I get asked a lot of funny questions in my line of work. Most of them go something along the lines of “What can I do to lose weight really quickly?”, or “How do I get rid of this cellulite/ muffin top/ back fat/ stretch marks etc?”.
But I have to admit the strangest one by far came last week: What do I think of the hCG diet? What?? The only hCG I know is from my days of biochemistry: “hCG”- the so-called pregnancy hormone. This is the hormone we test for with a blood test to see if a lady is pregnant. The levels rise quickly early in the pregnancy, and taper off later on. Its so pregnancy specific, a positive lab test can be done before the lady in question even thinks she might be pregnant.
So, what does this “new” diet entail? Well, first of all, its not new. It was first tried out in the sixties, and nothing much about it has changed since then.
Basically how it works (or not!), is that it is an extremely restrictive diet, with followers limited to only 500 Calories per day. That is starvation levels. Even in the most restrictive of diets, women are not recommended to drop their Calorie intake below 1200Cal. So how do they manage this? By receiving injections or oral drops of the hormone hCG, synthetic of course. This fools the body into thinking its pregnant, and in the presence of the very low Calorie intake, fat stores are released to ensure the little (non-existant) baby still gets enough Calories.
Now, common sense should make us ask a few pertinent questions. Like, what happens if a man goes on the diet? Or a menopausal or post-menopausal woman? A teenage girl?
Unfortunately I can’t answer those questions but I can tell you this. It is never, ever, a good idea to a) take hormones you don’t need , and b) starve yourself.
Aside from all the dangers we know about of hormone-related diseases such as cancer, low Calorie diets come with their own set of pitfalls. Like fatigue, nausea, constipation, hair loss. Now we can add to that the side effects that have been reported by followers of this diet, headaches, blood clots, breast swelling (even in males), water retention. Sounds just like, well, pregnancy.
And then there’s the trap we all know about. When you fall off a very restrictive diet, your body goes nuts for food, and stores every spare Calorie and you end up gaining most, if not all, of your weight back. Sometimes with interest.
The FDA has not approved hCG as a weight loss drug, and even go so far as to say it should not even be sold as homeopathic weight loss solution. It is ineffective, and dangerous. Most studies of this dietary method show no difference in weight loss between two groups of subjects on the same diet, but one group on the drops, one taking a placebo.
This diet is possibly one of the most unhealthy that I have ever heard of, and you should certainly ask yourself some very serious questions if you are willing to put your body at such risk in order to lose weight. And it’s not a cheap diet. So take that money and invest it in a nutritionist, a trainer, a GP and maybe even a psychologist. Get yourself a first-class team behind you to help you achieve your goals the healthy and permanent way.
Next time I will discuss the 5.2 diet, which although not ideal, makes a lot more sense than this one! Until then, some light heartedness to make you giggle:
Lady to friend over the phone: ” I finally lost 90kg of useless fat!”
Second lady:”How on earth did you manage to do that?”
First lady:”I divorced him!”
Stay happy, stay healthy!