500 calories a day: the hCG Diet - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

500 calories a day: the hCG Diet

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WATERLOO (KWWL)-- It seems there's always a new diet fad: from the low carb craze to the "master cleanse," there are dozens of programs out there that all promise you'll be able to shed those unwanted pounds.  Here in northeast Iowa, a new diet is catching on, and it involves eating just 500 calories a day. 

So far about a thousand people in the Waterloo area have tried the new diet, called hCG.  But before you go trying to cut your intake to 500 calories, be aware that this diet is only possible when combined with specific hormones.

Lindy Strohman wanted to shed some weight after having her third child.  So she turned to a growing diet fad, the hCG diet.

"It was fantastic.  I got back down to pre-baby weight completely.  I personally lost 16 pounds," Strohman said.

Like many other diets, hCG recommends you eat healthy foods.  But what's different is that it limits you to eating just 500 calories.  That's a fourth of the daily recommended amount.  HCG dieters also take a low-dose hormone, often using drops below the tongue, which are supposed to help suppress your appetite.

"The drops really help.  They cut the cravings and cut your hunger, and allow you to survive by mobilizing your body's fat stores to be used as energy.  So in essence, you're still getting a 2,000 calorie diet, but most of the calories are coming from your body's excess fat reserves," said Jennifer Hughes, pharmacist at Greenwood Pharmacy in Waterloo.

Without the drops, Hughes says a 500 calorie diet would be dangerous.  The hCG diet has been around since the 1950s.  But it's been catching on here in northeast Iowa over the past year, since Greenwood Pharmacy first heard about it from a local doctor.

"I hesitated because it sounds unrealistic.  But finally one day I said, 'Okay. Let's go!' And it did exactly what it said it's going to do," Hughes said.

The weight started falling off at nearly a pound a day, making Hughes and her fellow pharmacists believers.  They admit it's a strict and extreme program.  But the 500 calorie part of the diet is only temporary.  It's designed to help teach you what foods to eat so that the weight stays off.

"There's a six week maintenance program that's designed to reset your body's weight set point, so you lock your body in at it's new lower weight.  The first three weeks you just increase your calories to between 12 and 15 hundred, just eating no sugars, no starches still.  And the next three weeks, you slowly add that back in to where you basically have a normal diet," said Strohman.

Even though the hCG diet has worked for these ladies, they still recommend you talk with a doctor or pharmacist before starting hCG or any diet program.

The hCG hormone is available by injection if prescribed by a doctor.  A homeopathic version of the drops is available over-the-counter.  Experts urge you to only buy the hormone supplements from a reputable source, because many companies try to sell imitations on the Internet.  Currently, hCG hormone therapy is only FDA approved for fertility and other uses, but is not currently approved for weight loss.

 Additional note:

We did the math to find out how quickly food can add up to 500 calories.  It's three cans of Mountain Dew, one McRib at McDonald's or a large fry, 3.3 twinkies, and 4.5 Bud Lights.  If you take a healthier approach, 500 calories is equal to about 7.5 apples.  While most of these foods would not be part of the hCG diet, it's notable to identify just how many calories our foods contain.

KWWL Reporter: Kera Mashek

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