Michael Phelps' 12,000-calorie-a-day training diet and Beyonce's maple syrup cleanse may top Google's list of the 10 most-searched diets of 2012, but the popular website Diets in Review.com found that when people want to get serious about weight loss, they rely on more conventional plans.
For the fifth year in a row, Diets in Review tracked its overall traffic to determine which weight loss plans received the most page views and provoked the most user discussion. The site followed hundreds of diet trends over the course of the year and has now listed the 25 most trafficked.
This year Weight Watchers, a well-established brand, was the most popular diet on the Diets in Review site, generating more than 5 percent of the sites' two million page views per month and more than 35 pages of comments from users. The 17-Day Diet and Medifast claimed the next two spots.
Brandi Koskie, director of publishing for Diets in Review, said she believes the list is indicative of which weight loss plans people are actually using, since the site tracks unique visitors and number of page views rather than simple searches.
"Search behavior doesn't always mirror actual behavior. Sometimes people are just curious -- no one is really going to eat or train like Michael Phelps but they are likely to try something sensible after they've run through all the quick fixes and fads," she said.
The only weight loss brand that makes a top 10 appearance on both lists is The P.I.N.K. Method. No. 4 on Google and No. 5 on Diets in Review, the plan is designed exclusively for women; it includes DVD workouts and a three-phase approach to nutrition.
Koskie said a strong marketing campaign pushed The P.I.N.K. Method into the public mind early in the year. The site saw a huge bump in traffic for the diet when the TV talk shows "Dr. Phil" and "The Doctors" devoted several episodes to it. Reviewers on the side called the plan "kinda silly but sensible" and gave it a solid 80 percent approval rating. However, unlike Weight Watchers, which has been in Diet in Reviews' top two all five years, Koskie said she doesn't think P.I.N.K. has staying power.
"After its initial spike it fell off the radar. I don't expect it to make an appearance next year," Koskie said.
There were a couple of big surprises on the Diet in Review list. For the first time, no acai berry products cracked the top 25 in popularity. Koskie said she thought consumers are weary of hearing about the fruit's mystical fat burning powers that somehow never seem to pan out. It's also possible that another berry supplement -- raspberry ketones, making their first appearance at No. 18 -- bumped acai off the charts.
"Raspberries dominated traffic in February right after the 'Dr. Oz' segment promoting the supplement. It was one of our biggest weeks of the year," Koskie said.
Another unexpected entry: Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred, a workout DVD released more than five years ago. The workout moved up two spots from last year to No. 8 and is the only program on the list dedicated exclusively to exercise. Michaels' Detox and Cleanse kit holds the ninth spot and her online support group holds the 20th spot.
"It's amazing to see how much loyalty users have for Michaels," said Koskie. "Our people continue to rave about her."
Both the Google and Diets in Review list do have their share of drastic, out-there fads. Beside raspberry ketones (the No. 3 Google diet search) Googlers were interested in the K-E Diet (short for ketogenic enteral nutrition), which involves inserting a plastic hose through the nose, down through the esophagus and into the stomach, making it harder to eat.
Featured at No.4 on the Diets in Review list, the HCG Diet asks dieters to consume fewer than 500 calories per day, supplemented by daily shots of a hormone produced by pregnant women called human chorionic gonadotrophin --hCG for short.
But even though eight supplements, a baby food diet and several supermodel-sanctioned cleanses made it into this year's top 25, Koskie said she is heartened to see that most of the weight loss methods, especially near the top of the site's list, are relatively sane and sensible.
"I think things like Weight Watchers and Jillian Michaels are there year after year because people can stick with them and they actually get results without starving themselves or making themselves crazy," she said.