It’s almost that time of year when we each resolve to drop extra weight, start an exercise program, and treat our bodies a little better. And each year, to accompany that nearly-universal resolution, a new wave of weight loss fads emerge promising quick fat-loss fixes.
Before you commit to any new dietary plans or weight loss products, join us for a look at eight trends that made headlines in 2015. We’ll review which methods received positive endorsements, which fads have been relegated to the back row of the nutrition show, plus what’s forecasted to be a hit in the coming months.
Garcinia Cambogia Supplements
Garcinia cambogia comes from a tropical fruit grown in Indonesia. Better known as ‘tamarind,’ it’s pretty darn delicious and healthy on its own—rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. All good things, right?
Garcinia cambogia’s health claims became even more popular when it was discovered that the fruit’s rind contains a compound called hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Proponents claimed that HCA decreases appetite and prevents your body from storing food as fat, and multiple products containing garcinia cambogia were introduced to the market, including Pure Garcinia Cambogia, Garcinia Lean XTreme, and Garcinia Cambogia 360.
At the height of its popularity, over one million people a month were searching for garcinia cambogia weight loss supplements. However, since garcinia cambogia extract diet pills are supplements, not drugs, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate their use or review their effectiveness or safety.
This means that it's up to manufacturers to decide how much garcinia cambogia their pills pack, as well as what other health-impacting ingredients are added to the mix. It also means there has yet to be any large-scale trials comparing garcinia to placebos or other supplements—leaving dieters with no clinical evidence to support HCA’s benefit in humans.
Workout Corsets & Waist Trainer Belts
After reality TV celeb Kim Kardashian snapped a pic of her working out in a waist cincher, thousands of women flocked to find their own. Kim K. wasn’t the first celebrity to tout cinchers as a weight loss method, either. Not too long before, Jessica Alba credited the restrictive-yet-intimate apparel item for helping her shed stubborn baby weight.
A wide range of compression belt-style products popped up on the market, including Miss Belt, Celebrity Hour Glass, the Contour Ab Belt, and the Xtreme Power Belt—each promising to instantly compress your core and increase calorie burn during workouts.
With so much buzz, why did workout waist cinchers fall flat? Unfortunately, constantly wearing a compression belt can actually cause your core muscles to atrophy, leading to back pain, posture problems, indigestion, and other health concerns. Plus, they’re horribly uncomfortable!
At the end of the day, compression items do offer short-term slimming. Although you might look slimmer while wearing it, the negative effects can stick around long after you’ve taken it off.
While not brand new in 2015, some companies continue to make money off of the idea that, if left unattended, your colon will become packed with years worth of waste, causing weight gain, irregularity, and impacting your overall health.
Products including Ultimate Flush Colon Cleanse, Pro Power Cleanse, and Advanced Cleanse Plus Aloe promise to help your body remove any ‘excess blockage’ that is supposedly preventing proper elimination of waste.
However, experts state that the idea behind colonics is unfounded: There aren’t any ‘pockets’ in the colon where waste could collect. Additionally, our bodies are really great at getting rid of excess waste and by-products.
Not only are colon cleansing products unnecessary, they can even cause harm. That’s because intestines aren’t just a passageway for waste, they’re also a place for nutrients to be absorbed into your bloodstream. Meaning that washing out your intestinal tract too often can leave you with a vitamin deficiency, not to mention potential dehydration.
Green tea in its traditional form had a bit of a moment as a weight-loss rising star two years prior. But, in 2015 green tea products evolved to include matcha powder and weight loss-focused supplements.
Matcha is lauded as a healthy alternative to espresso—a caffeine boost without jitters, plus a heavy hit of antioxidants. Derived from the Japanese tencha leaf and then stone ground into a bright-green fine powder, matcha literally means ‘powdered tea.’
Much ado about matcha isn’t being made just because it offers a buzz in a cup: Matcha includes a compound called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) that’s been shown to boost metabolism and stop the growth of fat cells in humans. And, while matcha isn’t anything new, awareness of its potential weight loss benefits caused a spike in popularity.
Does that mean you can eat endless donuts as long as you’re sipping on green tea? Unfortunately not.
While studies have mixed conclusions about precisely how much matcha or EGCG may be needed to lose weight, it’s important to understand that the benefits of green tea, matcha or otherwise, should be just a part of a well-rounded diet—not depended on as a magic fix.
The Keto Diet
Invented in the 1920s by a doctor to curb seizures in his epileptic patients, ‘keto’ was one of the biggest diet buzzwords in 2015. The extremely low-carb, high-fat regime—which sounds very much like a twist on the Atkins diet—bans grains, bread, and sugar. Instead, dieters tuck into slabs of meat, nuts, cream and cheese. According to experts, the high-protein diet makes you feel fuller for longer.
In scientific terms, when the body is devoid of carbs to burn for energy, it switches to burning fat—a metabolic state known as ketosis. However, ketosis isn’t easy to achieve or maintain. Those new to the keto diet are known to experience extreme migraines, mood swings, and what’s knows as the ‘keto flu.’ Once attained, continued side effects can include bad breath and constipation.
Still, keto remains popular because those who can stick with it see results. If you’re not turned off by the need to urinate on a stick (to measure your body’s state of ketosis) and keep breath mints handy, Reddit’s /r/keto provides a supportive community and all the information you need to get started.
2016 Weight Loss Predictions
As last years’ weight loss trends are relegated to the back row of the nutrition show, new ideas pop up. Here are a few we’re starting to hear of:
“Souping is the new juicing,” according to Rachel Beller, author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win: Your Grab-N-Go Action Plan for a Slimmer, Healthier You. Beller isn’t tipping dieters off to the idea that sipping soup before a meal tames your appetite. Instead, souping refers to a diet exclusively consisting of soups, from breakfasts to desserts.
Proponents of souping claim that it one-ups the juicing trend, as soups contain whole veggies and, in the case of breakfast soups, fruits. By including the fibers, seeds, rinds, and pulp, your body supposedly gets more nutrients.
NourishRDs, a nutrition communications and consulting company, says that because you have to sit down and eat with a spoon, souping encourages people to enjoy their meals more mindfully—a method that been shown to assist with weight loss.
However, simply limiting your diet to soup doesn’t guarantee mindful eating. After all, soup can just as easily be sucked down on the go through a straw. Instead, it might be better to turn off the television and enjoy a more balanced diet.
If your local coffee shop has started to advertise a hot beverage called ‘bulletproof coffee,’ then full-fat dairy might be coming your way. The 460-calorie blend of coffee, butter, and oil allegedly helps you lose weight, as well as boosting energy and promoting brain power.
The idea for bulletproof coffee was concocted by entrepreneur Dave Asprey, who brought the Nepalese beverage back to Silicon Valley after experiencing coffee mixed with yak butter. Asprey attributes his own weight loss to drinking bulletproof coffee daily, and the drink is gaining in popularity.
The full-fat trend may be catching up with research. In 2013, three comprehensive, independent reviews, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Journal of the American Heart Association, and the European Journal of Nutrition concluded that there's no association between dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods and obesity, type 2 diabetes, or cardiometabolic risk, and they may be inversely associated with obesity risk.
However, not everyone agrees with these findings, including the team of health experts who contribute to U.S. News & World Report’s annual diet review—they voted the low-fat DASH diet as coming out on top.
And, while the Scientific Report of the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) pointed out that "consumption of dairy foods provides numerous health benefits, including lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and obesity," the evidence on dairy fat wasn't specifically addressed.
What does that mean for those who like a dash of cream in their coffee? There are some definite benefits to choosing whole-fat dairy products. However, keep in mind that a ‘decreased risk of obesity’ doesn’t necessarily translate into real-world weight loss.
Not your heartbeat—pulses are lentils, beans, and chickpeas. The United Nations is so certain that pulses will peak in popularity that it has dubbed 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP).
Why give such simple stables a whole year? The aim of IYP 2016 is not only to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of pulses, it’s also to tout them as an important aspect of sustainable food production.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, pulses are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe, and should be eaten as part of a healthful diet to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions, and cancer—that’s pretty high praise for a crop that’s easy to farm with limited resources.
Where to check for pulses? We’re expecting to see an increase in lentils, beans, and chickpeas in everything from soups to snackbars come 2016.
What’s the Right Weight Loss Plan for You?
Aside from wasting money, there’s actually some potential harm in giving trendy weight loss products and plans a try. While one fad diet might not hurt you, repeated fad dieting may result in some serious health complications, such as depriving your body of essential nutrients, weakening your immune system, increasing your risk of dehydration, causing heart palpitations and increasing your chances of having a heart attack.
Additionally, remember that dietary supplements are not considered ‘drugs,’ and therefore not tested by the FDA for safety or effectiveness.
So, how to tell the difference between a hoax and what might be the key to a healthy new lifestyle? Check for the following:
Promises Rapid Weight Loss: You didn't gain that 10 pounds in a week, so do you really think you can lose it in as many days? Anything more that 1-2 pounds per week means that you’re most likely losing muscle. And because muscle tissue is metabolically active, losing it means a slower metabolism.
Limited Food Choices/ Excluding an Entire Food Group: We need to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure we meet all of our daily needs—excluding a certain group (such as carbohydrates) that can rob your body of an important energy source.
Lack of Exercise: Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle and an important aspect of weight loss. It doesn't have to be hours at the gym, but it is essential to get your body moving. Be wary of any weight loss product or plan that promises results without you having to break a sweat.
Changing your eating is hard work—it takes time, patience, and energy to successfully lose weight, much less keep it off. To affect real changes in your physical health, look beyond short-term solutions to dietary plans that you can maintain over a long period.
Additionally, make sure to consult with your doctor when making any drastic dietary changes, even ones as common as becoming a vegetarian, to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Ready to make some real changes? Check out: Forget Diet Pills—Lose Weight by Changing Your Habits.