At one point or another, we have all said, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Many of us apply this piece of knowledge to deals at retail stores, sales calls and even occasionally our personal relationships. But what about our health? In a world where a woman’s worth seems to be judged on the size of her clothing, we find ourselves more and more willing to jeopardize our health for a quick beauty fix. This hazardous behavior is especially noticeable in our diets, and there is currently no bandwagon more popular for jumping on than the HCG Diet.
The HCG Diet is a mix of hormones and a very specific low calorie meal plan that promises a weight loss of 1.5 – 2 pounds a day. The diet originated in the early 1950’s by a Dr. Albert Simeons who discovered the combination while doing endocrinology based research overseas. The hormone in the HCG Solution can be administered through injections and diluted “organic” drops, and is basically nothing more than a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women. It is believed that when combined with a strict low-fat diet of no more than 500 calories a day, these drops promote not only rapid weight loss, but weight loss from problem areas such as the abdomen, hips and thighs. So, ready to call your local HCG facility and get your weight loss going? Read this first.
After speaking with two health professionals, a very daunting light was shed on this weight loss phenomenon. According to Board certified gastroenterologist, internist and nutritionist Dr. Gerard Mullin from John Hopkins University, the HCG diet can result in rapid weight loss; however, it can also result in “cardiovascular disorders, metabolic disorders and gallstones.”
Joe Cannon, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, agrees. Cannon claims that in addition to the serious medical conditions that Dr. Mullin describes, the HCG diet can also lead to “low blood sugar, fatigue, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, headaches, reduced ability to exercise, reduced energy for day-to-day activities and an overall decrease in metabolic rate.”
Both specialists seem to agree that the diet is little more than a semi-starvation diet and that no real studies have shown that the drops are truly effective. Sure, if you are consuming nothing more than 500 calories each day, even without the HCG hormone, it is more than likely that you will see initial dramatic weight loss. However, eating only 500 calories a day starves your body. This starvation leads to two possible consequences: First, the diet can become too restrictive to continue, causing you to return to old habits, therefore resulting in all of the weight (plus more) regained, or second, your metabolic rate can decrease to a point where eventually you will need to remain on the 500 calorie diet simply to maintain the weight loss and will need to either further reduce calories or increase activity in order to continue losing.
As if serious medical conditions and a ruined metabolism were not enough to just say no, the hormone itself can be dangerous. Let’s think about this for a moment. You are either being injected with or self-administering drops that have a hormone in them taken from a pregnant woman. Do you know this pregnant woman? Do you know if you have an allergy to whatever else might be mixed with the hormone? Chances are the answer is no.
While both Dr. Mullin and Mr. Cannon agree that the HCG program is unsafe, they also agree that if you are determined to try it, the injections are the better choice. While you still run the risk of certain health disasters with the injections, at the very least they are administered by a health care professional. The drops, on the other hand, are typically self-administered and usually purchased online. That means that not only do you have no idea who or where the drops came from, you also have no real guarantee that what you are ingesting is the HCG hormone.
Of course, one additional danger of this diet, much like many others, is that it teaches poor habits. “The danger of this diet is that it does not teach people how to eat healthy,” Cannon said.
Dr. Mullin too believes that the focus should never be on rapid weight loss but instead on changing bad habits and learning how to be healthy. “Our diets are not wholesome and are high in processed foods,” Mullin said. “Foods high in poorly absorbed sugars such as lactose and fructose are notorious for causing health problems, especially GI ones.”
So what is the answer to the weight loss puzzle? The truth is that it’s a combination of lifestyle changes. First, we must learn to be realists. If it took you six months to gain 20 pounds, it is not likely you will lose it all in one. Secondly, keep calories in check. Know exactly how many calories you really need each day and do your best to not go over or under that amount. Thirdly, fill your diet with healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, beans and nuts. And lastly, move your body. When combined with proper diet, there is no greater miracle worker than exercise to build a beautiful body. Make it a combination of cardio, strength training and stretching and you’ll be on your way to personal perfection in no time!