“Eight days until I can have a cheese stick,” receptionist Erica Wilson says as she bites into her second of six apples for the day.
“I want that cheese stick,” she pleads, only partly joking. On the 16th day of her 21-day diet, she has hit a plateau (a period of not losing weight because the body has entered “starvation mode” and begun to conserve fat).
The remedy for hitting a plateau? According to the diet plan that Wilson and three other faculty members are on, eat six apples or one steak that entire day.
But Wilson is determined. So far she has made her 21-day goal and lost 20 of the 60 pounds she wants to in total.
Prompted by society’s obsession with the “lose weight quick!” diet, fads such as the Atkins, Dukan and South Beach diets come by storm and often leave a whirlwind of disappointment in their wake.
So perhaps the now widely popular Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HGC) diet will follow the same trajectory.
However, so far this diet has worked for the faculty. PE teacher Michelle Myers ended the diet in March of 2012 and has kept off the 32 pounds she lost.
In 1954, Dr. A. T. W. Simeons published “Pounds & Inches: A New Approach to Obesity,” an article promoting the use of HGC for weight loss.
In the article, Simeons concluded that patients on this diet burn fat instead of lean muscle tissue with a calorie-restrictive diet.
Now the plan has resurfaced. After learning about the diet from Myers, three other faculty members have tried the diet.
Myers began the diet in January of 2012.
“I had a medical condition that was causing edema and bloating of the stomach,” Myers said.
“After having surgery to remove those, I thought all would go back to normal and my hormones would start to mellow out.”
To her surprise, the weight didn’t come off. After her nutritionist and endocrinologist suggested the diet, Myers researched the product for approximately a year and read Simeons’s book.
“(It) really demystified a lot of programs with clinical research,” Myers said.
“There are lots of HCG diets out there, so you have to be a very educated consumer. I checked the FDA website and the one I chose to use was not listed on their banned site,” Myers said.
Within two months, Myers had lost 30 pounds, and, after over a year off the plan, she has kept off the weight by continuing to eat healthily and work out regularly.
Myers has proven to be a sort of coach, nutritionist and personal cheerleader for others as well. Sue Nellis, head of high school, is nearing the end of the 45-day plan and admits the difficulty of maintaining the program.
“Just getting through school every day is a lot,” Nellis said. “It’s a challenge, but the nice thing about having a quick weight loss program is that it keeps you going because you can really see the results.”
Nellis was previously part of the after-school cross-fit class for faculty. However, after developing knee problems she could not continue with her exercise regimen.
Because the diet is restrictive in diet and lifestyle, Nellis plans to return to her previous exercise routine once her knee heals.
Art teacher Patricia Kelly spent 57 days on the diet last fall. She has maintained a weight loss of over 30 pounds.
Although multiple websites offer different variations of the plan, faculty members follow the plan set by www.officialhcgdietplan.com.
The HCG drops are sold in liquid form —$60 for a 15-day-plan, $79 for 21, $99 for 45 and $129 for 90—and come with a diet guide and recipe.
The diet consists of three phases. According to the website, Phase One (or, as the website calls it, the “gorging days”) consists of two days of eating as per usual while taking the drops.
Phase Two (the dieting portion of the plan) is strict, with participants limited to a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) of 500 calories per day and other lifestyle restrictions (not drinking alcohol and limiting exercise or eliminating it altogether, for example).
Consuming so few calories per day seems absurd to nutritionists, who often advise that women eat approximately 2,000 calories per day.
In his book, Simeons explains how a person can maintain such a low-calorie diet without health effects.
“In the HCG method the deficit is made up from the abnormal fat-deposits, of which 1 pound furnishes the body with more than 2000 Calories,” Simeons wrote.
In essence, Simeons states that while on HCG the body will turn to fat deposits to burn for energy when a person doesn’t consume enough to sustain everyday functions.
The most controversial part of the diet is the HCG itself.
HCG has been proven and FDA-approved only to aid in female infertility, as it induces ovulation. (The website states that the low doses administered in the plan have no noticeable effect on those on the diet.)
According to the FDA’s website, the only FDA-approved HCG products are available in injection form and require a doctor’s prescription.
The types of drops being sold, however, are not prescribed by doctors and are taken sublingually (absorbed under the tongue).
In December of 2011, the FDA published a consumer report stating the dangers of the product. In the report, the FDA mentioned the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States: a document that lists active substances that may be included in homeopathic drug products.
According to the report, HCG is not on this list and cannot be legally sold as a homeopathic medication for any purpose.
The FDA states that the VLCD is what is causing the weight loss, rather than the HCG and warns those using HCG for weight loss to “stop using it, throw it out, and stop following the dieting instructions.”
In addition, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued seven letters to companies warning them that they are selling illegal homeopathic HCG weight-loss drugs that have not been approved by the FDA, and that make unsupported claims.
“There is no substantial evidence HCG increases weight loss beyond that resulting from the recommended caloric restriction,” states the website.
When asked about the controversy, Myers said, “Hundreds of things aren’t approved by the FDA. Just because it isn’t FDA-approved, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work.”
However, she cautions anyone thinking of trying the diet to consult a doctor first.
“Any time people pursue something you have to do your research and ask an authority in that field,” she said.