There were a lot of trendy diets in 2019, including a few even I hadn’t heard of before I started researching this list. Google published the ten most-googled diets, and we’re here to explain what they are and what you might want to know if you’re looking into them.
Two of the diets seem pretty reasonable: intermittent fasting, which is a legit hack if you’re into that sort of thing, and Noom, which sells a pretty standard diet in an app form that some people find convenient. The other eight I wouldn’t recommend. Here’s your spoiler, though: none of them seem likely to be more effective than regular plain ol’ healthy eating.
Intermittent fasting diet
Most people who are into IF would likely object to calling it a diet; it’s a “way of eating” that may also be done for perceived health benefits or because some people find they feel more focused and energetic while fasting.
In most cases, IF takes the form of time restricted feeding. You swear off food for a certain window of time—maybe from bedtime to lunchtime, essentially skipping breakfast. Other versions might involve dedicating two days a week to extremely low calorie intake.
As a weight loss tool, IF seems to work about as well as other diets. You’ll eat less overall, and lose weight—but only if you don’t hate it. When it’s been studied, people tend to have a hard time sticking to it.
Dr. Sebi diet
This is a diet of vegan, unprocessed foods—so far so good—with a lot of pseudoscience and pricey supplements thrown in. The diet is supposed to make your body “alkaline” (not a thing that a diet can do), and it’s dangerously low in protein. Also, just so you know, Dr. Sebi is not a doctor. Healthline has a detailed breakdown of the diet here.
Noom is a subscription based app that provides advice about what to eat and asks you to track your food. Foods are divided into red, yellow, and green categories, with red items being the most calorie dense and green being things like vegetables. The app coaches you, although some users have found the coaching less than helpful. It’s been called “Weight Watchers for millennials.”
1200 calories diet
This one isn’t a specific diet, but simply the idea of eating 1,200 calories per day. For some reason, this number is held out sometimes as a minimum for healthy eating (I recall the old CalorieCount forums of the early ’00s banned any discussion of under-1200 diets) and in other communities it’s defended as appropriate for some people, maybe, sometimes (see the subreddit r/1200isplenty).
To be clear: 1,200 calories is not enough food for most people. (We have a guide to finding your appropriate calorie intake here.) Probably a lot of people who look up this “diet” are trying to find low calorie recipes or meal plans, which may end up being ok as long as your actual intake is appropriate to your body size and activity level.
GOLO is a company selling weight-loss plans and supplements. They have published studies claiming their plan works, but GOLO funded and conducted the studies and let’s just say they don’t make an airtight case for the diet (they don’t compare people on their diet to people on another diet, for example.)
The diet also requires the use of a particular supplement that the company sells. As we know there are no magic weight loss pills, this doesn’t seem like a particularly special diet. Meanwhile, there are Amazon reviews and they are…not good.
This diet comes from reality TV stars Terry Dubrow of Botched and Heather Dubrow of The Real Housewives of Orange County. It appears to be a fairly simple combination of intermittent fasting, in which you fast for 16 hours a day (including while you’re asleep), and unprocessed low-carb eating.
There are recommended foods for each phase of the diet, which dietitian Carolyn Williams notes may not add up to a healthy number of calories. Some of the sample days had only about 1,000 calories.
This diet aims to activate proteins in our bodies called sirtuins, with the goal of making more mitochondria to deal with oxidative stress and possibly slow down ageing processes. Sounds great, except there’s no way you could possibly do this through diet, an expert in nutrition and biochemistry tells Spartan.
The diet starts with a week of extreme calorie restriction (around 1,000-1,500 calories, much of it from juice). Then follow another two weeks of restricted eating, after which you can either repeat the process or move on to a maintenance phase in which you “Sertify” your diet by eating as many of the approved Sirtfoods as possible (green tea, dark chocolate, red wine, and so on). If this sounds a lot like the mostly-debunked concept of superfoods…well, it sounds that way to me too.
No carbs no sugar diet
This one is pretty much what it sounds like. Living without any carbs or sugar (pro tip: sugar is a carb) may not be harmful but it’s probably going to suck. Most likely, people were googling J.Lo’s 10-day no carbs no sugar challenge—which we’ll get to in just a sec.
“Endomorph” is a term from the outdated concept of somatotyping, in which some people have naturally skinny, naturally fat, or naturally muscular body types. There’s no evidence for this, but the concept was catchy and people are (sigh) still talking about it today.
There isn’t a single authoritative “endomorph diet,” just a lot of diet advice for endomorphs that is roughly the same diet advice anyone would get regardless of body type: eat more vegetables and all that.
OK, so here’s where the no carb/no sugar thing comes in. Jennifer Lopez posted a 10-day challenge on her Instagram to avoid those foods. She told Today that part of the reason is to break a craving for sweet foods. “Now when I go back to eating a fruit in 10 days, it’s going to taste like an ice cream sundae,” she said.
The challenge calls for eschewing anything with starch or sugar, including fruit, yogurt, and milk. While you don’t technically need these foods to live, most human beings will get bored and frustrated pretty quickly trying to stick to a challenge like this. And to what end? It’s not like carbs or sugar are bad for you to the point of needing to eliminate them completely from your diet—even if it’s temporary.