There are many choices when it comes to weight loss. Diet plans abound, all promising to help individuals shed pounds and keep them off. Four years and 80 pounds ago, Paige (who asked that her last name not be used) heard about the hCG diet from her primary-care physician and decided to give it a try.

HCG is an abbreviation for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced during pregnancy and used to treat infertility. When injected or taken orally, and combined with a daily 500-calorie diet, proponents says the diet ‘resets the metabolism,’ allowing people to lose as much as a pound per day without feeling hungry or weak.

Under her physician’s supervision, Paige received three ‘rounds’ of hCG injections, each requiring a shot every day for three weeks, along with a strict diet. The rounds of injections were not consecutive, allowing several months in between, yet Paige has maintained her weight loss for more than two years since completing her last round, and has reset her eating habits along the way.

Although the 500-calorie-per-day diet that accompanies the injections is strict, Paige now eats three meals and two snacks per day, focusing on fruits and vegetables. She also notes that her cholesterol and blood sugar have dropped to healthy, stable levels. She refers friends who are interested in more information to Pounds and Inches: A New Approach to Obesity, published in 1954 by Dr. Albert Simeons, the originator of the hCG diet.

Despite success stories like Paige’s, many experts remain skeptical, and other individuals report regaining weight after completing the hCG protocol or experiencing unpleasant side effects. “There is no scientific proof that hCG will accelerate weight loss, redistribute fat or stop hunger pains,” says Danielle Glesne, a Missouri Baptist Medical Center outpatient dietitian. “Studies show that individuals receiving hCG while eating a 500-calorie diet lost the same amount of weight as those eating a 500-calorie diet without receiving hCG.”

In addition, severe calorie restriction is not endorsed by Glesne and many other medical professionals. “This diet is unable to be continued long-term, because it can lead to protein energy malnutrition, as well as many different vitamin and mineral deficiencies,” she says. “Many of the deficiencies have associated side effects, such as fatigue, bruising, moodiness, skin and hair problems, problems with sight, etc.”

Yet so many dieters have tried and failed to lose weight with various plans and tactics, they are willing to try almost anything. “My recommendation for a person who has failed at weight loss in the past is to start slow and be patient,” says Jamie Cassell, a St. Luke's Hospital registered dietitian. “Pick one unhealthy habit in your life to address at a time. For example, if you drink soda every day, try decreasing soda intake to three times per week. Then, decrease soda intake to one time per week. Once you feel comfortable with that behavior, you can focus on changing another habit, such as increasing physical activity and so on.”

Cassell cites the old cliché, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re frustrated with weight loss, she recommends talking with a dietitian who could help you come up with a healthy plan. “Healthy weight loss rates are on average between a half to two pounds per week. Anything much quicker than that makes it more likely that you will regain the weight.’

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