The best, the worst, and the weirdest diet and exercise fads from the past year.

By Charlotte Andersen

A healthy diet and regular exercise may be the standard advice when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, but there are a lot of different ways to approach both. With new research on exercise and weight loss coming out every day, it pays to stay on top of the headlines. But don't worry: You don't need to go digging through Google news archives. We've rounded up the top 10 exercise and weight-loss trends from 2011. How many have you tried?

The Paleo Diet

Neanderthals never looked so modern as variations on primitive diets and exercise plans have gained mainstream acceptance. The Paleo Diet, a diet heavy on meat and vegetables and devoid of grains, in conjunction with a focus on lifting heavy stuff and sprinting away from predators is the newest old trend.

Alternative Therapy

Hypnosis, acupuncture, meditation, and herbal remedies used to be seen as placebos at best and voodoo at worst, especially when it came to the high-stakes field of weight loss. But new studies examining the power of the mind and the potency of the mind-body connection have brought these treatments out of the fringe and into the mainstream.


While CrossFit has been around for several years, the workout based off of elements from Olympic weight lifting, men's gymnastics, and the martial arts has seen a huge boom in popularity this year, thanks to celebrity endorsements like Bob Harper and the advent of CrossFit-specific gyms and trainers.

Cleanse Diets

Where Hollywood leads, the country follows, right? Starlets first started using cleanses to get perfectly flat abs for magazine covers and the red carpet, but the trend has filtered down to any woman who wants to look a little less bloated. Popular cleanses like Shakeology, the Blueprint Cleanse, and even the staid Master Cleanse have become coffee talk.

Vitamin D

When vitamin E took a fall from grace, a new super-supplement stepped in to save the day… and your skin, mental health, and even your waistline. Whether you get yours from a little sunbathing or from a little pill, the importance of getting enough vitamin D has been one of the biggest stories of the year.


The sweet stuff hardly seems connected to weight loss, but after research found that artificial sweeteners can actually make you gain weight and high-fructose corn syrup became a frakenfood, plain old beet or cane sugar is now back en vogue. Other natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and even the Stevia plant have also been found to have some health benefits when used in moderation.

The HCG Diet

Making headlines for both impressive success stories and equally unimpressive research, this diet based around the controversial use of human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) has followers eat a bare-bones 600-calorie-a-day diet while using HCG drops or injections to stifle hunger. Dangerous fad or miracle diet? It all depends on who you talk to.

Intermittent Fasting

At first we were told to eat three square meals a day, no snacking. Then eating five to seven "mini-meals" every 3-4 hours was best for keeping our metabolisms going strong all day long. Now, it appears that "starvation mode" doesn't set in as quickly as we thought, and abstaining from food completely for periods usually ranging from 18-36 hours is considered one of the best things you can do for your health. The takeaway: Do your homework and talk to a nutrition expert before you try any extreme diet techniques in the New Year. The best plan for you is the one that fits your lifestyle and schedule.

Boot Camp Workouts

Jillian Michaels may have sparked the popularity of having someone get in your face like a drill sergeant, but trainers all over the country have jumped on board with group fitness classes based around short and intense workouts. Push-ups, sit-ups, and other traditional military moves are just the tip of the iceberg.

Preventative Health Care

We may not all be on board the preventative-health-care train yet, but thanks to numerous debates about healthcare reform, nearly everyone recognizes the importance of taking care of ourselves and stopping health problems before they start. For example, more employers are offering discounts on gym memberships and rewards for positive health choices such as losing weight or lowering cholesterol. Expect to see even more incentives in 2012!

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