There are many crazy diets out there but hCG must be one of the most bizarre.
The basic concept is simple. Eat 500 calories of non-fat foods. Who wouldn’t lose weight on such a diet? Starvation will result in weight loss. Always.
There is more to the diet than the simple starvation rule though. Basically:
- Start out with 2 days of “loading” aka binge eating. High fat is recommended but most people do high carbs as well. Example of what one dieter ate in during her two days:
you have to really load up on fat and goodies…Really I ate like a mad woman and only gained 6lbs (I thought it would be closer to 20).
Breakfast the first day for me was
8 strips of bacon
4 eggs friend in the bacon
cheesy grits with tons of real butter and american cheese
cheese cake (about 1/2 of one)
pork ribs (about 14) boy were they goood
all sorts of sweets/brownies, cheesecake brownies/a cream cheese danish – the huge round one yummmmmy
I’m very sure there was more food here, but I just can’t recall
Full fat hamburger (I made it so it would be filled with fat and thick)
more cheesy grits
oreo cookies (the vanilla kind)
chinese pork fried rice
The 2nd day was a blur, but I had an entire cheesecake (cherry) for breakfast I know I had a foot long meatball sub with mozz cheese in there somewhere
- Enter the VLCD days and eat less than 500 calories for a period of 21 – 40 days.
- Next, do a lowcarb maintenance period of 3 weeks. Check the scale every day and more than 2 pounds weight gain warrants a “steak day” where only one steak and a tomato is allowed for dinner. No breakfast and no lunch.
- Finally, another 3 week period where carbs (except sugar and starches) are slowly reintroduced, again with carefully checking the scale for any gain and immediately correcting it.
- Repeat these four steps until desired weight is reached.
Most people don’t maintain well, and many skip the period when carbs are reintroduced and instead go back to loading and a new round of starvation.
Doesn’t this look like a prescription for an Eating Disorder?
While these basic phases seem simple, there are more very specific rules for the diet. There is a list of allowed non-fat foods for the 500 calorie plan and no deviation at all is allowed, no matter that the list was written 50 years ago by a British doctor in Italy, Dr. Simeons.
- Breakfast: Tea or coffee without sugar. 1 tbs milk. Saccharin or other sweeteners may be used.
- Lunch: 3.5 oz of veal, beef, chicken breast, white fish, lobster, crab, or shrimp; raw weight. All visible fat must be removed. One type of vegetable: spinach, chard, chicory, beet-greens, green salad, tomatoes, celery, fennel, onions, red radishes, cucumbers, asparagus, cabbage. (DO NOT MIX VEGGIES! Stalls are often blamed on dieters having TWO vegetables at the same meal.) One breadstick or one Melba toast. An apple, orange, handful of strawberries or half a grape-fruit.
- Dinner: Same choices as lunch.
It doesn’t stop there. No lotions or cosmetics with oil are permitted. People are even told to avoid handling fatty meat. They believe that enough fat is absorbed through the skin to cause weight gain, or a stall!
The homeopathic version, hhCG, has even more rules. These concern the handling of the drops or spray. The drops or sprays do not contain any hCG at all, just the “spirit” or “memory” of it, following homeopathic conventions. These “spirits” seem to be very sensitive. Gently tap the bottle, do not shake. Keep away from electronics and electrical fields. Don’t store it close to your PC, cell phone, TV, or anything else that may upset the spirits. Then they will not work. Oh, the spirit doesn’t like mint either. Avoid toothpaste or gum with mint!
The belief in hCG injections or hhCG is absolute. hCG is credited with:
- loss of appetite
- rapid weight loss
- muscle weakness
plus a host of other symptoms that all would show up following a 500 calorie starvation diet without hCG. Just ask the people that tried Kimkins. Or people that water fast.
I wonder if “the good Dr. Simeon” actually believed himself that the minuscule hCG dose administered had any effect. My guess is no. He just wanted his patients to believe it. How could he otherwise charge for the shots? Just telling them to eat 500 calories on their own would not help fill his pockets.
In some ways, the hCG diet is smarter than Kimkins. Kimkins was continuous starvation until goal, and/or illness, whichever occurred first. The hCG protocol tells you to stop the 500 calorie period after 21 – 40 days. Dr. Simeons claimed that the reason is that the body becomes immune to hCG at that point and extreme hunger develops.He said:
Though this phenomenon is well known, we cannot as yet define the underlying mechanism.
What a coincidence then that exactly the same thing happened on Kimkins without hCG. People did not have much problems with the restrictive VLDC until week 4 or 5.
It’s not immunity to the minuscule hCG dose (or the non-existent hCG in the homeopathic version) that occur. It’s the body screaming for nutrition! A completely natural response to starvation. That is the “underlying mechanism” that Dr. Simeons failed to understand.
Even Dr. Simeons himself admits that the diet is nutritionally bankrupt:
During treatment the patient has been only just above the verge of protein deficiency……..Unless an adequate amount of protein is eaten as soon as the treatment is over protein deficiency is bound to develop, and this inevitably causes the marked retention of water known as hunger-edema.
Another misconception is that the hCG somehow “resets the hypothalamus” so not only will weight loss be permanent but they are supposed to be able to eat like “normal” people as well. Dr. Simeons doesn’t say anything about the hypothalamus (I don’t know where that came from but it’s often repeated on hCG boards) and in fact, Dr. Simeons indicates that people do this diet over and over again.
Patients who have once taken the treatment never seem to hesitate to come back for another short course as soon as they notice that their weight is once again getting out of hand. They come quite cheerfully and hopefully, assured that they can be helped again.
I think this diet is dangerous. Even when limiting to 3 or 4 weeks, the 7 oz (raw weight) protein is not enough to prevent muscle loss. I also think it promotes disordered eating. Two days of binging, followed by starvation and then a LC period where regain is common.
And when you look at the average weight loss over the entire 9 weeks diet, it is not very impressive compared to other diets. Dr. Simeons suggests 0.5 pounds per day for the average woman. So, 21 days x 0.5 lbs = 10.5 lbs (minus any gain from the “loading”). Then six more weeks of maintaining (which few do). This is only a little over a pound per week!
Why not settle for a reasonable, healthy diet that can be followed long term? Yo-yo dieting always seems to end up with a resulting weight gain and a never ending cycle of starvation and binges.