At the end of each year, Google does a roundup of the top online search trends it captures each month. Based on that information, it’s worth taking a look at the diets that are resonating with people and trying to decode the multitude of websites that discuss them.
Most sites are hoping to capture an ongoing share of Internet and social media traffic, but there are a lot of myths online about dieting. Keep in mind that I could not reliably verify much of the information about the diets listed here (other than Dr. Phil’s new book).
Finally, I’m not convinced that any of them will attain sustained long-term weight loss.
What it is: A diet book by Dr. Phil McGraw
How it supposedly works: There are 20 required foods that your body will break down to use for energy and that will potentially keep you fuller longer.
What you eat (and don’t eat): The foods: cod, eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, green tea, mustard, almonds, apples, dried plums, prunes, whey protein, leafy greens, chickpeas, tofu, walnuts, lentils, peanut butter (natural), pistachios, raisins, non-fat yogurt and rye. Eat four times per day, including protein, produce, fat, and starch (carbs) in each meal. You can indulge in one or two reasonable splurges per week.
Avoid: processed foods, non-white whole grains (e.g., rice, pasta, bread, and cake), sugar, artificial sweeteners, red meat, full-fat dairy and alcohol. The book also discusses changing behavioral patterns.
Why it’s trending/searched: It’s probably working. It sounds like lots of other diets, but Dr. Phil (like him or not) is a good marketer, and part of selling any diet is packaging.
Year started: 2015
Carb Cycle Diet
What it is: You alternate low-carb and high-carb days to burn fat and fast-track weight loss. The idea is that insulin levels will be low on no- or low-carb days so that you will burn fat.
What you do: You create a schedule of no- or low-carb days and then throw in a couple of high-carb days to keep your metabolism moving. Your high-carb days should be when you are doing strenuous workouts.
What you eat: On low-carb days you eat high fiber veggies, such as cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus. You avoid starchy carbs such as potatoes, white rice, cereal and bread. On high-carb days you can eat high-quality carbs such as brown rice, oatmeal, fruit, sweet potatoes and more green veggies. On this diet you can also have lean protein and fat.
Why it’s trending/searched: The diet has a good track record in the bodybuilding community.
Year started: Unclear
What it is: Close to a low-carb diet, with exceptions.
How it supposedly works: You eat more like your ancestors did during the Paleolithic era.
What you eat (and don’t eat): Eat free-range meats, seafood and poultry, fruits and non-starchy veggies. Do not eat dairy or legumes (peas, beans, peanuts and lentils).
Why it’s trending/searched: It seems to work for people, and it’s easy to understand.
Year started: 2002
GM Diet Plan
What it is: The General Motors Diet — yes the car company. It’s a seven-day quickie weight-loss scheme. Supposedly it was started by General Motors for its employees, and was developed “in conjunction with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. It was field tested at the Johns Hopkins Research Center.” However, according to a General Motors spokesperson (as reported in The New York Times), this is an urban myth.
The spokesperson thought there was an outside chance the diet had some connection to a former head of purchasing named Jose Ignacio Lopez De Arriortua, who ate a lot of fruits and lean meats, but there is no confirmation of this.
How it supposedly works: It reduces toxins and supposedly creates a 10-pound-plus weight-loss in a week’s time.
What you eat: During the seven days you drink six to 12 glasses of water per day. On the first day you eat only fruit (melon is key); the second day you eat veggies only; the third day you eat fruit and veggies (no potatoes); and on the fourth day you eat lots of bananas — up to eight — and drink three glasses of nonfat milk. (You can also have one bowl of vegetable soup); day five is beef and tomatoes (or, according to some other sources,1 cup of rice, six tomatoes and 12 glasses of water); day six it’s beef and veggies (or, according to other sources, veggies alone), and on day seven you eat brown rice, veggies and fruit juice.
Why it’s trending/searched: I searched and searched for a particular reason why this diet was trending but found no clues. My guess is that quick weight loss and detox diets seem to resonate with people, and social media kicks it out of the park.
Year started: 1985
Military Diet Plan
What it ist: The term “military” says a lot. It’s a very restrictive three-day diet.
How it supposedly works: Calories are extremely limited for a period of three days.
What you eat: Coffee, grapefruit, toast with peanut butter, tuna, meat, apple, green beans, egg, cottage cheese, saltines, hot dogs (without bun), broccoli, carrots, banana, vanilla ice cream, cheddar cheese. These are the particular foods you eat for the three days of the diet.
Why it’s trending/searched: Social media has latched onto this one.
Year started: Unclear.
Charles Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.