Why Doctors Are Still Prescribing This Controversial Diet
Newton Centre, MA, plastic surgeon Joseph Russo, MD, does all the main plastic surgery procedures, and a lot of skin-tightening and fat-melting, but when it comes to noninvasive weight-loss options, he says his favorite is the HCG Diet program.
In a nutshell, the program consists of injections of the HCG pregnancy hormone (which suppresses the appetite) and consuming only 500 calories a day. The diet got a lot of play—plus a lot of backlash—a few years back (currently, there are no FDA-approved HCG drug products for weight loss and the FDA has a full page devoted to questions about it), but Dr. Russo says, when done right under doctor supervision, it’s a solid option for losing weight.
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“It is a way for a person to see both fast results and better health, and I often combine it with my liposuction and tummy tuck procedures. The program uses daily self-injections of HCG, the protein released when a woman in pregnant, in combination with clean eating and restricted caloric intake for up to 12 weeks. The body burns its abnormal fat stores for energy, and the inches melt away.”
What makes Dr. Russo’s HCG Diet program unique, he says, is the fine-tuned-for-each-individual factor. “It’s customized for every patient and we offer a lot of support for long term lifestyle changes. I've never seen a diet that reshapes the body in this way or where the body maintains its healthy muscle mass. I know from personal experience!”
Wendy Weiss, who is on Dr. Russo’s staff, tried the diet as well and she is a big believer. “I wanted to lose weight in what I felt was a healthy way. I also wanted the support and education to make long-term changes in my habits.”
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The most "difficult" part for Weiss wasn’t the restriction or the hormones—it was the food prep. “The diet consists of real food and took more work than I was accustomed to at first because processed convenience foods are not permitted. Once I got good at that, it was really easy.”
Weiss also says she thinks most people would be surprised to realize the difference between what losing fat pounds versus overall pounds looks like, and it’s something she really noticed in terms of her body’s transformation. “Fat takes up a lot of space, and losing it makes a big difference in the shape of the body. I think most people will look like they lost more weight on the diet than the scale shows because of this transformation. I lost 10 pounds of fat on the program, but went down nearly three sizes.”
“My energy increased during the diet, and I notice that change even now since my choices and habits are so much better than they ever were before,” she says. “I look at food choices differently, and my body feels younger.”
While celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson says there’s no denying that you will most likely lose weight on this program, she does stress that there are some things to consider. “Several studies have found that weight loss on the HCG diet is due to drastic calorie restriction and has nothing to do with the HCG hormone. One phase restricts to 500 calories per day, which can cause more water and muscle loss over fat loss, and we know this is not the healthiest approach for long-term weight management.”