They're "extreme," according to Health's contributing nutrition editor.
When I saw Google’s Year in Search 2016, I have to admit I did a double take. When I think back on the nutrition and weight loss questions I’ve received from my clients over the past year, I anticipated seeing terms like gluten-free, vegan, anti-inflammatory, or even Mediterranean on the list of the diets that saw the biggest increase in search interest. Instead, they're overall what I think of as “extreme” approaches. Here’s the list, along with a brief description of each, followed by my take on why these took the top spots, and what to consider if you’re thinking of adopting a diet come January.
1. GOLO Diet
Designed to reverse insulin resistance, this plan involves purchasing patented supplements, and following a meal plan and specific exercise program. According to the GOLO website a study of the plan resulted in participants losing 20.6 pounds in 90 days.
2. Taco Diet
The taco diet is actually called a taco cleanse by its four creators, who refer to themselves as “taco scientists.” The Austin, Texas-based group created the plan after eating nothing but vegan tacos for 30 days. While they don’t promise weight loss, they claim the approach “rewards your body with what it craves–tacos” as opposed to strict cleanses that leave you feeling cranky and hungry.
3. Military Diet Substitutes
The three-day military diet allows you to eat as much as you want of just 18 foods, which include broccoli, tuna, and hardboiled eggs, but also vanilla ice cream, and hot dogs. The substitutes refer to foods that can be swapped for those on the original list. For example, in place of hardboiled eggs, chicken, bacon, and nuts or seeds are allowed. A typical lunch is a half-cup of tuna, a slice of toast, and coffee or tea. An exercise plan is also included.
4. Atkins 40
Atkins 40 is a version of the Atkins Diet that starts with 40 grams of “net carbohydrates a day,” which means carbs not including fiber and/or sugar alcohols, which aren’t fully digested. It also allows three 4- to 6-ounce servings of protein, two to four servings of fat each day, and encourages eating six to eight servings of veggies.
5. Ketogenic Diet Foods
The ketogenic diet is an ultra-low-carb, high-fat, moderate protein diet. On a ketogenic plan, roughly 75 to 90% of daily calories come from fat, with 6 to 20% from protein, and just 2 to 5% from carbohydrates. While researchers don’t know exactly how it works, a ketogenic diet was first developed to help control epileptic seizures. It is now being adopted as a weight loss approach.
6. Dissociated Diet
The main premise of this diet is based on not mixing certain food groups. Essentially each day is dedicated to only one type of food, which you eat at every meal. For example, Monday may be exclusively fish, Tuesday exclusively fruit, Wednesday nothing but eggs…
7. The Wild Diet
This plan focuses on avoiding processed foods, eating whole, natural foods, and allows high fat animal proteins, like beef and bacon. It claims to help people shed up to 20 pounds in 40 days.
8. Pizza Diet
When you search Google for "pizza diet," a few different things pop up. Essentially, various people have eaten either nothing but pizza, or have eaten pizza daily and dropped considerable pounds. Typically the pizzas are portion-controlled, and topped with veggies, and the plans forbid alcohol, sweets, and processed foods.
9. Dukan Diet Results
Dukan is a four-stage plan. Phase one allows unlimited amounts of various animal proteins, along with water, and oat bran for fiber. Phase two adds veggies, and the third and fourth phases include some very specific rules about how and what to eat (too many to mention here). The plan also addresses exercise and cheat meals.
10. Mono Diet
Like the Dissociated Diet, this approach includes only one (hence the "mono") food at a time. The difference is you don‘t have to switch to another food after one day, so you might eat something like potatoes, and nothing but potatoes for two weeks.
My take on 2016's top-searched diets
As you can see from the descriptions, each plan is pretty radical, some more so than others. And that’s exactly why I think they ranked highest in search. In my experience, when someone feels motivated to seek out a diet, they’re looking for either a quick fix, or an ultra-simple approach they can learn fast, and implement easily.
If you find yourself in that boat after the holidays, here’s my advice. If you’re a person who needs to see fast results in order to transition to a balanced, long-term healthy eating plan, then a short jumpstart may be right for you. But listen to your instincts. Before you commit, think through each possible approach. If your gut (no pun intended) tells you you’re going to feel miserable, physically, emotionally, or socially, don’t do it. Tactics that backfire are a waste of time, and they can lead to regaining all or more of any weight you lose. And remember, simply cutting out all the surplus treats and getting back to clean eating may be all it takes to help your too-tight jeans loosen up again—no extremes necessary.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.