Let me start this off by saying that I’m usually not a judgmental person. I’m just.. not. I feel like educated people should be able to make educated decisions about their lives without unsolicited criticism or influence from others. I also feel like after a certain age, you should be given the benefit of the doubt and it should be assumed that we’re all very intelligent. Hence.. I don’t judge. However.. for some reason, when it comes to health and fitness, this line is blurry for me. Why? Because even the most intelligent of individuals are still out there committing the most egregious of sins when it comes to health. I’m not talking about eating a whole bag of cheetos or slaughtering a whole pie. I’m talking about stuff like the HCG diet.
Table of Contents
- What is the HCG diet?
- What does the HCG injection do?
- Are there any significant HCG studies to review?
- Why is this 50 year old “diet” being reintroduced as new?
- What makes this so unhealthy?
What IS the HCG diet?
Well, let me tell you. It consists of injections of HCG in your ass, and 500 calories a day. Ta da!
Wait… that’s it?
I can hear you asking it in your head. Of course that’s it.
Taking a look at HowStuffWorks gives a pretty thorough understanding of what the diet hopes to accomplish for any of it’s participants:
Shifting into the HCG diet is likely to be quite a lifestyle change. Participants are required to cut their caloric intake to roughly 500 calories and take a daily injection of HCG hormones. More water, vegetables and fiber in the daily meal plan is said to accelerate the weight loss [source: HCG Weight Loss]. There is no established exercise regimen, and the duration of the diet is up to the individual, as the plan dictates that the rules be followed until the target goal is reached.
The original HCG diet plan is quite restrictive and particular. For breakfast, you can have only tea or coffee without sugar. The diet puts a one-tablespoon limit on how much milk you can consume each day, so if you require milk with your coffee and tea, you’ll want to keep this in mind. For lunch and dinner, you can cook 100 grams (.22 pounds) of lean meat or seafood and pair it with one vegetable from this list of 13: asparagus, beet greens, cabbage, celery, chard, chicory, cucumbers, fennel, green salad, onions, red radishes, spinach and tomatoes. For lunch and dinner, you can eat one toast cracker and an orange, apple, half a grapefruit or strawberries [source: Goldsmith].
That explains the eating habits and how, on Earth, you’re expected to survive on 500 calories. But what about the injections? What is HCG? Ask HCGWeightLoss how this stuff works, and they’ll tell you the following:
In overweight people, HCG seeks out the stored nutrients in the fat cells. Liquefying the content of the fat cell, these nutrients are then flushed through the bloodstream. This naturally stored energy supplies the body with upwards to 2000 calories per day. While burning this stored energy, the body’s energy level increases and appetite decreases. The cells are emptied and shrunk down to sizes much smaller than normal cells. Therefore, inches, as well as pounds are lost on the program. — HCGWeightLoss
Let’s talk about that whole HCG thing. HCG stands for human Chorionic Gonadtrophin. You know how, when a woman believes they’re pregnant, they go and snag a pregnancy test? Well, those tests are looking for HCG, because it’s the chemical that pregnancy produces in the human body. According to The Daily Spark, it’s possible that HCG serves to break down stored abdominal fat to be used as an energy source for a growing fetus, thereby increasing the budding mom’s metabolism. This is why it’s assumed that HCG can do the same for the non-pregnant (quite a term, ain’t it?) as well. It’s also generated in the human body as an indicator of some cancers [Source: UFB], as well as a tumor. It can be prescribed by a doctor to increase fertility, as well as aid in the production of testosterone for men. Needless to say, it has its beneficial uses.
Notice I didn’t say anything about weight loss. Why? Because I can’t find any study to back that claim. In fact, a trip to the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website produced a study titled The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis.
Guess what that said?
We conclude that there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss of fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being.
Got another. Guess what it said?
There was no statistically significant difference between those receiving HCG vs placebo during any phase of this study…
HCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed regimen for weight reduction.
Keep in mind, the daily injections of HCG are supposed to be the mitigating factor in whether or not you can handle getting by on 500 calories a day. If there is study after study after study after study that says it’s not possible, how are these people getting by? Apparently, there are people all over that are getting by on this diet, so what’s the deal?
I have a personal guess. You know how, if you go out of town for an extended period of time – say, for a conference or something – and your eating habits change drastically because you have to accommodate your new temporary schedule? You ever experience that feeling of, I don’t know, comfort or complacency accepting the changes in your eating habits? Maybe it’s attributed to mind over matter, maybe it’s your body getting used to the changes, maybe the lack of calories just konked out your ability to understand what you’re doing to yourself. Either way… the HCG can’t help you. Period. Your body is simply trying to accept the deficiency you’re forcing on it – and it may do a good job of accepting it at first – but you’re not becoming “less hungry” because of the shots.
The NHLBI advocates that a healthy weight loss plan will include cutting your caloric intake by anywhere from 500-1000 calories. Considering how the average person takes in about 2000 calories in one day (very base assumption) and it only takes 3500 calories to lose one pound… if you cut down to 500 calories in a day, it’s not going to take too long to see weight start falling off. Right? The deficiency of at LEAST 1500 calories is going to ensure that you lose at least one pound every two days.
Why is this 50 year old “diet” being reintroduced now?
I believe I can also answer that. You know the guy — yeah, the one with no medical credentials whatsoever — on the late night infomercials peddling the “natural cures” book that talks about how to save on prescriptions by instead going a more holistic route in regard to health? Well, his name is Kevin Trudeau and he’s taken up the task of reintroducing the HCG diet to the masses. In 2007, he wrote a book about how HCG is “the weight loss plan they don’t want you to know about.” His whole shtick is promoting cures that the government doesn’t/won’t advocate because the government is SO in bed with the pharmaceutical/food industry, they’re not going to promote something that will hurt their buddies’ profit margins. Regardless of whether or not I think there’s truth to that (I’m sure you’ll figure it out in my future posts), he’s profiting off of the fears and paranoias of the public. The FTC makes it their business to publish press releases about how much of a crook he is… and I’d hate to forget the lawsuit.
I’ll make it easy for you, so you can get a quick glimpse of the FTC’s beef with him:
During the ads, Trudeau claims that the weight loss plan outlined in the book is easy to do, can be done at home, and ultimately allows readers to eat whatever they want. However, when consumers purchase the book, they find it describes a complex, grueling plan that requires severe dieting, daily injections of a prescription drug that consumers cannot easily get, and lifelong dietary restrictions.
Why is this so unhealthy, though?
Because you’re not a gerbil. You’re a human being… and if you’re living a regular day as a carnivorous individual, you’re not going to be able to function on the portion sizes that 500 calories would allow you. A better question would be, “Why is the injection so pointless?” Now, that? I can answer:
When hCG was tested, it was compared to a placebo which included the Very Low Calorie Diet. And yes, VLCDs work. You will lose weight on one. Guidance and support can also be very helpful for weight loss; that’s why programs like Weight Watchers have regular meetings and weigh ins. Frankly, if you have to be accountable to someone for your successes and failures, you tend to be a little more serious about making an effort.
But what the clinical data shows is that when you compare the results of people on a VLCD and those on a VLCD and hCG, there is no perceptible difference—in weight loss, in perceived hunger, in anything.
In other words, it is the low calorie diet, possibly in conjunction with the regular support and guidance, that is responsible for the weight loss.
Not the hCG shots.
And even if it were effective, it would not be easy to obtain. You’d need regular intramuscular injections, a “friendly” doctor to prescribe it for “off label” usage, and it would cost you and arm and a leg. — UFB
I have my complaints about supplements, but I will save those for another rant. Why? Because I’m well over 1500 words on this one. The bottom line is this: considering injecting your body with a foreign substance all as a means of tricking it into undoing the years of damage you’ve BEEN doing to it… is not the answer to your weight loss problems. It simply isn’t. Trying to circumvent the process of healthy eating and regular activity will cost you every time, and seeing as how these injections and “treatments” are getting more and more radical by the day… following the wrong trend can cost you your life. Be happy, be healthy, but most of all.. be smart. : )
Unbelievable. 500 calories? Sheed 🙂 Great entry. Cheese and supplements, let’s go!
Your comments make a great deal of sense and I would normally agree- except this HCG original protocol actually works. I have done it 3 times – made many food mistakes the first time, lost 13 pounds….second time was much better and lost 20 pounds and now am on my third and last round. It is actual more of a medical protocol than a diet. It is very straight forward with no leeway to be inventive. With the significant medical risks that overweight can create, I am delighted to found a consistent fundamentally easy way – not based upon some superhuman will power or hope- to forever lose weight gained later in life and return to a normal little size. After completing the protocol, you have reset yourself- changed your body chemistry…
Just another perspective [ was searching a something regarding HCG and came upon your post.] Best
Oops forgot to add that the cost is quite reasonable if you get on the forums and locate the right suppliers and one can do it themselves – great free support forums, low cost forums and more . I did it that way and had a total phobia regarding needles.
Lydia, thanks for visiting! I appreciate your comments, but again… I disagree wholeheartedly for reasons I’ve already listed in the blog entry.
The hCG is a scam. You don’t need a shot in your ass to lose weight off of a 500 calorie a day diet. I’ve already listed clinical studies that show that it has yet to be seen that hCG can do anything for metabolism OR weight loss in general.
A consistently easy way to lose weight and keep it off would be changing one’s eating habits and taking advantage of a healthily active life, not a quick crash-and-burn diet. Calling it a “medical protocol” absolutely does not change what it is – it is 500 calories a day. Clearly, you don’t intend to continue it on for the rest of your life. It is an extremely low-calorie diet. No “medical professional” worth their degree (if their degree is worth anything) will OK that.
Will power isn’t about “superhuman strength.” It is a muscle – much like the ones in our bodies – that has to be used in order to gain strength. If you can’t control your eating habits, what is a shot in your ass going to do for you? What is 500 calories a day going to do for you? You can’t control the thing that is causing you to gain/keep the weight in the first place! I’m sorry, I wholeheartedly reject the notion that the hcg works, or is actually beneficial for long-term weight resolution.
Best of luck to you, though, and thank you for stopping by!
Its now June 2014, my question to Lydia is……so have you lost all the weight you’ve desired to lose in 2009 from the HCG? And if so, have you kept it off and maintained a healthy lifestyle? Or, are you consistently using the shots? I agree with Erika and am curious. Because if you still struggling with the weight issues due to your diet and exercise and other internal issues……the HCG DOES NOT WORK!
We are in a capitalistic society and we, for the most part, are mindless sheep waiting for the easiest way to get what we want. As long as it is legal of course. I’ve always said that I wanted to sell pills full of bee pollen for a reasonable price but also give a book about proper diet and exercise for free. Make the public kinda believe the pills and the proper way should always go together. Like they wouldn’t lose weight anyway. Especially market it to fat people who do not know any better.
IMO, it makes ZERO sense to take HCG and do the proper things. It’s a waste of money and it is a serious mindf@ck. Tricking yourself into dependency. It’s a crutch and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Great article and great response Erika.
I now see the better way to share my experience .
1. I am 56 not in my 20s.
2. Been thin all my life until my 40s [ so basically no bad eating or life habits.]
3. Had children, lost weight after and kept off.
4. Then hormones, stress etc began to take a toll.
5. I tried for 10 years to rebalance naturally – am a great raw chef [ with meat/fish added] studied all different approaches – eating, spiritual, physiological and could not break the situation.
6. For me at my age, HCG was a blessing, a gift.
At your age, you are right to pursue and encourage others to rebalance themselves in a long term way of healthy eating, and lifestyle.
May I suggest though that in some cases, maybe if your mother or grandmother is at high risk with diabetes, that there is another way. Rants are great – just realize that if someone you love is suffering greatly – this is not a scam – it is another alternative for which I am grateful each day. Many are helping others for free as they also are so grateful.
I am actually healthier with my hormones now as this approach specifically offers the body a rest.
Love you energy, love the picture and truly wish you well in your life
Gina, I agree completely about the capitalistic society and the resulting scams especially to us. What happens when something real comes along? we react as though it is a scam. However, truth sometimes bubbles up as people themselves see results. May not be right for you but may be a life saver for many. Best
Lydia, I’m beginning to wonder exactly what brought you here. We’ve discussed this via e-mail as well and you tapped out there, tacitly insulting me. What’s the point?
The bottom line with your list of descriptions in regards to your “experience” is that you, apparently, DID have bad eating habits. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have put the weight on the way you did in the first place. I’m sorry, looking at the information you gave me here as well as on the side, I can see that clearly. Raw lifestyle with meat (?) aside, you were doing something wrong.
This isn’t about age, and I refuse to let you introduce that into the equation as if it’s a means of discrediting my stance and my research. Scientific studies have proved over and over and over again that hcg works no better than your typical placebo! Your “success” is due to a 500 calorie diet. Not a miracle drug. This isn’t a rant. It is a stance based off of scientific studies that I compiled. What more is it going to take for you to stop crediting a drug you barely understand (I KNOW you barely understand it because scientists barely understand it… can’t tell what it does in the body, just knows what it does NOT do) with your weight loss?
I would NEVER recommend something as nebulous as hcg to any woman I loved. My mother suffered from high blood pressure and high cholesterol (common in many Black women her age… hell, it’s common in Black women MY age), and I personally assisted her in becoming healthier and more fit. We did that together with walking every day and changing her eating habits.
Lastly, I am happy – really, I am – that your 500 calorie diet has worked for you. However, I know it’s simply not real. And even if it were, by some strange stretch of the imagination? As I told you via e-mail, I will never endorse or condone any method for weight loss that costs one pink penny. Ever. Weight loss is free, and can easily be done in the comfort of one’s own home. I will never use this blog to condone laziness on the part of the person struggling with weight, because allowing a woman to maintain a lazy demeanor while still “losing weight” only practically ENSURES that she will gain it back. 50 isn’t “too old” to get a handle on that. The man who first encouraged me to set out on my OWN fitness journey, no matter how fat I was? He was 61.
Thank you very much for the compliments, though! Even though we thoroughly disagree on this, I appreciate them and your ability to still give them. 🙂
Gina, it is absolutely a crutch. Someone’s making money off of it, though. I’ve always said Capitalism is making money off of doing things for people that they don’t believe they can do themselves. Having said that….LOL.
Lydia, as for your second comment.. your results are not due to hcg. I’m sorry. Have a lovely day. 🙂
Editors’ Note: Hi, Rhea! When you can match my studies with studies, then we can talk. As the rules dictate, anecdotal evidence doesn’t work around here.
Have a wonderful day! 🙂
I used the HCG diet 7 years ago and lost 98 pounds in 10 months I went from a size 22 to an 8 🙂 However I found the diet very hard to maintain. Plus it cost me $3,000.00. I see where Lydia is coming from because I used it. But I also see “your point” as well why inject yourself and eat in a way you can NOT keep up for the rest of your life. Why because I gained 90 pounds of it back :(… I am learning to things in the natural way now and just LOVE your blog.
I thought long and hard about whether or not to let your comment go through, but I am going to do so for one big reason:
The cost is much too high, you gained NINETY pounds after coming down off the diet, and you’re back exactly where you started… only now, you’re short $3,000 dollars, too.
It’s so ridiculous to me – injecting yourself with synthetic chemicals and eating 500 calories a day. You’re GOING to lose weight. I lost 100lbs in approximately 10 months, too, without injecting some foreign substance in my body, too. Really.. it’s very rare that I chastise things this toughly, but this one just takes the cake on the level of ludicrousness. I just can’t even start with this one.
Brandi, thank you so much for sharing your story and I DO hope you stick around and can gather some tidbits to help you in your every day life… because if I can prevent ONE person from going back to this silly farcical scam diet, I feel like I’ve lived out my purpose in life. Jeez.
Thank you Erika,
It took 3 years to gain it all back… The point here is with the HCG “you don’t have to exercise”. That should have been a HUGE clue for me. I thank you for letting me speak :).
I look forward to your blogs every single day. You are truly an inspiration to know you can lose that much naturally and in that amount of time. You give such hope and I’ll keep you posted sis.
Thank you again for a wonderful blog. I have passed it along to some good friends.
I stumbled upon this blog because I had heard about the Hcg diet. It all sounds wonderful; but, I’m always afraid of the aftermath. I lost a lot of weight years ago just by portion size and exercise. My decision to research the potential of trying this diet simply came from wanting to lose it quicker, which I know in my intellectual mind equals the quicker you lose the higher the probability of gaining it back and more. My question to you is, how did you lose the weight. I would be more interested in hearing about your success. Thank you. I appreciate the post, it has left me with the information I needed to make an educated decision. I believe in thoroughly researching anything that I want to try before I dive into it. Last comment…the thing that got me when I read the Pounds and Inches article they recommend you read, I find it hard to give up my lotion, my make up and oils. I need oil in my hair.
I know I’m late responding to this but it’s such a good post. I’ve always been suspicious of this HCG diet. Especially when several of my friends purchased the hcg protocol that their church leaders sold to them for a nice not so small fee. My first response after hearing the details was shoot, youre going to loose weight based off of the reduced calorie intake alone! Such a scam. It just made me angry how this local church was profiting from it and making their members poorer.
I tried HCG and lost weight, I also lost some of my hair, messed up my digestive system and I almost stabbed my fiance’ with a fork at Cracker Barrel over a biscuit with butter. The 10lbs I lost was sooo not worth it. I started Weight Watchers and I’ve lost more weight with this program, but I am now looking at leaving the crutches behind. I know how to eat better, it was just easier to eat the wrong thing. Love the site and I’m having great fun exploring it. Also I did the diet with four other women. All of them have gained the weight back.
I did the HCG diet (because my cousin had so much success) and lost. Attempted to do a 2nd round (because i am well over where i should be for weight) and got extremely sick my 2nd time around. We tend to do desperate things when we want a quick fix. I ended up gaining about 1/2 the weight back that i loss which is how i eneded up on your site which has been such a miracle and a blessing for me. I will never again try to take the easy road thats for sure!
Hi Erika, I just wanted to say Thanks for the post. As a fitness professional, I hate the HCG diet and every time I get asked about it I have to retrain myself from going off. I think its about the biggest scam ever. Its a relief to see someone share the same distain for this garbage. One of my biggest problems with it is the lack of workouts, you obviously eat up muscle with that little of calories, and when you gain the weight back, you end up with more fat and less muscle, leaving you more unhealthy and more unbalanced hormones and chemicals in your body. Keep it up!!
P.S. I was actually searching for a study showing that it actually did work, haven’t found one yet. I’m in the process of doing some articles and videos on this topic and was curious to see if they had published any recently. Nope.
My first question is… Have you completed a round of Hcg? If the answer is no than any comments you have…
Editor’s note: LMAO No. All that silliness you’ve just typed basically boils down to:
“If you haven’t done this thing whose results are completely and utterly attributable to the placebo effect, then the only thing you’re relying on is science.”
A drug that could’ve been capitalized off of by any number of pharmaceutical companies still has not a SINGLE positive scientific peer-reviewed study on the market… results that could’ve been completely attributed to placebo… you’re asking questions, but you’re asking the wrong person.
You don’t even know what you’re injecting into yourself…but I’m the one who needs anything? Whew, you people are a trip.
I tried HCG myself, did two rounds. I knew it was a ridiculous fad diet but I was desperate and wanted to see quick results. First round I lost 20 pounds. Second round only 4. The problem was that by the second round I was sick of the restrictive diet and my mind rebelled. I knew what I was doing was stupid and so I ‘cheated’ on the diet. I put cheating in quotes because what is considered cheating on this diet would be considered normal healthy eating my most people. What kind of stupid diet won’t allow you to have a salad with more than just lettuce? It was too ridiculous and I basically sabotaged myself and I’m glad I did. It’s not worth it.
A friend asked me how I lost the weight and I was honest. I told her what I did and that I would never recommend this diet to anyone because even if you lose weight this is not the way to do it. You really have no idea what you’re doing to your body and what problems this may cause in the long run. I’ve since started going to the gym regularly and trying to eat healthier, still a work in progress which is why I’m on this site. One thing that some people don’t tell you about when they’re on this diet is that you have no life. You can’t go out for a bite or a drink with friends, can’t use anything on your body that contains oils, so no moisturizers for the skin or hair, no makeup, no baby oil. It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely bloody ridiculous. NEVER AGAIN.
So, basically you’re walking around, starving, ashy, hair all over your head and with a sore butt from the injections….no wonder Nika tried to stab someone with a fork!! I would have snapped too!
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