Diet Emphasizes Heart-Healthy Fats
If a dinner of fish and veggies with a glass of red wine sounds like an ideal meal to you, you may have found your diet match in the Mediterranean diet. This heart-healthy diet includes the food staples of people in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece and Italy. With an emphasis on heart-healthy fats — those containing unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids — the diet is rich in seafood, nuts and legumes, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil, as well as red wine in moderation.
Zone Diet Balances Proteins and Carbs
Celebs like Jennifer Aniston may come to mind when you think of the Zone diet, which maintains that changing the balance of the foods you eat (mainly, adding protein to balance the carbs at every meal or snack) will help you lose weight, reset your metabolism, and ward off chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Dieters follow a "30-30-40" breakdown to help control insulin levels and hunger, getting 30 percent of their calories from protein, 30 percent from fat, and 40 percent from carbohydrates. Devotees give the Zone diet praise for variety and ease of use, though others warn that the popular diet plan can feel restrictive and is light on certain nutrients.
Is the Atkins Diet a Fad Diet?
No longer a diet of all-you-can-eat bacon and scrambled eggs, the New Atkins Diet Revolution — created in 2002 — is a streamlined version of the original diet, one that balances lean protein with controlled portions of fat and healthy carbs. One of the most popular diets, you begin with just 20 grams of carbs a day and very gradually increase the amount each week. As with many other diets, the main idea is to stop eating foods made with refined flour and sugar, but even nutrient-dense whole-grain foods are off-limits until you reach the maintenance phase. While proponents tout the Atkins diet's short-term effectiveness and say it's easier to stick to than other diets, detractors point out that you're really not getting a well-balanced diet and may particularly be lacking calcium.
The Paleo Diet May Be Difficult to Maintain
In its purest form, the Paleolithic diet — more commonly known as the paleo diet or the "caveman diet" — allows only those foods that humans ate when we first roamed the planet, half a million years ago: Fish, lean meats, fruit, nonstarchy veggies, and nuts are in; starchy veggies, dairy foods, grains, and processed foods are out. Because of its straightforward guidelines, focus on nutrient-rich produce, and emphasis on exercise, the paleo diet has earned a loyal following among fans who say it helps them not only lose weight but get — and stay — healthier. However, experts say the long-term results aren't proven and the diet is difficult to maintain.
Lose Weight and Feel Full on the Volumetrics Diet
Losing weight by eating fewer calories yet still feeling full — does that sound like the ideal diet for you? Perhaps try Volumetrics, which proposes that foods that contain more water, such as fruits and vegetables, are healthier because they have lower energy density than sugary and fatty foods. Less a fad diet than an approach to eating, Volumetrics is backed by sound research and strongly promotes eating to feel full; drawbacks include an emphasis on at-home cooking, which can be a big adjustment for some.
The Raw Food Diet May Lack Healthy Nutrients
Advocates of the raw food diet believe that cooking food and thereby breaking down its enzymes destroys many of its nutritional benefits. Restricting food to raw items or food that is cooked or heated to no more than 118° Fahrenheit, this fad diet plan allows you to eat as much as you want, as often as you want as long as it's raw and vegetarian. Though nutritionists praise the focus on fresh produce and avoidance of processed foods, many say the diet is lacking in nutrients and is difficult to sustain.
Nutrisystem Is Customized Just for You
If you desire a diet where the thinking and planning is done for you, Nutrisystem may be for you. With this fad diet plan, the meals are premade and engineered to deliver only a certain amount of calories per day based on your age and gender. While weight loss success is certainly possible — it's an easy, popular diet plan to stick to because everything is done for you, and it's customizable — a major drawback is the cost of the packaged meals.
The Macrobiotic Diet May Be Rigid and Unhealthy
The macrobiotic diet used to be one of the most popular diets years back. It promotes whole foods over processed foods and encourages meditation and slowing down your lifestyle along with your eating habits. Meals consist primarily of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, so weight loss is achievable, but naysayers caution that this plan's rigid guidelines make it difficult to maintain and can even lead to nutritional deficiencies. As with many diets, it's important to do plenty of research before adopting a macrobiotic lifestyle, and to work with a dietitian to ensure all your nutritional needs are being met.