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Dang, I griped to myself, the airlines sure have shrunk the plane seats. I guess that’s so they can squeeze more people into every plane. I can’t even cross my legs sitting here. Sheesh.
Travel is only fun if you’re healthy. When you’re fat (or overweight, if you prefer to be PC), climbing stairs takes more effort, walking uses more energy, and you avoid mirrors and photo ops. And you sure don’t want to be squeezed into a child-size seat at 30,000 feet for hours on end. Ugh.
But that’s not the worst of it: Dan developed DVT on our trans-Pacific flight to Bali. Deep vein thrombosis is a life-threatening condition. The blood clot in his leg lasted for weeks, I was freaking out, and he didn’t feel like going anywhere. Way to ruin an adventure, right?
Denial is not just a river in Egypt
It’s not as though we didn’t know we were overweight. That much was obvious, duh. I could pretend that the airplanes and clothing companies had resized, but I knew it was me.
Photos of us in various places around the world were undeniable evidence that we needed to lose weight. I hated most of the shots Dan took of me because of how I looked. I especially hated posting them online where everyone could see my size.
So how fat were we?
Dan was carrying 120 extra pounds around. My size 16 clothes were getting tight and I was at least 50 pounds heavier than I had been in college.
Over the years we had tried “eating right,” Weight Watchers, Atkins, Nutrisystem and more. We had moderate success and made many lifestyle changes, but nothing lasted. We were still too big.
How it all started
It all began in Panama when I found a doctor who was willing to work with me to solve my weight issue. Fluent in English, he had trained and worked in the United States but had returned to his homeland. He had tired of battling insurance companies and he wanted to get to know his patients and dig into their lifestyles to find what might be causing their issues. Back in the US he had to move patients along because he needed the revenue to cover his overhead.
Anyway, after the usual medical workup and blood tests, he gave me a series of options to try. One by one I tried them. Long story short: nothing was working and I was getting desperate. I finally agreed to try a medical weight loss protocol he had been recommending and I had been resisting.
Who would blame me?
I had read on the internet that the protocol was dangerous, and I believed it. (If you hear something enough times, does that make it true?)
My favorite excuses were
- I don’t like being hungry.
- I like food and I’d be watching Dan enjoy whatever he pleased.
- Cooking is Dan’s therapy and muse. He has claimed the kitchen as his domain.
But if I didn’t bite the bullet and do that I would continue to gain weight. I really had little choice.
Support is essential.
I knew Dan would never give up control of the kitchen, but he has always been supportive. Knowing that I’d need his help to succeed, I made an appointment and asked Dan to come hear the doctor explain how it worked. He needed to know what I could and couldn’t eat so he could plan our dishes correctly.
Minutes into hearing about my program, Dan was using the word we instead of she.
I’m not sure what made him decide to join me. Maybe it was the incredible results we could expect: as much as a pound of weight loss per day, or the fact that it was a long-established medical protocol, or that we only had to be be on the most restrictive diet for a month.
Or maybe it was because of that DVT or that he suspected his body might be pre-diabetic. (Which I already knew.)
Whatever the reason, we both decided to go for it.
How do you take it?
You may have heard of homeopathic HCG drops, which are taken under the tongue three times a day. That's how we started – and they work – but it's hard to find them in the U.S. anymore. (Want to know why? Follow the money.)
Anyway, our doctor found he had better results with regular injections, so we switched to shots. Once daily is easier than remembering to take a medication 3 times a day. We had better results and it was far more convenient. Plus, surprisingly, those diabetic syringes are painless. (Who knew?)
How it works
Our doctor was extremely clear: This is not a diet, it’s a bona fide medical protocol that has been around for over 50 years. It was developed by a British military doctor, Dr. A.T.W. Simeons, he said, so treat it as such and take it seriously. This is not a diet program that allows cheating. At all.
At the heart of the program is a natural hormone that is produced during pregnancy called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG). HCG is what makes it possible for a woman to deliver a healthy baby … even if she has morning sickness the whole time and can barely eat a thing. The theory is that HCG causes the brain to trigger a release of fat stores.
Although HCG is naturally produced only by pregnant women, it has the same effect on everyone, both men and women. When administered in very minute doses and coupled with a very low calorie diet, people routinely lose between 0.5 to 1 pound per day, often more. His patients who have used it swear that it is the only program where they have been able to keep the weight off afterward.
What can you eat?
In the strictest stage of Dr. Simeons' protocol (what is known as Phase 2), food options are limited. You are permitted selected meats, 4 fruits and about a dozen vegetables, but no fats or sugars. One grissini or melba toast is allowed per meal – lunch and dinner only. You don’t eat breakfast, but you can have coffee or tea if you wish.
You might think it could be boring but no – Dan appreciated the challenge to get really creative with seasonings and prep methods. Anyway, we could tolerate our limited food choices because it was only temporary.
As for exercise, walking is permitted but not heavy exercise. That’s fine with me, ha-ha.
Fortunately, the HCG diet has recently been updated to incorporate advanced research in low-carb/ketosis dieting, caloric ratios and basic food chemistry. They call it HCG 2.0. We think it is a smarter way to lose – not to mention much easier to do. Coconut oil and stevia are permitted in limited amounts, more vegetables have been incorporated, and your daily calories can be incresed a bit.
You can even exercise, within reason. The fastest and most effective method is high intensity interval training (HIIT). We've even found a workout designed for HCG (affiliate link here.)
But is it safe?
I am embarrassed to admit that I could have been thin years ago—if I’d done my own research. Instead I blindly believed what I had read—that this is a dangerous way to lose weight because no one can live on 500 calories a day. True, the doctor clarified, but we’re not talking about a low calorie diet here, it’s a low intake program. HCG merely helps the body access its fat stores. You get all the extra calories you need that way.
isn't that why fat exists? To feed the body when we don't eat enough calories? Isn't that how every diet works?
There are two big differences between losing weight with HCG vs. other diets, my doctor said.
- HCG curbs your appetite.
- You lose weight faster, which keeps you motivated to stick with it.
When I heard that, I nearly cheered out loud. Woo-hoo! If I’m not hungry and see results, I can do this!
And then he gave me something to think about:
Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry. Heavy people rely on medications for weight-related illnesses, while diet pills and shakes are often made by pharmaceutical corporations. Who stands to lose if a weight loss program works too well? How far would you go to protect your source of income?
Our weight loss results
Boosted by the information he gave us, we were convinced it was worth a try. Once our doctor recorded all our baseline measurements (bone density, fat, muscle, etc.) with a machine, we left his office with the booklet outlining the protocol and the homeopathic medication we’d be taking for the next 40 days.
As required, we weighed ourselves daily. Over the next 40 days, I lost an average of 0.4 pounds/day and Dan lost twice that. (Unfair how men always lose so much faster!) But who cares? I was excited: 18.2 pounds lighter in just 40 days!
We did a few more rounds of the protocol while we were in Panama, but to be honest we got lazy and stopped paying attention to our intake. We had read that the protocol resets the body’s “set point” and thought we could eat anything we wanted to without gaining any weight.
Here we go, again
Take it from us: It's hard to lose weight when you're traveling all over the globe. (You have to try the local foods, right?) By March 2014, I was back where I started and Dan was at least 30 pounds heavier as well. We agreed that it was time to get serious about keeping the weight off.
As I researched the protocol further, I discovered something important. Dr. Simeons was incorrect: It is actually possible to stay on the protocol for more than 40 days without developing a resistance to HCG. (I guess it stands to reason: Pregnant women have HCG in their bodies the whole time, don't they?) We also learned how to correctly monitor our weights afterward so the fat doesn't return in apocalyptic proportions.
When we returned to the U.S. after being overseas for three years (read about how we were kicked out of Ecuador here), we decided to stay put for a while and work to get down to our ideal weights.
We devoted ourselves to stay on the protocol for as long as it takes. And that’s how we’ve finally reached our weight loss goals.
The following year saw us do three rounds of HCG and we were thrilled with the results. Between us, we lost close to 170 pounds and haven't regained it since. At 120 pounds lighter, Dan jokes that he almost lost his wife!
Remember that I mentioned daily weigh-ins? The goal is to stay within two pounds of your last dose weight every day for the rest of your life. (There are ways to correct it, but that’s beyond this article.) As you enter the final, maintenance phase of the diet, you will reintroduce one food every day or two and monitor how your body responds on the scale the following day.
Through reintroducing foods one by one, I have learned which foods my body can handle and which ones it doesn’t like. When I eat wheat, for instance, my belly will quickly pooch from bloat and the numbers on the scale will rise by at least two pounds for a couple of days.
I had an aha moment when I realized that. Now, I can make informed, conscious choices: Do I really want that bread/pastry, or not? Sadly, it looks like I have similar reactions to rice and oats, so gluten-free may not be enough. But at least I know.
It’s all about awareness and empowerment, and that’s where this program shines.
Side effects from our HCG diet
Whoever said that rapid weight loss can be dangerous needs to back that up wth facts. People have been doing this protocol for over 7 decades and no one has died from following the program correctly.
it's more dangerous to remain fat.
When we began this journey, we got winded and broke a sweat just walking a mile. Now, we easily cover 4 miles in an hour. I am far happier—and healthier—than I was in the 170’s. And I'm not done yet; I've set a new goal. As for Dan, friends tell him he looks like he did in high school … and he has no more DVT or sugar shakes to worry about.
That was expected, but other side effects surprised us:
- Going without sugar has retrained our taste buds. Things that once tasted yummy now taste way too sweet.
- Drinking water has become a habit.
- We've learned that coffee without cream doesn't taste too bad.
- We became aware that boredom and stress are triggers. We no longer head straight to the refrigerator to deal with them.
- We have more energy.
Now, how good does that feel?
Our friends have noticed.
Friends often ask about our weight loss. We can tell who is ready to shed some pounds by how they react to our answer. We get the gamut, everything from “I can’t live without bread for a day” to “I want to do that!” .
I've gathered a bunch of resources over the years, and I'll share them below.
So what do you think – do you need to have your bread or are you ready to do this? Please share your thoughts in the comments.