HCG Diet


Not surprisingly, the number one reason new patients schedule an appointment with me is for weight loss. And often times they are searching for someone who is offering the HCG program. The HCG diet is not new (it has been around since the 1950’s) and it goes in and out of fashion. As a Naturopathic Physician, I promote a long-term holistic diet and lifestyle approach to weight loss. But for those patients who need a quick weight loss plan that will be easier to maintain once they are feeling better, and those who cannot lose a pound despite serious diet and exercise, the HCG diet seems like a miracle cure.

HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone naturally produced by all men and women but it is found in highest amounts in pregnant women. The hormone is used by physicians to treat male and female infertility and to boost hormone production in men suffering from low testosterone production. But HCG is also used off-label as a weight loss aid. It is injected into the belly fat (using super tiny insulin syringes) in fraction doses combined with a strict 500 calorie diet to help mobilize stubborn fat stores. OK, stop right there you say! Shots? 500 calories? No thanks. But honestly the shots are totally painless and easy and the HCG suppresses your appetite. So the big payoff of ½-1 pound of weight loss per day is worth the small effort. This unique use of HCG was discovered by Dr. Simeons in Italy in the 50’s after observing malnourished women in poor countries delivering healthy babies without any detriment to their own health.  Dr. Simeons states, “It is well known that during pregnancy an obese woman can very easily lose weight. She can drastically reduce her diet without feeling hunger or discomfort and lose weight without in anyway harming the child in her womb. It is also surprising to what extent a woman can suffer from pregnancy-vomiting without coming to any real harm. It is only during pregnancy that fixed fat deposits can be freely drawn upon to make up for any nutritional deficit. During pregnancy every ounce of reserve fat is placed at the disposal of the growing fetus.  There is considerable evidence to suggest that it is the HCG produced in large quantities in the placenta which brings about this diencephalic change.”  Hence, the idea to use HCG (pregnancy hormone) to signal the body to release fat stores.

Dr. Simeons found that the key to trigger the release of these stubborn fat stores is calorie restriction. “In pregnancy, the needs of the growing embryo take care of this to some extent, but in the treatment of obesity there is no embryo, and so a very severe dietary restriction must take its place for the duration of the treatment.” Hence, the low calorie diet.

Now most people think this sounds ridiculous.  Of course you are going to lose weight on a 500 calorie a day diet! But there are a few key differences.  1. You would be starving and not able to maintain the diet more than a couple of days. With the added HCG patients rarely feel hungry. The daily use of HCG insures a steady flow of fat release to be used as fuel by the body. 2. When your body is severely calorie restricted, it will release your healthy fat stores first such as protective fat in the pads of your hands and feet, your spine, your face and burn healthy muscle. So often you will see people who are dieting that look depleted, hollowed out, and feel achy and tired, losing lean muscle tissue while still maintaining their muffin tops. With HCG, the healthy fat and muscle stores are preserved and the unhealthy fat stores are burned and released instead.

Ok, sure; sounds too good to be true, right? So what are the side effects? There are many positive effects from the HCG diet with, really, no side effects. The only side effects, such as headaches and fatigue, are mild and temporary during the first few days due to the detox process when you stop eating a highly processed diet. There is also some temporary constipation during the low calorie phase. If you don’t eat much you don’t poop much!  Some patients experience some leg cramps that can be addressed by adding in some electrolytes, and a small percentage of patients experience some hair thinning - the same as is seen in pregnancy and other weight loss diets. This is temporary and can be mitigated by taking a prenatal or multivitamin during the low calorie phase.

Some of the benefits include 20-30 pounds of weight loss for women and 30-40 pounds of weight loss for men with a typical 40 day round (yes! the diet works even better for men!).  Patients also notice lowering of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose back to healthy levels. Plus -- a decrease in food cravings, disappearance of cellulite, improvement of energy and mood, better sleep, and an overall sense of well-being.

The program consists of two phases:  The first phase lasts from 23-40 days (40 days in a row is the max) which consists of a daily injection of HCG you give to yourself. The first 2 days of the program are fat loading gorge days followed by the remaining days on a 500 calorie per day diet that excludes all fats/oils/carbs/sugar.  What? Gorge days? Yes! You get two days of eating anything you want as long as it is high in fat. This helps restore your healthy fat stores and decreases hunger during the next phase. The low-calorie phase consists of 2 meals a day (usually a lunch and dinner) with protein, veggies, and a piece of fruit. No strenuous exercise is needed but an hour of brisk walking per day is recommended to help you detox and mobilize the fat stores.

The second phase of the program is the Lock-in Maintenance phase. This 3 week phase is designed to help your body re-set at this new weight for the long-term. This phase is much easier since there is no calorie restriction and the only restricted foods are sugar/starch/carbohydrates.

Over the years there have been many different versions of the program -- some with added shakes and supplements, others with variations of the allowed foods. I stick to the original Dr. Simeons’s protocol which is very simple and basic because it works great!  Of course I make modifications as needed for each unique patient. The price of the diet also varies quite a bit.  Some clinics charge thousands of dollars for the program which includes lots of supplements. I just require payment for a regular office visit to discuss and review the program in detail with you, plus the cost of the HCG kit which ranges from $85-$120 depending on how many weeks you follow the plan.

For additional information on the HCG diet check out:

  • "The HCG Weight Loss Cure Guide" by Linda Prinster
  • "Pounds to Inches" by Dr. Simeons
  • "The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About" by Kevin Trudeau