Hunger Games: My Mom’s Hormone (HCG) Diet

When my mom told me that throughout May she was going to be injecting herself with pregnant lady hormones, I was freaked. Was this some weird menopause thing? Was she going to start craving mud pies and puking in the morning? Did she need extra folate? When she told me she was accompanying this little experiment with a 500 calorie a day diet, I pretty much lost it.

So apparently, my mother- my beautiful, intelligent, successful mother – had subscribed to the faddiest fad diet I had ever heard of. It’s often called the HCG Diet. Here is how it (supposedly) works: The hormones stunt your appetite so you can eat next to nothing. Then, the hormones are supposed to direct your body to turn to your fat stores in order to supplement the energy that it is patently NOT getting from food.

Because of some bad personal experiences, I’m pretty vehemently opposed to anything with the word “diet” attached to it. If Gwyneth Paltrow supports it, I hate it. I totally respect the need to eat healthfully; it’s the extreme calorie restriction that does not fly. Hence, the freakout.

The weird thing is, so far, it seems to have worked for her. Both my mother and her boyfriend (who is doing the diet with her) have lost a pretty significant amount of weight – about five pounds a week. They also both claim to have higher energy levels and even feel better. The weight loss isn’t surprising, I’m pretty sure that you could lie comatose in front of a TV with the slowest metabolism on the planet, and still drop pounds if you were only eating 500 calories a day, but the energy thing seems totally counterintuitive.

You’re not supposed to exercise too heavily on the diet, because there is so little food intake. My mom loves to ride her bike, so this part has actually been pretty hard for her. It’s also a little scary – I wonder what would happen if she were to accidentally overexert herself. Could she faint climbing the stairs at her office building?

There aren’t really any other rules, except the eating thing and the fact that you have to stick a needle in your butt every morning. One time, my mom had to go out of town on business so her neighbor had to inject her boyfriend for her, which is just weird. The appetite suppressant, though, is definitely real. My mom loves food. LOVES it. Like, took-enough-cooking-classes-to-get-accredited-as-a-chef loves it. So the fact that she can be perfectly satisfied on the measly rotation of salads and soups definitely means something.

Here’s what I ultimately decided: The hormone diet seems to be working for my mom. She’s happy, and that’s good – but I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. My mom had enough spare “love” on her, that she seems okay, but I think anyone trying to lose just 10 or 15 pounds could actually be in danger on it. The whole thing is a little surreal. And even though I’m glad she’s doing so well, I’m glad it is only a month-long process. I just hope I don’t end up with an accidental little brother or sister once those hormones really kick in. No way could my newly-skinnified mother handle both a health food regimen AND a new little diet baby.

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    • MelbaToast

      I’m glad your mom is happy and so far healthy. But you say that she loves food and riding her bike–and she can’t enjoy either of those things on this diet. Sounds horrible to me.

    • jc

      My parents did that diet. They lost a bunch of weight, and have managed to keep it off. My dad pressured me to do it, even though I only had a few pounds to lose. I quit after a few days, when I felt faint. I just can’t handle eating such a limited variety of food…especially when it’s mostly veggies. But my parents had success.

    • Eileen

      I would hate any diet that didn’t let me exercise. That sounds miserable.

      Although if the HCG diet allows you to pee a positive pregnancy test, it could be a really good April Fools prank.

    • lyn

      Sigh. That diet is insane and it IS dangerous – at any size. I don’t care what they are giving you, muscle goes first and that includes heart muscle – and not exercising makes that so much worse.

    • Sarah

      That diet is not insane or dangerous, but yes, you need to have more than 20+ pounds to lose to get to a healthy weight, not an anorexic dilusional goal weight. My husband and I did the diet 4 years ago (did it to the letter-important), he lost 90 pounds and I lost 80. I kept it off until this last february when I got pregnant. I am back on the diet now that my baby is out and it is going swimmingly… again. The HCG is supposed to cause your body to release and use 2000+ calories from your fat stores daily, which is why 500 calories is not dangerous, though it seems so. Even without the HCG, VLCD (or very low calorie diets) have been shown in some very current studies to cleanse the body, reset the hypothalamus, and decrease many health risks. All this to say, don’t worry, your mom isn’t in danger. In fact, she’s in less danger since she’ll be at a healthier weight with a cleaner system. No worries, she found a good one!