The “ber” months are fast approaching and if the rainy weather has kept you covered up, you may not notice you’ve packed on a few pounds. Rainy weather or not, this columnist likes to eat, so rain or shine I never shun a lunch/merienda or dinner date and this has left me rather displeased with the image I see staring back from the mirror. My lifestyle is relatively active, but no amount of yoga or workout seems to match my food intake so rather than spend on a whole new wardrobe (which would just allow me to eat more) I decided to look into diet options. There were the more commercial choices, such as South Beach or the growing-in-popularity Cohen diet; but in the span of a week two friends turned me on to the benefits of the HCG Program and I took that as a sign to try something relatively new.
HCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin and, yes, quite a mouthful to say, hence the shortened version which is easier to remember. Before I begin, a caveat: I am not a dietician, a doctor or a nutritionist by anyone’s standards; I simply did research on my own and HCG fell under the homeopathic way of losing weight. If, after reading this, you feel HCG is for you, take the time to do your own study, and definitely ask your doctor if this is something you can do. The regimen is definitely not easy, because aside from ingesting the drops sublingually (three times a day 10 to 15 minutes before each meal) you have to combine it with a 500-calorie-a-day diet. Yes, you read right: 500 calories a day and that’s it.
So how exactly does HCG work? As explained in the info sheet I got with my kit: “Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone produced in women during pregnancy. As soon as the new embryo starts to develop, the mother’s body begins releasing large amounts of HCG into the bloodstream. Current scientific philosophy believes that HCG helps maintain the pregnancy and the early growth of the fetus. By moving nutrients from the mother’s stored fat supply into the bloodstream, HCG helps ensure that the developing fetus always has an adequate food supply, even when the mother is eating too little.” In simple English, if you are keeping your calorie intake on a lower than normal level, HCG kicks in and uses your “abnormal” fat and converts it into energy. To quote the website: “In the 1950s, Dr. A.T.W. Simeons discovered that HCG can safely be used as a weight-loss aid in people who are not pregnant. It works for both women and men. He found that HCG moves about 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day of stored fat into the bloodstream where it becomes available for metabolism. With these additional nutrients in the bloodstream, a person can successfully stay on a very low-calorie diet without experiencing extreme fatigue, weakness, or hunger.”
Followed strictly, people can experience a dramatic weight loss of two to three pounds a day. Also, since HCG “grabs” from abnormal fat, you may soon kiss that double chin, potbelly or inner thigh jiggliness goodbye. A childhood friend of mine, who started the diet a month before I did, lost 43 pounds in under two months and good-naturedly joked that one of her chins disappeared. She was very strict, though, as the HCG diet recommends you remove all oil from your lifestyle; she even changed her oil-based cosmetics and refrained from getting massages. Other results weren’t too dramatic, in my case (and this is because I cheated quite often). I averaged about four to five pounds a week. I didn’t feel sluggish or weak (dizziness can also be a side effect in the beginning) but I did sigh and whine a lot while inputting my calorie count into my iTouch. (Oh, if you are going to do this, I would highly recommend you download the free app called Calorie Counter by My Fitness Pal which has relatively accurate calorie amounts and even includes some Filipino dishes like adobo and karekare.)
The program recommends you follow its four phases: Loading (right before), Core (during), Transition (as you are about to end) and the most important, Maintenance. These steps allow you to get into the habit of portioning and bring greater awareness of how much food your body really needs in order to function. You will be surprised at how little it does need; in fact, fluids are way more important (and I mean water and fresh juices, not sodas and coffee!).
It’s been almost three weeks since I finished my HCG regimen and even with two holiday jaunts, I have been able to keep my weight down although it is still a struggle not to go for seconds or thirds at hotel buffets. All in all, I was able to break my weight plateau and reawaken my sleepy metabolism. Plus the HCG kit, which is good for a month, cost me only P5,000, quite reasonable. Other friends have since jumped on the HCG bandwagon and each experience is different: the results are strongly dependent on whether you follow the caloric restrictions or not, there is no other excuse. If you’ve had a love/hate affair with your scale or are tired of crash diets, it may be time to give HCG a try.
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