When it comes to weight loss, we like to play by numbers, so here's a few: 45 percent of Americans usually like to make New Year's resolutions, and of those people, 38 percent cite some form of "lose weight" or "improve health" at the top of their to-do list. Having a plan to hit the gym harder than you have in the past is a good start, but remember, healthy eating plays a major role in whether or not you succeed. Which brings us to another number—it's said that 95 percent of diets usually fail. Why? Most are unsustainable, leave you starving, and don't make sense in the real world. So if you're part of the 38 percent, just say no to these diet trends, 'cause they're getting you nowhere.
1. A GLUTEN-FREE DIET IS PROBABLY A WASTE OF TIMEIf you're one of the one percent that suffers from celiac disease, according to The Celiac Disease Foundation, or have a gluten intolerance, you're eating this way to preserve your health, and you should continue to do so. But if you're nixing carbs because you want those celeb-worthy abs? Consider it a no-go, as there's no research to support going g-free for weight loss. Of course, ditching high-calorie processed eats like muffins, cakes, and snack foods can get rid of unwanted pounds (assuming you don't fall into the common trap of digging into more processed eats, thinking they're healthy because they say "gluten-free" on the label)—but it's not because you're not eating gluten, but rather because you're cutting junk calories.
2. MEAL REPLACEMENT SHAKES ARE ONLY A SHORT-TERM SOLUTIONMeal replacement sips, like Plexus Slim and Shakeology, have their loyal followers, and we won't deny people have seen success with them. In the short-term, this may be a fine strategy to help break the fast food/vending machine lunch habit (many say the products are actually crave-worthy delicious, so that helps). However, while limited research suggests that they can help you lose weight, there's one big downside: replacement shakes don't teach you a life-long way of healthy eating. So if you need a jump start, we won't slap you on the wrist...but start educating yourself about healthy fare you can cook and order out, and opt for a diet that suits your lifestyle.
3. THE CABBAGE SOUP DIET IS BASICALLY ZERO FUNHere's the gist: for one week you eat a couple bowls of cabbage soup a day, plus a prescribed set of foods. For example, one day you might eat only cabbage soup plus bananas and skim milk. Another might be cabbage soup and beef and veggies. Sounds fun, right? "Cabbage soup is a wonderful soup, but as a diet it's bogus," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, owner of Betterthandieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It. It's rigid, unbalanced, and again, only a short-term solution for weight loss.
4. APPLE CIDER VINEGAR SHOULD BE A PART OF YOUR SALAD, NOT YOUR WHOLE MEALShould you do what Megan Fox does and take a shot of vinegar? We're torn. While some research shows that vinegar can help improve blood sugar—especially if you have type 2 diabetes—there isn't convincing research that shows it can actually help you lose weight. Drizzling it onto your salad for a boost of low-cal flavor? A good idea. But save yourself the gagging after knocking back the shot. ACV won't work miracles.
5. SUPPLEMENT DIETS AREN'T NECESSARY WHEN YOU EAT THE RIGHT FOODSExperts have long said that the best way to get nutrients is from food. And that's where diets that require you to take supplements, like the Hallelujah Diet, falter. They start off on a good foot, touting the benefits of eating more produce, but then recommend a plethora of supplements to fix nutrient deficiencies and detox your body. But getting on a plant-based diet alone will help you lose weight—you don't need to pop pricey supplements to get you there.
6. A LOW-FAT DIET ISN'T EFFECTIVE IN THE LONG RUNShocker! While going on a low-fat diet is better than doing nothing at all to drop unwanted pounds, it's not the best weight loss strategy (aka, you're wasting your time). In a new meta-analysis of nearly 70,000 dieters, in the long run, people lost less weight on low-fat diets compared to higher fat diets. Now, that doesn't mean ice cream melts love handles—keep it to sensible portions of healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and nuts.
7. SORRY, BUT THERE'S NO PROOF BEHIND THE HYPOTHYROIDISM DIETIf you've got a sluggish thyroid, you're at risk for fatigue, depression, and constipation. Unfortunately, there's no cure—and the only thing that's been shown to regulate your thyroid is medication. Some people suggest you eat more iodine-rich foods, like seaweed and cranberries, but it hasn't been shown to cure hypothyroidism, according to the Mayo Clinic. The good news is that meds can help keep symptoms at bay in most cases, so talk to your doc about which ones are best for you.
8. THE ELIMINATION DIET GETS RID OF, WELL, EVERYTHING (AND LIFE'S TOO SHORT FOR THAT)Give up gluten, dairy, alcohol, fatty meats, caffeine, sugar, and processed foods—sounds a lot like Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen's diet. Of course you're going to lose weight, but we imagine you'll have no fun doing it. It's very restrictive, but true elimination diets are supposed to be temporary and designed with a medical purpose: to detect a suspected food allergy. Skin and blood tests are also needed for a diagnosis, and the Food Allergy Research & Education organization suggests only doing this with your doctor. Bottom line: it's not a fit-into-your-skinny-jeans diet.
9. THE ALKALINE DIET NEEDS MORE RESEARCHIf Kelly Ripa says it changed her life, you've got our interest (have you seen her abs?). Followers say that foods can alter the pH of your blood and urine, which can affect everything from weight gain to cancer risk. You'd avoid acid-producers like wheat, dairy, meat, sugar, and processed food, and nosh on more alkaline ones (aka foods that reduce the acid levels in your body) like fruits and veggies, nuts, and tofu. The problem? There's no evidence to show that foods can even change your body's pH, according to the American Institute of Cancer Research, making the diet moot. One upshot: these are all healthy foods. Eating more produce and less processed stuff can help you lose, but it's got nothing to do with pH.
10. HCG DIET = THE DEFINITION OF BADAvoid, avoid, avoid. The FDA calls this diet a reckless way to shed pounds and deems it potentially dangerous. HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is a hormone that your body makes during pregnancy, and on this diet you're supposed to eat 500 calories a day, then use HCG (lotions, drops, etc) to increase levels of the hormone in your body. Proponents of the diet say it's supposed to decrease hunger from, um, eating basically nothing all day. But the FDA says these products are illegal, not approved for weight loss, and there's no evidence HCG even works for weight loss. Translation: just say no.
11. YOU SIMPLY CAN'T LIVE ON THE LIQUID DIETIf you're getting a colonoscopy and need to prep for the procedure with a liquid diet, then more power to you. But if you're drinking only liquids to get thin, it's time to rethink your strategy. "Most juices and liquids lack protein. You can't live on that," says Taub-Dix. Plus, chewing tends to make people feel satisfied, so count on feeling hungry. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
12. KATE MIDDLETON MAY HAVE FOLLOWED THE DUKAN DIET BUT...When you're going to marry the future king of England, do as Kate Middleton reportedly did and follow the Dukan Diet. The high-protein plan makes big promises, including losing 10 pounds the first week, but the U.S. News & World Report notes that there are a lot of rules (like what vegetables you can eat and when) that make it hard to follow. Basically, there's no evidence that you can stay on it long-term, and if you're going to go through the trouble to lose weight, don't you want to keep it off?
13. DON'T TRY THE WATER DIET TO BURN CALORIESCold water makes your body work hard to bring it down to room temp, thereby burning extra calories. The resulting metabolism boost means that you're supposed to drink ice water before meals. "There's a bit of truth to the idea that cold water could change your metabolism slightly—but not enough to make a huge difference," says Taub-Dix. And research shows it's largely a myth that drinking more water can help you lose weight. Sip H20 because it has no calories—not to burn them.