No! Not again! Stop the madness!
I live in Marin County, the land of the fit, thin, and affluent, so the ads for the recently revived but long ago unproven HCG diet abound. ďLOSE 40 POUNDS AND YOUR BELLY FAT IN 6 WEEKS WITHOUT HUNGER, AND KEEP IT OFF!Ē As an MD who ran an integrative medicine center before switching to a coaching practice, I just have one thing to say. Bullshit.
Hear me out.
What Is The HCG Diet?
Itís based on the work of Dr. Albert Simeons from the 1950ís, who touted HCG as the miracle weight loss drug, claiming that this hormone, procured from the urine of pregnant women, would help fat melt away, reduce your appetite, and make you magically lose weight in all the right places. He also claimed that this hormone would change your metabolic rate, making you unlikely to gain weight once you stopped the diet.
Keep in mind that HCG is a hormone most commonly used in fertility treatments and to aid adolescents with endocrine problems during puberty. It is not — and never had been — a weight loss drug.
Dr. Simeon did a study to ďproveĒ his claims, but no other researchers were ever able to reproduce his work. After the HCG diet was discredited by the scientific community, the diet mostly disappeared until 2007, when infomercial king Kevin Trudeau began promoting it as the secret diet your doctor isnít telling you about. And suddenly, products appeared all over the internet and doctors at integrative and alternative medicine centers started jumping on the bandwagon, causing the diet to experience an unfortunate resurgence. Variations of the diet exist, but most require daily HCG injections, drops, or sublingual dosing, and costs can run you up to $1500/month (padding the pockets of many a doc). The pregnancy hormone is combined with a highly restricted, low calorie diet of 500 calories/day.
The pregnancy hormone tricks the body into believing that youíre pregnant, and because youíre starving the body, it starts eating away at fat — and you get no hunger pangs! Sounds good, right?
What Can You Eat?
Dr. Simeons diet allowed starvers to eat no breakfast other than coffee or tea, but for lunch or dinner, they can eat the following:
- Unlimited coffee or tea with saccharin or stevia but only 1 Tbsp milk per day
- 100 grams of lean meat, protein or seafood
- Only one type of veggie from the following list: spinach, chard, chicory, beet-greens, green salad, tomatoes, celery, fennel, onions, red radishes, cucumbers, asparagus, cabbage
- One breadstick or melba toast
- An apple, orange, a handful of strawberries or one-half grapefruit
Variations on the diet abound, but you get the gist.
Is It Healthy?
First off, letís start with talking about health. The FDA recommends that inactive women eat a 1500 calorie/day diet to ensure adequate nutrition. Your brain alone needs 600 calories/day to function normally. The body needs protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in order to perform important metabolic functions. Even hospitalized people unable to eat are given nutrients through the IV. You simply canít be healthy unless you get adequate nutrition.
So at a caloric intake which is 1/3 the low end of the recommended caloric allotment, the body suffers. Most anorexics consume around 500 calories per day. So sure, people on this diet lose weight.
Does It Really Work?
Long story short, the answer is no. It doesnít work. Starving your body is not the answer. Research shows that HCG doesnít cause weight loss. Itís not safe. Itís unsustainable. And who can stick to a 500 calorie/day diet? So you wind up feeling like crap because youíve paid all this money and find yourself cheating. Which sends you to the freezer for a pint of Ben Ďní Jerryís and a self-hate fest.
Numerous studies have shown that people do not lose weight beyond what they would lose with such severe calorie restricting (also known as ďstarvingĒ). And they lose weight where people usually lose weight, not in some special ideal distribution of belly, thighs, and butt. Sure, thereís a placebo effect, but almost all drugs have a placebo effect. If you think youíll lose weight and are paying a boatload of money for it, youíre simply more likely to lose weight. But it doesnít mean it actually works, as a CNN article recently confirmed. WebMD agrees.
The Whole Thing Is A Freakin’ Fraud
Because of the research, Dr. Simeons diet was discredited, and in 1976, the FTC ordered his clinics to stop claiming that their HCG diet was safe, effective, and FDA-approved for weight loss. Since 1975, the FDA has required that HCG be labeled with the following:
HCG has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity. There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or “normal” distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.
But how many people paying all this money read the fine print on their injected medication?
These products are also all over the internet, and people are using this diet with no medical supervision whatsoever, which totally freaks me out. And yet, people are in such pain from their desire to be thin that they will do anything for a quick weight loss fix. It breaks my heart.
How The HCG Diet Differs From Cheating
Iím currently in the midst of a green juice cleanse, so you might ask how this kind of starvation diet differs from the popular detox cleanses. And itís a good question. Some cleanses lack any nutrients and can be downright dangerous to your health and wellbeing and may be used repetitively as a form of eating disorder. But the one Iím doing is a nutritional cleanse consisting of fresh green juices, avocados, sprout salad, seaweed broth, herbal tea, stevia lemonade, and vegan soups. You eat healthy calories, although your caloric intake is admittedly limited. But because of the nature of what you do eat, the body starts to unload its toxic burden. And because cleansing the way I do is very self-love based, the weight you lose tends to stay off because you feel so great that youíre motivated to continue your program of radical self care. For more on cleansing, read my friend Kris Carrís book Crazy Sexy Diet or read her blog at CrazySexyLife.com and sign up for our newsletter if you want to be notified about the cleanse program we will be launching soon at OwningPink.com.
Why Quick Fixes Never Work
So why is everybody jumping on the HCG bandwagon? Because everybody wants a quick fix. The diet promises 40 pounds of weight loss in six weeks. People will do anything to feel more beautiful, more valuable, more desired, more socially acceptable.
But losing weight from a place of hatred is never sustainable.
If youíre starving yourself to fit in because you hate your belly fat, forget it. Not only does the research prove that it wonít work in the long term; you can guarantee you wonít feel better about yourself even if you do lose weight. Read here for tips on how to lose weight with love.
Do Yourself A Favor & Steer Clear
Donít be tempted, my friends. The HCG diet is unsafe, it doesnít work, and itís little more than beautifully packaged snake oil. So do your body and your pocketbook a favor and steer clear.
Instead, if you need to lose weight to be healthy, do it the good old fashioned way that really works. I know everyone wants a quick fix, but real, sustainable weight loss comes from eating less, focusing on a whole foods, largely veggie-based diet rich in superfoods and green juices. And you canít forget exercise.
If youíre really motivated to lose weight the healthy way, you must start by getting out of your own way and doing the mental, emotional, and spiritual work to get you ready for the healthy body you desire. So sign up for the free Get Out Of Your Own Way mini e-course here and stay tuned for more on healthy, self-loving weight loss, radical self care, and the personal changes youíll need to undertake in order to lose weight with love.
What do you think? Have you tried this diet? Did I convince you to steer clear? What weight loss techniques have worked for you? Dish.