Archive for August, 2010

My experience with the hcG diet – an honest review

August 15, 2010 17 comments

I have a confession to make. When I mentioned before that a doctor put me on medication and I lost weight, I wasn’t entirely honest. That’s because I do not want people to get too interested in the said medication because I personally do not believe that it is 100% safe, despite what its many adherents say.

The medication is hcg – Human Choriogonadotropin, the hormone produced by pregnant women in the early stages of pregnancy. The theory is that this hormone will trick the body into delving into the fat storage while you’re taking a very low calorie diet. In fact, for the one month I was on hcg, I ate only 500 calories.

I wasn’t wild on the idea of injecting hormones into my body, but I was sick, desperate and at the end of my rope. I thought I could never lose weight the normal way and that I was just so screwed that injecting hormones into me won’t make it any worse.

Did it work?
It did. I lost about 10kg in one month. Yes, a month. And I had incredible energy despite the low calorie diet. (The explanation is that your fat storage was used to provide you energy.) Yet, despite the obvious success I had with hcg, I can’t openly recommend it to people.

My reasons:

The cost
First, it’s expensive. Very expensive.

Getting real hcg can be a challenge
You need a doctor that knows his stuff to administer it for you or else things could go wrong. I read about people regaining weight because of wrong hcg dosages and all. In the US, there are many charlatans selling hcg that is not hcg, so there’s another danger there.

Unhealthy obsession over the number on the scale
But most of all, I’m highly suspicious about the diet’s rules, one of which encourages one to weigh oneself every day and to eat only one meal a day after gaining a kg in a day. Your weight fluctuates daily thanks to water weight or when you gain muscle etc. Women often gain as much as 4 pounds before their periods!

Although I agree that inflammation is also a culprit (Paleo folks believe that if you ingest things that do not agree with your body like wheat, it gets inflamed inside – I think) this obsession over the scale just breeds paranoia and doesn’t reflect true progress.

Back when I was using hcg, I frowned when I read how people would panic when they go up two pounds and then proceed to only eat the recommended steak and apple at the end of the day. It may work to reduce the inflammation etc, but it just breeds an unhealthy obsession with your weight. Plus, in the long run, I don’t think it’s healthy to do this!

It makes hcg dieters afraid to lose weight on their own
One rule of the diet is that after the one month (sometimes, for others, it is longer) of hcg use, they must make sure that the weight doesn’t go above or below 2lbs of the weight they had on the last day of their injection. If you go below, so goes the wisdom of hcg dieters, you’ll cannibalise muscle. To lose weight, just use more hcg. I smell a ploy to promote sales of the product.

Saying that we can’t lose weight on our own is tantamount to saying that the human body is unadaptable. If our bodies were truly that unreliable and stupid, I doubt that the human race would’ve survived this long.

I lost about 18-20lbs on my own after my hcg treatment mostly by following the Primal Blueprint and Paleo Diet lifestyle. I am leaner, fitter and more energetic than before. And the best thing? The lifestyle is affordable, easy to follow and does not involve drugs! Hell, I don’t even need a gym, but that’s a topic for another post.

Most importantly, no lifestyle change = weight loss won’t stick
If you’re out to look for a quick fix, hcg is probably it. But the weight will come back if you return to your old habits. Hcg dieters talk about “resetting your hypothalamus” and some misunderstand and believe that they can eat anything after they lose the weight.

No. No, and double no. If you continue eating wheat and the processed crap you ate before, you will gain it all back.

Verdict? Yes, hcg does work, but please be very aware of the risks. Don’t be like me, jumping into the treatment without realising the long-term consequences. Till this day, I worry about what the treatment might have done to my health in the long term.

I owe hcg for helping me get a headstart; perhaps by losing that much weight quickly, it helped me lose weight easier as my IR wasn’t so bad as a result. I don’t know.

But still, I maintain that the best way to lose weight is the most boring way – and one that you’ve heard a million times: Change your lifestyle and diet. Exercise.

But I admit this from my long experience – finding the right lifestyle, diet and exercise is like navigating a maze full of booby traps. I hope you stick around so that I can show you how you can spare yourself the pain.


How I ended up eating like a cavewoman

August 8, 2010 5 comments

By that I mean an adoptee of the Paleo Diet.

Well, to answer that question, I came to it purely by accident. As I blogged before, I have been struggling with insulin resistance for some time. I read up on the subject and altered my diet to a Low GI diet. Although the symptoms diminished somewhat under a low GI diet, I still had problems like fatigue, stomach cramps and an inability to lose weight.

I was in a Catch-22 situation. To get healthier and evade diabetes, I have to lose weight, but I simply couldn’t no matter what I did. After reading about the Paleo Diet I realise that this is because most of the vegetables I was taking was of the starchy variety – french beans, long beans, endamame — and that I was still consuming grains such as white rice, rye and quinoa. And oh yes, I was drinking a lot of Diet Coke. Thanks to my high starch diet, my energy levels would dip around 3pm, and to perk myeslf up I’d reach for a can of Diet Coke, thinking: “Oh, at least it has zero calories”.

Well, my inability to lose weight made me go a little crazy, and I gave up adhering strictly to the Low GI diet. I went overboard, indulged my cravings for bread (I do miss it still, honestly) and sweets (chocolates, ahoy!). Weekends would be an “all you can eat” party. I would stock up with chips, a big bucket of ice-cream and proceed to sit on my ass all day watching TV while consuming the junk. That was “relaxation” for me; a reward after a hard week’s work.

At the start of this year, my insulin resistance worsened to such an extent that I’d crash in the middle of the day, unable to do anything else but sleep. Desperate, and realising that diabetes was knocking at my door, I saw a doctor. He put me on some medications and on a strict diet which was actually quite Paleo, although he allowed minimal amounts of grains.

I continued eating the way he prescribed, lost a tonne of weight quickly – about 10kg worth in the first two months – and found out about Loren Cordain and the Paleo Diet. Everything he taught echoed my own beliefs about my own diet. Adopting it – or rather, ‘continuing’ it – was just natural. The only thing I modified about the doctor’s diet was to add more protein, eliminate starchy vegetables and grains (though I allow myself an occasional three spoonfuls per day), and lots more vegetables.

I lost an additional 8-9kg on my own and I can tell you that it has been effortless. I didn’t even do much exercise (as compared to my previous efforts), and I later realised that that was exactly what I should do – not exhaust yourself with too much cardio.

Afternoon crashes are a thing of the past, though my energy levels do dip somewhat if I ate too much for lunch. I have so much energy I’m sure I’m pretty irritating around the office, bouncing around with a big ass smile on my face. Sometimes I’d work till midnight and still feel like I can chug on some more. I feel ridiculously wonderful.

And this is really thanks to the Paleo Lifestyle.

So, if you want to lose weight and regain your energy, I’d encourage you to adopt it too. However, I believe that 20% of human beings on the planet are fortunate enough to process grains and do thrive on a high carb diet. Still, that leaves 80% of the human race who still have good old Paleolithic genes, and if you’re one of the 80%, you need to eat like your great (1000x) grandma.