This is a guest article written by Anchorage’s top personal trainer and natural bodybuilder Steph Figarelle:
As a personal trainer who encourages healthy diet choices and a consistent exercise regime for everyone, I have a hard time jumping on the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) diet bandwagon and find the controversy surrounding it frustrating. hCG is a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women in their first trimester of pregnancy, as well as in the pituitary gland of males and females of all ages at a lower concentration. I’ve read several empirical research articles and heard countless success stories from people who have lost a significant amount of weight following this “diet plan,” so I understand that it may have a short-term success rate, however I’m still convinced the diet is a quick fix.
I believe it’s a “quick fix” in the sense that it does not teach healthy, long-term behavior changes, as the results are immediate with some people losing as much as 5 LBS per day. The 500 calorie a day food protocol deprives the body of many important macronutrients, which may ultimately lead to malnutrition, a slowed metabolism, eating disorders and the long-term side effects of hCG are still unknown. Injecting or supplementing with an unnecessary hormone is a recipe for endocrine disaster, in my opinion. Too much mystery surrounds the side effects for this program to be worth sacrificing one’s health.
The most concerning thing with the HGC diet is that those in desperate need of losing body fat are willing to jeopardize their health by succumbing to the unknown in order to lose weight. Not only that, but what is their plan for keeping the weight off when the diet ends? Eating between 500-550 calories per day will limit the amount of stored muscle glycogen and ultimately brain fuel, thus restricting many activities in daily life. No exercise, limited social gatherings, and difficulty focusing at work and school will all have profound negative effects on a person’s life over time. Have the consequences of these things been addressed?
Ironically, the use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) for building muscle are considered “cheating” and typically viewed as taboo in our society, yet hCG needle injections, pills, and homeopathic liquids are all considered acceptable fat loss supplements. There has been countless research done in double-blind studies where the appetite suppressing component of homeopathic hCG is no more effective than a placebo, and it’s difficult to decipher if the weight-lost from the diet is actual fat or lean muscle tissue. This is concerning since having a lean, strong, and capable body is the most sought after goal of almost all men and women.
Consistent behavior changes need to be made for long term weight loss success and the comprehensive understanding of fitness and nutrition need to be prioritized to ensure a long, healthy life. This requires reading books, taking classes, possibly working with a personal trainer and/or nutritionist in order to gain the full understanding of the human body. Taking responsibility of one’s health means educating and empowering oneself without being left at the mercy of an unpredictable, perhaps unsafe fad diet. The most troubling fact about fad diets is their inability to capture our attention for very long. If the hCG diet, and all others like it were long term, successful weight loss routes, then obesity would not be the prolific disease that it is in our society. Everyone would have a healthy, fantastic body without resorting to yo-yo. Fad diets like hCG do not address the cause of obesity, and therefore do not offer direction in the way of successful change. Not only that, but reaching out for a quick fix reinforces society’s free pass to avoid doing things “the hard way.” Increasing our level of activity and choosing healthy foods day in and day out should be the goal, without being tempted to take a pill or potion in order to receive instant gratification in the way of decreased scale weight in a matter of days. This is an unrealistic approach to fat loss and a dangerous reinforcer to seeking out a healthy lifestyle.
My advice? Take the hard route. This route entails increased caloric expenditure in the way of cardiovascular exercise and an appropriate strength training routine, along with a balanced diet. It requires educating yourself about the food you eat, and becoming consciously aware of food choices that can make or break your success. It also requires a proactive plan for keeping body fat at bay, while building a strong body. This route is not a quick fix, in fact it may take months or even years longer to attain than the results that the hCG diet promises. However, the changes you make each day by taking yourself out of your comfort zone and going about it with old fashioned hard work and discipline will teach you long term behavior changes that will be virtually impossible to change. If more people adopted this approach and chose to buck the fad diet trend, we could almost eliminate any possibility of being misled by this dieting nonsense altogether.