7 TikTok Weight Loss Trends Ranked By an Expert

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Spend a while scrolling through social media, especially TikTok, and odds are you’ll encounter someone enthusiastically sharing their experience with a new fitness or weight loss program. These days, it can feel like health and wellness challenges are proliferating so quickly it’s hard to keep up. By the time you’ve got your fitness equipment ready to jump onto one, there’s a new one taking the internet by storm.

But how effective are the hashtag-friendly regimens we’ve been seeing more of lately, and what makes them so alluring anyway? Well, like most things, the answers depend on a lot of complicated factors. But there are some important throughlines.

(Related: Are Weight Loss Drugs Covered By Insurance?

In general, we tend to be drawn to challenges like the “30-30-30 approach,” which has recently gone viral on TikTok, when they speak to a need we’ve already identified for ourselves. If you know that you’ve been wanting to lose weight, the simple structure of 30-30-30 (eating 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up followed by 30 minutes of exercise) just might help you harness some motivation to get started on that journey. And if you experience some initial success within the framework of a specific, focused challenge—as opposed to a more nebulous resolution to lose weight—you may also notice an uptick in inspiration to keep going. 

Another important factor helps explain why joining these programs can sometimes lead to a boost in willpower: Many popular challenges are social undertakings, explains Jessica Yu, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and Sr. Director of Patient Experience at Hims & Hers. “There’s that sense of being part of a bigger movement,” she says. “Human beings, by nature, are social creatures, so we love the idea of being part of something that’s bigger than ourselves.”

So does that mean anyone interested in weight loss should rush to pick from the expanding menu of social media-friendly fitness regimens? Are we all doomed to repeat the chaotic, even dangerous missteps of the TidePod challenge era? Not quite. 

We asked Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA, a physician specializing in obesity medicine and Senior Vice President of Weight Loss  at Hims & Hers, to share his thoughts on some of the most viral weight loss challenges and trends circulating online. Here’s his take on seven popular methods, ranked from best to worst according to what’s most effective and sustainable.

  1. Dry January: Cutting out alcohol for an entire month
    “This one’s a bit of a no-brainer for anyone who’s normally a social drinker. Its positive effects extend to many different parts of the body, and it’s hard to argue with as a boost to weight loss: At the most basic level, cutting back on alcohol means cutting out unnecessary calories. That may be especially effective among young people, who are most likely to see their drinking habits contribute to obesity risk. Ditching the booze also means you’re likely to sleep better and have more energy overall, which makes it a lot easier to get consistent exercise. And, best of all, cutting alcohol for a full month might make it easier to realize that you don’t always need it in social situations. Some people who go back to consuming alcohol after an initial Dry January challenge say that they find themselves drinking less or reconsidering their relationship to alcohol.”

  2. Intermittent fasting: Concentrating your eating in specific hours of the day
    “Intermittent fasting has been obviously huge for about five to eight years now. It’s been shown to work just as well as standard, caloric-restriction dieting. It may even be a little bit better in people with insulin resistance or diabetes. It’s sustainable for some people, but not everyone. Time-restricted eating, the most common kind, is best when it makes sense for people’s lifestyles. For example, you probably aren’t going to succeed if you try to stop eating for the entire day at 2 pm. But it’s often possible—and effective—to structure your day so that you’re not doing much eating after, say, 7 p.m.”

  3. Running a mile every day for 30 days
    “There are lots of reasons to love this one—not even for weight loss, per se. Running, or even just walking, one mile a day is good exercise without being overpowering. Most people can do it, and it’s not timed. Exercise is a keystone habit, so when you’re exercising regularly, you’re also likely to sleep better. When you sleep better, you can diet better—and have energy to exercise. So on and so forth.”

  4. 12-3-30: Setting your treadmill to an incline of 12 and speed of 3 miles per hour, walking for 30 minutes
    “I would say this one’s firmly in the middle, neither good nor bad. I only heard about this recently, in part because there’s no medical science behind it. It was done by an influencer, who saw a noticeable change after she tried it. I don’t doubt that she found it helpful, but the average person who has a medium amount of weight to lose may find it very hard to start out at 12% incline for 30 minutes. If it had a ramp-up in the first two weeks—maybe starting at less of an incline or for fewer than 30 minutes—I would think it’s more sustainable. That said, if you are able to do it, I think it’s a solid one, especially if you’re aiming for four to five days a week rather than every single day.” 

  5. Whole30: A nutritional change program that requires eliminating foods such as dairy, grains and added sugar from your diet
    “I think this is going to be one of the challenges that causes people problems because it’s avoidance-based. Avoid, avoid, avoid—and what a long list, too! It seems to encourage all-or-nothing thinking as well, which we know can be very counterproductive. If you take one bite of something with dairy in it, for example, you’d need to start all over again. That feels needlessly punitive to me. Unless you’ve got allergies, one bite of pretty much anything isn’t going to kill you.”

  6. 75 Hard/30 Hard: A “mental toughness” program in which you must adhere to a set diet, cut alcohol, drink a gallon of water, work out twice, read 10 pages of a non-fiction book and take a progress photo—every single day for 75 days (or, in the modified version, 30 days)
    “Did you get tired just reading that? I did. And I really don’t like this one. First of all, because the diet portion isn’t set by the program, we actually don’t have any proof that someone sticking to whatever diet they pick for 75 or 30 days will have the desired effects. The exercise portion is outlandish for anyone who’s not already in a consistent fitness routine. Going from zero to 100 here would be close to impossible for most people—how many working people have an hour and a half in our days to start exercising twice and reading non-fiction books? The answer drops even lower if you consider people with kids. And if you fail any one day, you have to start all over again. I know two people who’ve done it and were really excited about the accomplishment, but I can tell you for sure that when their 75 days are over, they’re not sticking to the same regimen. It really doesn’t encourage good long-term habits.” 

  7. Intuitive eating: Eating according to hunger and satiety cues
    “I know that this works for many people, and some of my frustration is rooted in my own personal biases on this one. It’s also been around forever. There’s a book called Intuitive Eating that was first published almost 30 years ago. I understand the appeal of the premise—if you’ve been on a ton of diets before, of course it’s refreshing to consider acting like you’re not on one. But the average American who struggles with their weight doesn’t necessarily believe they’re on a strict diet day to day. Without clear guidance for how to shift your relationship to food and really listen to your body’s cues, this strikes me as too wishy-washy to really work. And, crucially, many people with obesity and other diseases don’t have the same food cues that other people do. They either get hungry faster or they stay hungry longer. To me, telling someone with a disease that affects their hunger cues to simply snap out of it feels a little like telling a depressed person to just cheer up.”

(Related: Weight Loss Medication: Are They Effective?)

Where does that leave people who are serious about weight loss and looking for the lifestyle-change support that challenges can provide? Well, a number of the challenges above are intriguing, as Dr. Primack notes. But if you want to help setting realistic goals or evaluating new reports about diet trends, try measuring any proposed regimen against the SMART criteria: Is it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic (or relevant) and timely? That can be an incredibly helpful tool.

And of course, don’t be afraid to seek out additional help from physicians and dietitians if you’ve been going it alone for a long time already. Losing weight can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

This article originally appeared on Hers.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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25 Weight-Loss “Tricks” You Should Stop Immediately

25 Weight-Loss “Tricks” You Should Stop Immediately

When it comes to diet and nutrition, we all want to find “the answer” that will fix our alleged problems. As a result, we often latch onto crazy diet ideas that, in the moment, sound like the perfect solution. But these too-good-to-be-true “solutions” can hurt more than help us in our attempts to achieve weight loss and gain healthy habits.

Here are some of the most common diet myths exposed.

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The protein-pushing keto craze sure makes it seem like carbs should be avoided at all costs. But do grains deserve their bad reputation?

“People often say that carbs are fattening,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD. “But complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, are not ‘fattening’ foods.’”

In other words, avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread, rice and processed snacks, but keep those whole grains for a healthy balance.

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While diet sodas may be a better alternative than their full-sugar counterparts, medical studies are starting to show that the artificial sweeteners may actually cause us to eat more calories later in the day. If you want to keep the fizz and ditch the artificial sweetener, try flavored carbonated water instead.

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Like carbs, the type of fats we eat makes a difference. That, in combination with how many calories we eat each day, determines our body weight. Trans fats, typically found in many fried foods, can cause cardiovascular disease. However, saturated fats do not have the same effect and can, in fact, help keep us satisfied longer, leading to fewer calories consumed.

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Maybe you’ve only been eating the egg whites to avoid raising your cholesterol. Well, maybe you don’t have to anymore.

“Unless you are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease, eating the eggs AND yolks can actually help you,” says Darin Hulslander, CEO and owner of DNS Performance and Nutrition. “For one, yolks are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Egg yolks also elevate high-density lipoproteins, which are the ‘good’ proteins that can help remove plaque from the arteries.”

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If you count calories, you might think losing weight is as simple as staying under a certain number every day. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true. You can eat 200 calories of lean protein or 200 calories of chocolate, but the body processes each differently. Depending on what you eat, your body can store or burn more calories. So, use those calories wisely!

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Reading headlines such as “red meat could lead to cancer” is frightening. And while some studies indicate there is an association with red meat consumption and cancer, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean it causes cancer. Eating red meat in moderation is not dangerous.

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The American Heart Association recommends that people consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium (salt) each day. Excessive sodium can lead to high blood pressure. However, this doesn’t mean we have to eat bland food. Use salt in moderation and, if you have high blood pressure, talk with your doctor on the best guidelines for your individual needs.

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Sure, peanut butter is a good source of protein and fat. However, you need to be careful about what kind you put in your pantry. Many national brands of peanut butter are filled with extra sugar, fats and preservatives that counteract any health benefits. Check the label and pick up a jar with as few ingredients as possible to get the healthiest version of this favorite snack.

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Calories can’t tell time. The time of day of when you eat only matters if you tend to overindulge at the end of the day and eat too many calories. If you happen to eat a late dinner or snack but stay within your normal calorie range for the day, it should all even out in the long run. However, many people mindlessly eat at night because they are bored or tired, and this is what leads to weight gain.

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This is the one case where all calories are pretty much alike. Multiple studies show that eating the same amount of calories in either a few larger meals or more frequent smaller ones have the same outcome on the body. In other words, this is a case where 1,000 calories in a day are the same, no matter how often you eat during the day.

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With labels like “Lean Cuisine” and “Healthy Choice,” it’s easy to think that pre-packaged frozen meals are not only convenient but also a better choice to help us in our diet goals. This isn’t always the case. Many of these pre-packaged meals contain too much sodium, which can lead to water retention and bloat. Also, many offer too few calories, which can lead to hunger later on in the day. Check the labels carefully and make sure you’re making the best choice.

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When looking to avoid processed carbohydrates, many people reach for wheat or multigrain bread over white. But be careful! Make sure you’re picking up 100% wheat or whole grain bread. Otherwise, you could be just be getting mostly white bread with a little wheat flour mixed in — or even just food coloring to make it look brown!

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This nutrition myth has been around forever, but it’s just not true for most people. Medical studies show that among extremely active people such as marathon runners and skiers, taking at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C every day can possibly cut the risk of getting a cold in half. But for most people, taking daily vitamin C did not seem to actually reduce the risk of getting a cold.

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Wouldn’t it be great if there were such a thing as a negative-calorie food? You know, the kind that burns more calories when we eat it than it has? Sadly, there is no such thing, even when it comes to something as healthy as a piece of celery.

“Regardless of the [calories] in the food, you’re always going to be able to get something out of it,” says Stephen Secor, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Alabama.

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Organic is simply how ingredients are grown, usually pesticide-, herbicide- and insecticide-free. An organic label does not mean it’s healthier than non-organic foods. Even things like sugar, granola bars and boxed mashed potatoes can be organic. So, don’t rely on an organic label to tell you if something is automatically better for your diet.

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While cutting out gluten from your diet can help if you have celiac disease, it isn’t really a factor in weight loss.

“Unless you suffer from celiac disease, there’s not much scientific support to back the claim that eating gluten-free is healthier or a smart strategy for weight loss,” says Ashvini Mashru MA, RD, LDN. “Cutting gluten out of your diet most often leads to a reduction in overall calories, simply due to the sheer amount of grain-based foods that we eat on a regular basis.”

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Fewer calories consumed means weight loss, right? Not so fast!

“In fact, studies have proven it to be the opposite: skipping meals promotes weight gain,” says Cheryl Forberg, RD, nutritionist for “The Biggest Loser.” “When we skip a meal, by the time we eat, we’re so hungry we consume too much, too fast and choose the wrong foods.”

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Foods like asparagus and lemons are known as natural diuretics. And while these kinds of foods may not hurt when it comes to holding onto excess water, eating large amounts of them will not help get rid of belly bloat or weight.

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Your daily cup of coffee may give you a good dose of caffeine, which is a stimulant to your body. However, that caffeine jolt does not boost your metabolism enough to be a weight loss cure-all. Also, depending on what you add to your coffee (cream, flavorings, sugar), you could be adding extra calories to your day. So if you love a cup of joe, keep it basic and black, if possible.

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This is a short-term fix with many long-term problems. By severely cutting daily calories for extended periods of time, your entire metabolism can change to actually hold onto weight! Also, your body needs adequate nutrition to stay healthy. If you want to lose weight and keep it off forever, you need a modest calorie restriction plan that you simply continue and never stop.

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You cannot outrun a bad diet. It’s as simple as that. Exercise is great for our cardiovascular health and for building good muscle tone. And yes, it does help regulate our weight. But the amount of exercise you have to do to counteract a few extra slices of pizza isn’t sustainable or reasonable. So work in a healthy diet plan along with your regular workouts for optimal results.

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In a pinch, these convenience items are helpful in maintaining a healthy diet. But things like shakes and nutrition bars are not meant to be long-term replacements for healthy meals. Check the ingredients for artificial sweeteners if you buy these items. Your best bet: Make these at home and use them occasionally.

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Yes, some people should probably cut back on sugar in order to make their diet healthier. But naturally sweet foods such as fruits are sources of important vitamins and minerals. The sweets to avoid are those with added sugars and syrups.

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Good news! While fresh vegetables are always a healthy option, so are most frozen varieties. Over time, fresh vegetables can lose nutrients, while frozen ones can retain them longer. Make sure you pick up frozen vegetables without added sauces, cheese or sodium to keep them as close to fresh as possible.

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Can you imagine life without ice cream, cookies or cake? You don’t have to in order to follow a healthy eating plan. In fact, planning to have some of your favorite treats occasionally can ensure you don’t feel deprived and end up splurging later on.

This article originally appeared on TheDelite and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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