When I first heard about the popular “hCG diet” I didn’t pay much attention. I figured it was just another fad. But then I noticed otherwise smart and reasonable people raving about it. So I checked it out. Maybe there was really something to it, otherwise how could sensible intelligent people be taken in?
If you’re unfamiliar with this diet, here’s how it works: hCG is a hormone produced by women in the early stages of pregnancy. It stimulates the hypothalamus (the master hormone regulating gland in the brain) to move fat and nutrients to the placenta. This mobilization of fat into the bloodstream is what caught the eye of the weight loss industry (read sharks wanting to make a quick buck from people desperate to drop a few pounds before beach season.)
The diet plan is to take hCG along with a starvation diet of 500 calories a day. You can get the hCG from health food stores in the form of sublingual drops. Do people lose weight? You bet they do, and rapidly. If you want to get into your high school prom dress in two weeks, success is practically guaranteed. Is this smart, or even a successful way to manage weight in the long term? Absolutely not! I consider it misguided, crazy, and downright dangerous.
First of all, everyone will lose a lot of weight quickly on a 500 calorie diet. But the crucial factor people are conveniently ignoring is that this calorie level will put your metabolism into starvation mode. In other words, your metabolism will slow down significantly to keep you alive, then when you begin to eat normally again, even a very healthy diet, your body will cling to every calorie you eat and store it. The result–rapid weight gain. Back where you started and probably fatter.
Meanwhile, you’ve done nothing to change your lifestyle, your eating habits, or your unhealthy relationship to food. Also, I’m not a fan of putting exogenous hormones into the body, even if they are bio-identical. This practice suppresses our body’s own regulatory system. There’s just no way to predict the possible downstream effects of upsetting this complex and delicate system.
So please! If your friends rave about this diet to you, and brag about the 10 pounds they lost in 10 days, please don’t be taken in. There’s no way around what it takes to achieve healthy weight loss–a lifetime of sound food choices, a conscious relationship to food and eating, and regular exercise that fits your needs.