Side Effects of the hCG Diet? My Story...
The Temptation of Quick Weight Loss!
You may have seen the photos posted relentlessly on Facebook by a friend of yours: "So and so lost 25 pounds in one month!" "I lost three pounds in one day!" "Join me and lose weight too!"
If you struggle with your weight, you'll soon find yourself tempted to try the hCG diet. After all, they make it look so easy, right? Your friend has shared that she was skeptical too, but... Well, against my better judgement, I finally succumbed to the pressure. I gave in.
I decided to try Omnitrition's Omni Drops (claims they are hCG on the label but the measurements tell a different story...scroll down to learn how much hGC is really in those drops). You might as well know up front, I think this was one of the biggest mistakes of my life (and one of the most dangerous diets out there), especially as others share their stories and the many serious side effects of this diet with me as well.
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My Story: The Seduction of an Easy Weight Loss
Seemed like each time I visited Facebook, there were new photos of people who had lost huge amounts of weight. The gal posting the pics was just somebody I know online and not in 'real life'. She seemed nice enough though.
Well, I've gained weight and struggled to get it off. In fact, from my numerous treatments to fix my anemia, I've gained a very stubborn 10 to 15 pounds that I could not get off again. I tried and tried but nothing was working. Even before I gained that amount, I had another 20 to 25 pounds I could easily afford to lose. Seeing those weight-loss photos was like dangling a squeaky toy in front of our overgrown lab pup. Eventually the temptation was too great. I wanted that!
Well, technically, I just wanted that extra weight off that I had gained from my treatments and maybe a few extra. Eating disorders run in my family so I've taken great care not to obsess about weight loss. Just being a size 10 would make me happy.
So, for a month, I watched post after post of people who had lost weight. Looking back now, I realize they were really only a handful of success stories but posted every so often, they seemed like far more. Didn't matter, I was hooked. I was willing to try it. I contacted my online friend who had recently become a distributor. I pestered her with many questions. Honestly, she couldn't answer a number of them but I didn't really mind. I was willing to try this out.
Visions of me in my old jeans were dancing through my head. Okay, I was in! I placed my order.
Hey, This Has Potential!
I pestered my online acquaintance with question after question about safety. She couldn't answer many of my questions but she excitedly added me to their company's support page on Facebook where other members were more than happy to share their hCG miracle stories. The page ended up being such a happy, fluffy place. The posters made this diet sound perfect...a little too perfect. Come to find out, many of them were selling the diet but I only found that out after I was already on it. Posts that shed a negative light on the diet were often deleted from the forum.
Also, I found out this is a 500-calorie a day diet.
That didn't sit well, what could it hurt to try, right? If it was too much, I could always just quit. I had just finished iron infusions and knew my ferritin levels were doing great and I was in no way anemic. Since anemia has been an issue in my life, I know I wouldn't have attempted this diet if my levels were too low, not with such low calories. Since I was healthy, woohoo, I was ready to order!
What Is the hCG Diet?
Now, this is the version I did but they are all similar.
Notice if you do a search for the company name and keywords like 'dangers', 'scam', 'unsafe', etc..., you'll get page after page of results. Be warned, they're tricky. Nine times out of ten, these are distributors and sellers who have created pages with these titles. Think about it, if you see page after page of hCG diet dangers but when you click on the links, you'll see they discuss how 'safe' the diet really is. You'll talk yourself into the safety of this diet. Let me just clarify, these are not real reviews! These are pages done by people trying to make money off this diet!
Finding specific information about the diet is difficult, at least until they have your money. Once I ordered my drops ($79.00 plus a hefty shipping charge), I received this email:
I am here to help you be successful with your products. Please call, text or message me on Facebook when you have questions.
I see you ordered Omni Drops. I want to go over a few things, The drops do not have to be refrigerated, but they need to be kept out of direct sunlight and heat. I just leave mine in the fridge and grab it when I'm on the go. I have attached phase2 recipes so you can take this time to look over what food you might like to eat. Being prepared is crucial to your success.
Omni DROPS: You will take the drops 3x a day 10 drops under your tongue. Hold it there for 30 seconds. No eating or drinking 15 minutes before and after. You can take up to 6 sets in a day, just add one if you are feeling overly hungry. The first 2 days you LOAD! You eat, eat, eat! This is VERY important. It gets your body ready to burn the stored body fat. You should eat fatty foods, pasta's, creamy sauces, pastries all the fatty foods you want and the goal is to remain full at all times. I try to get in every favorite bad food that I won't be having for awhile. On the 3rd day you continue the drops and eat CLEAN. Protein, Vegetables and fruit. The drops come with a folder with all the directions and food you can eat. You have to stay on the drops for a minimum of 21 days to up to 45 days. Then you follow a maintenance plan for 21 days. THIS is very important to lock in your new weight.
You will need a food scale.
Be sure to do your measurements and weigh daily.
You need to drink a gallon of water a day. IMPORTANT! (with lemon is acceptable)
Stevia sweetener is the only sweetener allowed. Powder or drops.
You can purchase flavored Stevia drops online. I use Amazon.
Mustard, Franks Original hot sauce and Braggs amino acids are allowed.
As the time approaches I'm sure you will have questions, don't hesitate to contact me, I'm here to help you be successful with Omnitrition."
What Does 500 Calories Look Like?
Here is a typical day:
Breakfast: Water, herbal tea or coffee. You may have your fruit serving at this time.
Lunch and Dinner: Four ounces at each meal of one of the following: beef, veal, buffalo, chicken breast, sea bass, flounder, sole, halibut, lobster or shrimp. Seasonings are fine. You also get four ounces of the following vegetables: spinach, chard, beet greens, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, fennel, onion, red radishes, cucumbers, asparagus or cabbage.
You may have two servings daily of the following fruits: one medium apple, one medium orange, a grapefruit, or half a cup strawberries.
You may also have two pieces per day of either Melba toast, Grissini breadsticks, or Wasa crackers.
Keep in mind, if you are losing slowly, they'll tell you that oranges, tomatoes or the grains may be stalling you. Many women cut those out as well.
You are also told not to exercise but with so few calories, exercise would not be safe. Keep in mind, 500 calories is roughly the equivalent of a six-inch Subway sandwich. You don't need to eat a dangerously low amount of calories to lose weight and, indeed, to keep off weight and not slow your metabolism way down you need a lot more calories.
What Did It Do For Me?
During Phase One ("loading"), I gained about three pounds. Gaining is encouraged. Eat whatever you want. Go crazy. Hey, no problem there. I know from prior diets, that's just a lot of water weight and easily lost. Still, binging and dieting...not a healthy cycle. I read post after post from women who made themselves ill during this time eating so much junk. I'm not a big sugar eater and I keep a pretty low-sodium diet. While I didn't add in sugars, I did add in foods with salts which always cause a good weight gain from retained water.
How did I do? I lost about 15 pounds from my first day. That's not bad for a month, right? Well, remember, I had gained three pounds with loading so it really was only 12 pounds. Of those 12, I lost about 10 in the first two weeks. The second two weeks, I only lost a couple. Ten lbs in two weeks is pretty awesome, no doubt, but I've done other diets in the past (usually to lose baby weight) and had better success. I lost 12 pounds in two weeks on the South Beach Diet (which I kept off for quite awhile). After having my son, I lost about 20 lbs in a month and a half on Weight Watchers. So, can't say that this diet was any more miraculous. As with the other diets, I was motivated and I did lose weight.
But, I did have some side effects with this diet that I've not experienced before with any of those other diets.
My period started early, which was not a problem before once I began the drops. That was definitely unusual. My next period was only a few weeks after the first and it was one of the worst I've ever had. It was so heavy that I was filling a pad hourly. I felt like I would pass out and struggled with intense dizziness. I had severe cramping on one side. It was just awful.
For me, all of this was very concerning as I have had to get iron infusions for anemia in the past. Thankfully I had just had infusions and had really good ferritin levels or I think this would have been far more serious. They tested my ferritin (that only one month before had been great) and it was all gone! That has never happened to me before and the doctor and nurse were also stunned by the drop in my levels. Of course, knowing I had to restart iron infusions at the cancer center after having such good levels only a month before left me overwhelmed and even depressed. I broke down.
If you have or have had anemia, please think twice before doing this diet. I've seen multiple people online say that this diet is good for anemia, and I really believe they are putting lives at risk. I can't say this clearly enough, the hCG diet was so dangerous for me!
I had other side effects as well. Hunger was typical. The first few days, as you can imagine on 500 calories, I was really, really hungry (and a mite grumpy). After that, there were days I didn't feel as hungry, but having done other diets, I know that can be typical once your body adjusts to whatever you are doing. That's typical with any diet.
I have had problems with my heart racing only when I am very anemic. I had just been tested and knew I was not anemic and yet I found the first weeks especially, my erratic heartbeat would wake me up each night. This was before my scary menstrual bleeding so it wasn't related to anemia. Every time I'd rest, it would really start pounding. Toward the end, my heart almost seemed to seize up and then would start pounding out of my chest. It was scary. It got to the point where I didn't want to lay down because I was getting worried I'd have a heart attack. That is when I knew I was done and had to see the doctor.
I knew, after that incredibly heavy period and the erratic heartbeat that that was it for me. My anemia is nothing to play with. The advice I received by a distributor when I mentioned my side effects was not to talk to my doctor. I was doing this diet with a buddy and she kept suggesting that I contact my own distributor to see what products they recommended. No, I am not kidding. Rather than seek medical attention, people selling this diet just wanted to sell me more products. And, that was the typical response whenever anybody posted about a serious side effect of any sort. For me, that was a major red flag. I wasn't taking this to my distributor. I was going to see my doctor and that was what needed to be done. I lasted about a month on what I believe is a dangerous diet. Let me clarify, yes, I do believe the 500-calorie portion of the diet can be potentially dangerous, especially if you are not being monitored closely by your physician
After the Diet
After going off the diet, I just went back to eating normally. I was not overeating. No doubt whatsoever that my stomach shrunk and I'd get full quickly but weight started going up a bit too quickly for comfort. My doctor figured out my basal metabolic rate and we both realized there were serious problems because I was eating below that amount and gaining!
I found that I was still eating a lot less than I did before this diet and I was gaining. That did not seem right at all.
So, in between doctor visits, after assuring my doctor I was not doing the 500-calorie thing anymore, I decided to try the hCG diet without the hCG. It's true. No, I'm wasn't doing the 500-calorie a day diet. That would be foolhardy. After I started experiencing side effects from the diet, I spent hours and hours reading everything I could online.
Did you know they found that people doing the hCG could double their calories and still lose the same amount? In fact I found posts from people who were eating 1200 to 1300 calories with hCG and losing just as quickly. In fact, they didn't seem to have the weight gain problem after they went off the diet. Well, now of course I know that was because their bodies didn't have to go into starvation mode which slows the metabolism greatly. They could also exercise without feeling like they'd black out.
I also found sites where people had added their 'cheat' foods and had lost just as quickly. It was recommended that you not add a cheat food while plateauing but if you were losing, didn't seem to slow down the loss any. So I realized you could eat more foods, have more calories and still lose weight.
Did you know there are people sharing their "hCG Diet Without the hCG" diets and showing just as much success? Just seems as if hCG may not be as important to the diet as you might believe.
Honestly, though, I'll let you in on a little secret. My 'Non-hCG hCG Diet' was really just more about eating healthy and taking in a bit less than I am expending. Perhaps the hCG diet was beneficial in that regard, it taught me to really watch portions, weigh food and be a little more careful with what I eat. I can do that without the placebo drops.
Anyhow, I lost almost the exact same amount of weight the first week with my non-hCG hCG diet but, after a week, we realized some of my complications were more serious and my doctor asked me to toss the diet and just work on getting healthy and that's what I did. I was not overeating but the weight plus some extra for good measure piled right back on. I ended up going through several months of appointments.
My goal with this page is just to present another story of somebody who had some serious concerns about the diet. Yes, the weight came off, but I pretty much stalled after two weeks and lost very little after that. I then started gaining once I was off even while being very careful about what I was eating.
Sadly, once I started having more serious side effects and went off the diet, I also lost the support that I had. No longer was I getting daily messages about how I was doing. In fact, one gal and I were messaging daily and she stopped initiating messages once I started having problems from this diet. Then again, she just became a distributor and I suspect she didn't want to know what was happening. Update: apparently she doesn't want to hear about my side effects so even though we run into each other quite a bit in real life, she unfriended me on Facebook. She even insinuated that I had a 'fake' brand even though we both had the exact same drops. I have to admit, that makes me a little sad.
How Much hCG Is Really in Those Drops?
Would you be surprised to learn there is none?
This diet uses homeopathic dilutions of hCG to supposedly help you lose weight. One question I have been asked a number of times is how much hCG is really in those drops. Let's take a look.
If you have your bottle of drops, take a look under the ingredients. If you don't have a bottle, search online for your particular brand's ingredients or ask the person selling you this diet to send you the ingredient's list with amounts.
My brand says hCG 3x, 6x, 12x, 30x, 60x. So what does that mean?
Now, when I got talked into this diet, I had no clue what that meant either. I've been studying up a bit. Apparently the 'x' following the number is the roman numeral for 10. The first time it is diluted and shaken vigorously (to release its "energy"), you get 1/1,000 (3 zeros following = 3x). That dilution then gets diluted again to 1/1,000,000 (notice the 6x or six zeros = 6x).
By the time you get to the 60x, you have one drop of the "real" substance (in our case they say that one drop is hCG) for every 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water or it has been diluted that many times. According to an article on Wikipedia, "This would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient."
Now, take your bottle and count how many drops are in it with the dropper. If your measurements are the measurements in my bottle, were you able to squeeze out 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 drops? If so, congratulations, you might have one molecule of hCG in your bottle.
To read more about homeopathic dilutions, take a look at Dr. Stephen Barret's page Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake.
The FDA advises consumers who have purchased homeopathic HCG for weight loss to stop using it, throw it out, and stop following the dieting instructions. Harmful effects should be reported online to FDA's MedWatch program or by phone at 800-FDA-1088 (800-332-1088) and to the consumer's health care professional.
If You Have Had Side Effects:
If you have had side effects, please, note the comment above about contacting the FDA. Over the last year, I have heard from far too many people who have been hurt by this diet.
To report your side effects, either call the number above or leave a report with the FDA's Adverse Event Reporting for dietary supplements.
For more information, please visit the FDA's page: HCG Diet Products Are Illegal.
Roughly half the poll respondents who have tried this diet report serious side effects.
Have you done the hCG diet? If so, did you have side effects?See results without voting
*NEW* Have You Tried the hCG Diet and had Side Effects? 132 comments
Discovery Health Report
According to Discovery Health, some side effects of this diet are blood clots, headaches, leg cramps, restlessness, constipation, hair thinning, depression, breast growth in males and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome which can be life threatening.
On top of these side effects, I've commonly seen women post about major hair loss, gall stones, dizziness and heavy bleeding during periods. My doctor also mentioned that the kidneys and bladders have been affected in people they have seen there.
"In 1976, a study ... 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."
~ Dr. Steven Jepson M.D.
What I Have Taken Away From This
- I gained weight on this diet. Not only did I get fatter, it redistributed my weight. When I got back to my original weight, those clothes were too tight! It was clear that I'd lost muscle and gained a lot of fat. I felt "lumpy" and I really did not like it. After the diet, weight was creeping up so started my own version of this diet (same foods, more calories plus a bit of exercise) to stop from gaining it all back. When your body goes into starvation mode, your metabolism slows way down which accounts for the weight gain when people finally stop this diet. My doctor eventually made me stop even that version so, even with watching what I ate and not overeating at all, I did get back to where I was heavier than when I began the diet. I am hearing from others that they gained back even more as well and I've had a number of women tell me this diet made them shifted their weight in all the wrong ways as well.
- Some rather serious side effects. My cycle was really messed up. My periods were coming more frequently and far heavier than they have ever been. The worst was the one right before I stopped the diet. I think increasing my calories again helped get me back on track. This diet did cause some heart problems for which I've been monitored by physicians. The change in my cycle caused a lump to form in my breast (which was found while monitoring my heart and we know it wasn't there a couple months prior...and, no, it wasn't more easily felt because I'd lost weight...by the time they found it, I had already gained back a bunch of weight) and the heavy cycle banished all my ferritin and iron stores from my body. I had to go through a month and a half of iron infusions at the Cancer Center.
- In the midst of this diet, I was so happy to be losing and the thought of making money was tempting. With the pressure to sell, I did look into being a distributor but as I started experiencing more and more side effects, I knew I just couldn't do it and went off the drops entirely. You can make money selling these products but at what expense? When I spoke with the FDA, they let me know this is an illegal product. I've never had any serious side effects from a diet and could never recommend it. I've also never done a diet that changed my body shape (clearly lost muscle and gained fat). I know this was the unhealthiest diet I have ever done and it was NOT worth it! If I could go back in time and just say, "Not only no, but heck no," I would in a heartbeat.
Would you try this diet?
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