The Skinny: This diet was popularized by Timothy Ferriss' best-selling book The 4-Hour Body and encourages "slow-burning carbs" (carbs that keep your blood sugar steady) like beans. A lot of beans. Dieters avoid bread, potatoes, grains and dairy in lieu of beans, eggs, lean meat, non-starchy vegetables and a glass of wine every day. Monotony is lessened by one cheat day a week where you can eat waffles, pizza, mashed potatoes and sandwiches to your heart's content.
Pros: The allure of the diet may be the daily glass of wine and cheat day. Fans of Mexican food will also like this diet, as Ferriss says that is the best type of restaurant food that adheres to the diet.
Cons: Monotony. Eggs and beans can get boring week after week. The cheat day gives you something to look forward to, but if you use the day to completely binge, you could end up undoing your week of hard work.
The Bottom Line: There is no magic combination of foods or carb ratio that melts pounds. This diet offers a routine and restrictions that limit calories and keep dieters focused all week until the cheat day.
The Skinny: There seems to be some confusion about eating a gluten-free diet. The public is lapping up the ever-increasing amount of gluten-free food products on the market, believing they will aid them in weight loss. Eating gluten-free is best for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, not for weight loss. While some may lose weight eating a gluten-free diet, it's not necessarily because it's healthier — anyone would lose weight by cutting out an entire food group!
Pros: At least people are starting to become aware of gluten, a protein found in certain grains. If you think you might be sensitive to gluten, talk to your doctor about testing.
Cons: Gluten-free foods may have more calories in some instances than their gluten-full counterparts. Gluten-free foods are also more expensive.
The Bottom Line: If you think you may have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it's best to see your doctor before experimenting with your diet. Test results can be affected by restricting gluten. If you're looking for a way to lose weight, don't bother going gluten-free — but do make an effort to reduce the amount of refined carbs and processed foods from your diet.
The Skinny: Human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, is the hormone produced by pregnant women that is detected by pregnancy tests. This hormone can suppress appetite while helping the body burn fat. That's why, marketers claim, HCG dieters can get by on 500 calories a day without feeling hungry. The HCG diet claims to help you lose a pound a day, which is far more than the 1-2 pounds per week that is considered safe by most doctors and nutritionists. HCG can be found over the counter and online in the form of drops you take under the tongue, but the most concentrated doses must be prescribed by a doctor and are taken as an injection. HCG is FDA approved for infertility, not weight loss.
Pros: Potential for quick and large amounts of weight loss.
Cons: You're not going to learn how to eat right on a 500-calorie-a-day diet. Once you lose the weight and go back to eating the way you did before, the weight will come back. Five hundred calories a day is starving your body and brain, which can result in muscle wasting, mood swings, lack of concentration, hair loss and changes in the menstrual cycle. Another big con is the price: a 6-week program can cost around $800.
The Bottom Line: Randomized, controlled trials have not shown that HCG injections have any direct effect on weight loss. Many of the successes with this diet are due to the low calorie intake, not the HCG. And for all of the success stories you may see online, there are just as many, if not more, negative outcomes. (Read MedHelp's weight loss expert Dr. James Beckerman's review of the HCG diet).
The best option for losing weight? Design your own "fad diet." Create structure and routine. Base your diet around healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Depending on activity level, some people may find they feel better eating more protein, more fat or more carbohydrate. Experiment. Finding healthy foods and activities you enjoy and make you feel good is the real secret to losing and maintaining weight!
Published January 10, 2012.
Nicole is a Washington, D.C.-based nutrition communications professional, writer, and yoga teacher. She blogs about holistic health at www.WholeHealthRD.com.