Dr. Steve Jepson shares his approach to losing the weight…naturally.
No doubt that the most popular of all New Year’s resolutions, year after year, is to lose weight. And many people want the extra pounds off quick and turn to so-called “fad diets” for help. Fewer people make the lifestyle changes really necessary to lose the weight forever…. so next year, “lose weight” will be their same New Year’s resolution. I believe that successful long-term weight loss combines natural hormone balancing with a sensible diet, rather than quick fix diets including the currently popular HCG diet. After 15 years of practicing medicine, I am well aware that people will grasp for anything that will help them lose weight. But I do not believe that fad diets including the HCG diet are the answer. I have never seen a “fad diet” result in sustained weight management.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with details of the HCG diet, it consists of daily HCG hormone injections along with a 500 calorie daily diet. The protocol lasts for about 40 days and weight loss of up to a pound daily is promised. HCG is the hormone that women produce when pregnant. It is purported to help the fat burn more efficiently and to reduce hunger cravings while dieting. Because many aesthetic clinics and medical spas are offering the HCG weight loss program to their clients, and because I have had many patients requesting the diet, I have studied it closely to help me determine if it is a weight loss program that I too want to provide. But after extensive study, I have chosen not to offer it. I believe that HCG itself is a very expensive placebo, and that the diet as a whole is not a good way to lose weight.
Is HCG safe? Probably. Does the diet work? You will definitely lose weight on this diet. Does the HCG itself have anything to do with the weight loss? I don’t think so. Do we have any idea how HCG affects the other important hormones in our bodies? No.
This very diet protocol – HCG injections combined with 500 calories daily – was introduced way back in the 1950s. In fact, it was the most popular diet of that decade. But like most fad diets, it fell out of favor and was replaced by the next fad. It resurfaced again in the 1970s and once again became very popular, but by then medical studies were being done to assess it’s effectiveness. In 1976, a study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It compared two groups of dieters. One group followed the HCG protocol. The other group ate the same 500 calorie diet without the HCG injections. And guess what? Both groups experience the same dramatic amount of weight loss, both groups experienced the same amount of hunger, and both groups experienced fat loss in the same areas of the body. In other words, the 500 per day calorie restriction caused the weight loss. There was nothing medically special about the HCG injections. (A similar study with the exact same results was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1964, and another in the South African Medical Journal in 1990).
Shortly after the 1976 study was published, the FDA banned HCG from being used as a Weight Loss medication, and in fact it is still banned from use as a Weight Loss medication. Clinics currently offering this diet, have found a loophole to get around this ban.
This diet reappeared last year, when famed (or perhaps infamous is a better word) television infomercial guru, Kevin Trudeau, wrote a book about the diet and ran an infomercial about the book. (I personally believe Kevin Trudeau to be the ultimate “snake-oil” salesman). Since then, just as it did in the 1950s and in the 1970s, the HCG diet has cycled back into public consciousness, and is once again very popular.
So then presuming, as all the studies have shown, that the HCG injections are just a placebo (I believe that giving yourself an expensive injection every day helps you to psychologically convince yourself that somehow you can eat 500 calories every day for 40 days and not feel like #*@%), then what’s the harm in eating only 500 calories daily if it works? The problem is, that as with any starvation diet, this type of extreme dieting wreaks havoc on your body’s metabolism. This diet basically recommends only two meals daily, each at 250 calories. When you consume so little so infrequently, your body goes into survival mode. So while it is breaking down fat to compensate for the lack of calories, it is also making subtle metabolic and hormonal adjustments to slow down your metabolism thereby allowing it to use the calories you do consume more effectively.
The problem is, when you are done with the diet, those metabolic adjustments persist and your metabolism remains slow. That is the reason for the “yo-yo”dieting phenomenon. When you quickly lose a lot of weight, it will usually quickly come right back (and often more will come back than you started with) because your metabolism doesn’t work correctly when you are done dieting. And not only will you regain the lost weight very easily, the slow metabolism also results in other symptoms including increasing fatigue, decreasing mood, changes in your hair and skin, just to name a few. And with the HCG diet in particular, you are adding another hormone with unknown effects into the mix.
So what do I recommend?
1. I believe that sustained weight loss can only be achieved by balancing your own natural hormones, rather than injecting a hormone you don’t need. Low progesterone, high estrogen, low testosterone, low DHEA, and high cortisol are all common problems, can all lower your metabolism, can all cause weight gain, and can all be fixed. Also thyroid dysfunction is a very common problem in those struggling with their weight, can occur even with normal thyroid levels, can make it very difficult to lose weight, and can be fixed. As I have talked about on Studio 5 in the past, we do offer complete hormonal evaluation and management at my clinic. More information about hormone balancing can be found at www.UDMPC.com/hormones.htm
2. I believe that you must optimize your daily vitamin intake to help ensure an optimal metabolic rate (For example, how many of you are taking 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily or 2000 mg of Vitamin C daily or Iodine supplementation. Probably not very many, but that’s what most of us need). This is something that I can help you with as part of your hormonal evaluation.
3. You must follow a low-carb diet plan that consists of frequent small meals/snacks daily which will result in slow sustained weight loss but help improve your body’s metabolic rate at the same time. Sure, the weight won’t come off as fast. But you’ll feel better while you lose the weight, your metabolism will actually improve so you’ll feel better when you reach your goal weight, and you will find it much easier to keep the weight off. I personally believe that Weight Watchers offers the best-organized and easy-to-follow “healthy eating plan” that you can find.
For more information, or to schedule a hormone evaluation, contact:
Steven Jepson M.D.