What Is The HCG Diet?
A revolutionary way to lose weight–and keep it off! Originally developed in the 1950s by Dr. A.T.W. Simeons.
A revolutionary way to lose weight–and keep it off! Originally developed in the 1950s by Dr. A.T.W. Simeons.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, or HCG for short is a hormone found in both men and women, with higher quantities produced while women are pregnant. HCG consists of 244 amino acids, and was first connected with weight loss by Dr. ATW Simeons, a British endocrinologist, when he found that it played a role in controlling women’s metabolism. The hormone is created in large amounts in a pregnant woman’s placenta, extracted from her urine and was often used to treat infertility. While Simeons was researching boys with low testosterone levels, he began giving them HCG and discovered that they began to lose abnormal belly fat and were slimming down. From this observation, Dr. Simeons researched and experimented with various amounts of HCG and its relation to metabolism and weight loss. Through this research over 10 years, he eventually discovered that both males and females could lose large amounts of abnormal fat with a combination of strict dieting, exercise and the HCG hormone. The word soon got out about a new use for HCG and soon, doctors and healthcare professionals around the world were coming to Rome to learn more about his experiments. Because of the growing popularity of his work, in 1967, Simeons published Pounds and Inches: A New Approach to Obesity, which would help summarize and deliver his weight loss findings to the world.
The hormone within the HCG drops allows the body to burn up excess abnormal fat stores in the body and has been shown to help reduce fat cells. With Dr. Simeons protocol, the abnormal fat is the main target during exercise and the core philosophy behind the HCG diet. Other diets can often target the wrong types of fat in the body, leaving dieters confused on why they aren’t seeing results. Through the HCG diet drops, the hormone also works on the hypothalamus, a part of your brain that fulfills various roles including controlling your appetite. While following Simeons protocol, research shows that the hormone can help curb and even eliminate your cravings for starch and sugar, the leading causes of abnormal fat creation and buildup.
Dr. Simeon’s Pounds and Inches Away establishes very quickly that “obesity in all its many forms is due to an abnormal functioning of some part of the body.” He believed that it was a disorder that caused you to accumulate fat, and not simply whether you ate more than normal. In his opening pages, Simeons tackled the issue of obesity with his theory on the accumulating fat disorder, and the ways in which it could be corrected through his three phase diet. Through his experiments and studies, he aimed at creating a sustainable system of weight loss, where his users could eat as they please, without immediately gaining back the abnormal fat they lost while on the diet.
Through his writing, Simeons examines the concept of regular meals and its connection to stored fats. He discusses the Neolithic Era, a period 8,000 years ago when obesity was considered a sign of healthy and prosperity. Being overweight showed you had plenty of money and enough to eat. However, this was not always how humans ate. This change was due to the creation of a three meal system, in which humans would sit down at certain times everyday and eat large amounts of food. The ultimate goal was to eat enough to hold you over until the next large “gorging” as Simeons puts it. However, Simeons points out the flaw in this system, highlighting how our omnivorous digestive tract works similar to other animals such as apes, rats or pigs who follow a “continual nibbling of tidbits.” Rather than three large meals, humans are meant to eat slowly, in small quantities throughout the day. This pre-Neolithic and natural way of eating is what our bodies are suited for, rather than consuming large amounts of food, three times a day. Because of this Neolithic change, the body had to take on more food, at a faster rate, than it ever had before, contributing to an extremely unhealthy trend. At each meal, the body was being flooded with food and nourishment that it could not use at the time. This created an excess of food that had to be stored somewhere and led to the obesity we see during this time period.
This historical research brought Simeon to the analysis and studying of fat in the human body and the various forms it takes on. Simeons establishes that the body has three types of fat. The first is structural fat, which fills in the gaps between organs, and as Simeons puts it, acts as a packing material. It helps protect our arteries, provides bedding for the kidneys and keeps the skin smooth and taut. Structural fat also provides the springy cushion underneath the bones in our feet. The second is normal fat, which is our normal reserves of fuel that can be drawn on by the body for energy. Fat packs a high amount of calories in a small amount of space and is used for muscular activity and the overall maintenance of the body, including its temperature. Both structural and normal fat are important for the body and holding maximum capacity of both is completely healthy and never considered obese. The final type of fat however, is abnormal fat and is the most important for weight loss. These fats are created by the high consumption of starch and sugar in the modern diet, and over time, continues to build up in the body. This is the fat that causes obesity, and is found most often around the hips, stomach, buttocks and thighs. The body is unable to use this fat as energy and therefore, without proper weight loss methods, it will remain in the body. When obese patients are looking to reduce abnormal fat by eating less, they first lose their normal fat reserves. As those reserves empty out, the body then switches to structural fat and uses that as its energy. By the time the normal and structural fat reserves are used up, the body would eventually switch over to abnormal fat, however, by that time the body is often too weak and hungry to properly exercise and diet. This is where the concept of losing the “wrong type of fat” comes from. In this situation, dieters soon become exhausted, and their body has changed very little. They have only lost the good, natural fats and none of the bad fats.
In his next section on obesity, Simeons debunks various obesity myths revolving around the glands and systems in our body and their connection to weight loss. First, he examines the thyroid gland. Scientists discovered that the thyroid gland helped control the rate at which fuel is consumed in the body, and believed that by treating the thyroid their abnormal fat deposits could be depleted faster. However, after a series of tests, it was found that the thyroid medication only forced the body to consume normal fat reserves without depleting any abnormal fat. Simeons came to the conclusion that thyroid deficiency is a rare cause of obesity and has very little effect on weight loss. The next glad examined is the pituitary gland, located in the base of the skull. It has control over multiple endocrine glands and is often connected with obesity. Multiple pituitary hormones have been introduced to the human body to test its effects, but the results showed no correlation. The final myth Simeon debunked in Pounds and Inches Away was the adrenals. However, similar to the pituitary hormone, an increased activity of the adrenal cortex through medication showed no correlation with weight loss.
Simeons made an interesting connection between how fat works in our body and the concept of a bank. Our fat storage works like bank accounts, as certain reserves are consistently drawn upon, while others are locked away for large amounts of time. He knew that in order to lose weight, we must understand how our body deposits and withdraws fat. On this point, he also emphasises that the “fat banks” in our body can be abnormally small from birth, causing abnormal fat to build up quicker. He also connects to his early studies of the diencephalon and realised that a weaker diencephalic center could be a cause of abnormal weight gain. His final point when it comes to the fat banks in our body tied into the way in which we eat large amounts of food all at once, rather than small amounts of food throughout the day. This system of eating causes an exhaustion of the fat-bank, in which the fat-center is all of a sudden called upon to take on large amounts of food that it is not used to dealing with. Simeons references a time in WWII where around 6,000 starved Polish refugees were held in Russia, before being released to a camp in India. At the Indian camps, they were well housed, given normal amounts of food and after a mere three months, 85% of them were obese. This is due to the way in which the body adjusts depending on the amount of food that we take in. This quick rush of food overpowers the diencephalic mechanism which controls how we take on food, and can often lead to obesity, as the body doesn’t know where to put excess fats. Sudden changes in food consumption can therefore be harmful to the body and creates strains on our control centers. The type of food that is eaten can also cause the same harmful factors. Foods such as sugar, white flour, butter and oil are highly refined and are rapidly digested, not giving the body enough time to properly digest it.
Simeons understood that an important part of studying weight loss was to research what causes weight gain and overall obesity. He knew that the only way in which to burn fat was to first see where it comes from. Throughout his 10 years of research and observations, Simeons narrowed it down to three main reasons. These are the psychological aspects, compulsive eating and reluctance to lose weight. With psychological aspects, he believed that emotional eating is an instinct gratification tactic by a part of the brain that is having difficulty finding emotional comfort. From Simeons experience, he only believes that compulsive eating constitutes about 1-2% of obese people, but still concludes that it can be a factor. He also believes that most obese people are truly hungry and not susceptible to sudden hunger attacks and compulsive consumption. Simeons final point is about the reluctance to lose weight. Simeons points out that some patients become deeply attached to their fat and do not like the idea of losing it. He makes many points about the psychology behind this reluctance and highlights factors such as an attachment to their obese childhood’s, fear of people liking them after weight loss, or the inability to see the reality of the situation they are in. In this instance, it is important to understand that your self image could be inhibiting your ability to lose weight.
While studying the psychological rather than the physiological aspects behind obesity, Simeons began to study the diencephalon or hypothalamus, a part of the brain that we have in common with all vertebrate animals. A very primitive part of the brain, the diencephalon directs the central nervous system and controls functions of the body, such as breathing, digestion, sex and sleep. It was through this discovery, that Simeons started to connect the diencephalon with the storing and burning of fuel in the body. He believed that the aspect of the brain that controlled so much of our body, must also contribute to how we store fat. With the various “storage banks” of fat around the human body, Simeons thought that if he could tap into the “control center” of the human brain that operated this fat movement, he could discover ways of weight loss not yet examined.
Simeons also concluded that there were early signs and symptoms of obesity. Other than the common signs such as excessive accumulation of fat around the abdomen, hips thighs, upper arms and chin, there were other less obvious signs that Simeons examined to be true with obesity. These included a disproportionately large upper two front teeth, or a “dimple on both sides of the sacral bone just above the buttocks.” Another sign he points out is a pad of fat on the inside of the knees, which he explains is a place where normal fat is never stored and therefore must be abnormal fat. Monitoring how much fat you’re carrying can be a key piece of information while on a diet. Simeons also highlights clinical symptoms such as frequent headaches, rheumatic pains, feelings of laziness and lethargy as signs that obesity could likely occur.
It was at this point, that Simeon began to study and experiment with treating obesity. He references a time in India, where they were yet to study the diencephalon and instead were focused on the pituitary gland. At the time, most of the studies revolved around the sex glands and puberty. It was because of this, that the introduction of HCG was first used to help speed up puberty in under-developed children. The substance HCG, was first used in this time period on sexually immature rats in order to make them mature. The quantity of HCG that produced an effect on a rat was determined to be “One International Unit” and for the first time, was called HCG which stood for Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin. When Simeons first began using the hormone, underdeveloped boys were given several hundred international units, delivered twice a week. A few discoveries were made by Dr. Simeons as a result of these injections. The first being that small, daily doses were just as effective as much larger ones given twice a week. The second discovery and one of the most important by Dr. Simeons was that the patients began to lose their large appetite, without being on a restrictive diet. Simeons also noticed that the boy’s body shapes began to change. Simeons believed that this was due to abnormal deposits of fat moving away from the hips and becoming available to the body to burn off. This new source of fuel could then be used in replace of food, which answered the question of why the boys were not as hungry, even when their diets became restricted. Simeons points out that the addition of the HCG injections seemed to have no harmful effects. Patients were able to go about their normal days on only 500 calories per day and began to lose an average of a pound per day. This made it clear to Simeons that the body was transitioning to using up abnormal fat instead of the usual normal fat reserves.
It was only after these tests, that Simeons began to develop his theories of HCG injections and weight loss. He discusses in this section how pregnant women can lose weight drastically without feelings of hunger or discomfort. He even believes, that pregnancy provides a great opportunity for women to lose weight. While being pregnant, HCG is constantly circulating around the body and abnormal deposits of fat are never created. It is at this point in Pounds and Inches that Simeons begins to dive into the science and history behind HCG, an important aspect of understanding its various effects on the body. HCG has been used for over a century, a substance utilized by Aschheim and Zondek to develop some of the first pregnancy tests in the 1920’s. The name Human Chorionic Gonadotropin as explained by Simeons was created before the effects of it on the body were truly understood. The word gonadotrophin means “a sex-gland directed substance or hormone,” but Simeons finds this greatly misleading. The name stems from early studies of HCG which found that HCG could render infantile sex glands mature. However, Simeons points out that the hormone has no effect on normally developed and functioning sex-glands. No amount of HCG has been seen to increase a normal sex function.
Though pregnant women produce over a million units per day, Simeons found that only a mere 125 units per day were needed to reduce weight at a rate of one pound per day, when used with a 500 calorie diet. Simeons also believed in the use of HCG to help cure other disorders in the body. His research revealed a connection with diabetes, and the ability to lower a diabetic patient’s blood sugar each day, often reaching normal levels in 2-3 weeks. Rheumatic pains can also decrease within a few days of HCG treatment, and allows patients to interrupt prolonged cortisone treatment. This interruption is key due to the disadvantages and negative effects associated with prolonged cortisone treatment. High cholesterol has also been seen to decrease with the introduction of HCG helping to lower overall blood pressure. HCG usage has been proven to help patients with gout pain, even if levels of blood uric acid are increasing during treatment. The overall lowering of blood pressure was also a significant discovery when it came to the use of HCG. When a woman with high blood pressure became pregnant, her blood pressure would often drop quickly, before slowly increasing once again after pregnancy. However, studies showed that their blood pressure never got back up to the same levels it was at before pregnancy.
What are the side effects of HCG? Similar to other diets, there are a couple minor side effects as a result of the HCG diet. Some of these side effects can include headache, irritability, restlessness and fatigue. A lot of these side effects however, are a result of the decreased calorie consumption while on the HCG diet, not the hormone itself. Find out more about the side effects of the HCG diet here.
Can men use the HCG diet? Yes, both men and women can lose weight through the HCG diet.
How many calories should I eat a day? Dr. Simeons protocol recommends a 500 calorie maximum while on the diet, and to follow a list of HCG approved foods.
Will I feel hungry while on the HCG Diet? You will likely feel hungry in the opening days of the HCG diet, but the body will soon adjust to the lower caloric intake and overall hunger should decrease.
How long does the diet last? The HCG diet can last either 26 or 40 days depending on the plan you choose. Check out which plan will work for you.
How much weight will I lose? On average, men lose around 1 pound per day, whereas women see an average weight loss of ½ pound per day.