Hot Diet Trends of 2013

PHOTO: Someone I once worked with told me about her friend who stayed in a model house in NYC, and apparently all the girls who lived in the house would eat cotton balls to fill themselves up and stay slim."
porschelinn/Flickr.com

Another year, another couple of hundred new diets.

The folks at the diet tracking site dietsinreview.com noted that 2013 was a pretty typical year for dieting, with more than 45 million Americans trying some sort of plan to shed unwanted pounds.

"Everyone is still looking for that one special way of eating to lose the weight with the least amount of effort possible," said Brandi Koskie, the site's managing editor.

Sensible eating plans such as Weight Watchers and the government approved DASH diet remain popular, Koskie said. But, as always, some of the trends are a little out there.

Here, Koskie runs down the good, the bad and the just plain nuts fad diets of 2013.

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Hot Diet Trends 2013

PHOTO: Biggest Loser Jump Start is helping to popularize exercise-based weight loss plans.
Michael Tran/Getty Images
Biggest Loser Jump-Start

Dieters have long resisted the idea of working up a sweat to speed up weight loss, but Biggest Loser Star trainer Jillian Michaels seems to have changed that attitude, Koskie said.

Koskie praises the Biggest Loser plan as a healthy, realistic blend of sensible eating and daily exercise. And the site's users give it a solid 84 percent approval rating for offering tons of support in the form of online tools, books and DVDs.

"Jillian shows people weight loss is entirely achievable at home, and that there isn't just one way to approach fitness," Koskie said.

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Hot Diet Trends 2013

PHOTO: The Fitbit Force and Fitbit Aria scale.
Fitbit
Retrofit

This year-long program uses technology and a team of experts, including a trainer and behavioral coach, to guide you to a 10 to 15 percent weight loss and help you maintain it.

As part of the program you get a FitBit wireless activity tracker and a Withings Wi-Fi scale that calculates your body composition. Your data is consistently analyzed by the experts so that they can tweak your plan for effectiveness.

"It's smart, effective and it works," Koskie said.

The downside? Cost. Memberships run upward of $300 a month. Given the intense amount of personal attention involved, you get what you pay for, Koskie said.

Hot Diet Trends 2013

Faith-based diets use prayer to help take off pounds.
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Religious Weight Loss

Can't get the numbers on the scale to budge? Some are turning to a higher power for help.

The Daniel Plan, Pastor Rick Warren's diet program, really exploded this year, said Koskie. By combining food, exercise, Bible verses and social support, it uses religion to help shrink the waistline. Warren, who oversees the Saddleback Megachurch, has claimed that 600,000 people and counting have tried the diet in some form.

"I think faith-based weight loss is just fine," Koskie said. "Religion is a huge motivator for people in other areas of their lives, why wouldn't and shouldn't it be there for weight loss?"

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Hot Diet Trends 2013

PHOTO: Meal delivery plans are convenient but expensive.
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Food Delivery

Packaged diet food isn't new. Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem are two companies that have been doing it for years. Even door-to-door delivery services have been around for decades. But Koskie said 2013 was the year these services really trended.

"The obvious drawbacks are cost, sustainability and inefficacy for families larger than two people," Koskie said.

Still, Koskie said there are a lot of good diets in this category. Bistro MD, a medically based program created by physicians, was one of the top plans on Diets in Review this year. Users give it a 95 percent approval rating and praise its meals as nutritionally balanced and delicious.

Hot Diet Trends 2013

PHOTO: Celebrities help sell diet plans.
Craig Barritt/Getty Images
Celebrity Endorsed Diets

Not that supermodels and celebrities are the best source of health advice, but Koskie said not all celebrity-endorsed diets are disasters. She pointed to Jennifer Hudson's dramatic weight loss -- and her keeping the weight off -- achieved by following a sensible Weight Watchers plan, and Al Sharpton's slim down by going vegan.

Still, for every Cee Lo Green on a reasonable eDiets plan there's a Kelly Osbourne touting the pseudoscience of the Mushroom Diet.

Hot Diet Trends 2013

PHOTO: Kids diets should be family focused.
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Kid Diets

Earlier this year, Dara-Lynn Weiss stirred up controversy by putting her 7-year-old daughter on a diet, then writing about it in the bestselling book "The Heavy."

Weiss was criticized for her efforts but as she rightly pointed out, nearly one-third of kids younger than 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What should parents do to help their kids slim down?

The answer, Koskie said, is a focus on better lifestyle choices for the entire family.

"The best diets for children teach and model healthy eating habits, introduce a variety of foods and emphasize moderation for all family members," she said.

Two of the most popular kid-friendly diets on Diets in Review have been Baby Love and eDiets Trim Kids. Koskie said moms have also been adapting the Wheat Belly and other gluten-free diets for the whole family as well.

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Hot Diet Trends 2013

PHOTO: Skinny fiber claims to help you feel fuller and block fat absorption.
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Skinny Fiber

This diet plan includes a supplement that its maker, Skinny Body Care, claims to expand up to 50 times its original size in your stomach. Skinny Body Care claims that by taking the pill 30 minutes before a meal, you will feel full faster, block the absorption of fat and balance out blood sugar.

Koskie said those are some very broad assertions to make, considering the company doesn't list any clinical trials or scientific evidence to back them up.

"This should raise some red flags as to whether the claims the product makes are accurate," Koskie said.

Hot Diet trends 2013

PHOTO: Non-eating diets are on the increase
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The Air Diet

Just pretend to eat and watch the weight fall off. That's the premise behind the Air Diet and the similar Breathatarian diet.

These so-called virtual diets ask you to consume nothing save water, a salty soup concoction plus the oxygen you inhale. It was popularized by a Dolce & Gabbana campaign, which had Madonna and other celebrities holding food up to their mouths but not eating it.

"Anything like this that promotes anorexia or disordered eating behavior is potentially dangerous," Koskie said.

Still, Koskie said site visitors have shown a lot of interest in this sort of noneating diet approach. Despite obvious health worries, the Air Diet maintains a 67 percent approval rating on the site.

Hot Diet Trends 2013

PHOTO: Young girls swallow cotton balls to feel full.
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Cotton Ball Diet

The diet, as described in chat rooms, on YouTube videos and elsewhere on the Web, involves gobbling up to five cotton balls dipped in orange juice, lemonade or a smoothie in one sitting. The idea is to feel full without gaining weight. Some dieters chow down on the fluffy fillers before a meal to limit their food intake, while others subsist on cotton balls exclusively.

Koskie called this the worst trend in dieting seen in a while, maybe ever. Yet in November, it was the most shared diet on the site, a fact that makes Koskie worry about the young girls who seem to be the main group flocking to this approach. She cautioned parents of tweens and teen daughters to be on the lookout for any signs of this behavior, and use it as an opportunity to discuss proper nutrition.

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