The battle of the bulge. It's nothing new. Millions of Americans fight it, or try to, every day. Thirty four percent of adults in the United States are obese; the same amount are overweight.
Charles Dumas used to be, but not anymore.
"I'd been having challenges with weight gain for a number of years, 15 years," Dumas says.
That is, until he and his wife tried the HCG Diet during the summer of 2009. Dumas is now 60 lbs. lighter.
"It's the only thing that worked for me," he says.
HCG, which stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone women produce when they are pregnant. It's now being used for weight loss.
Dr. John Wycoff at the Wycoff Wellness Center in East Lansing is one of the only physicians in mid-Michigan who offers the HCG Rapid Weight Loss Diet.
"We've treated well over 300 patients here at the Wycoff Wellness Center with great success," Dr. Wycoff says.
Vicki Funnell is one of them. She says she tried everything to lose weight, but nothing worked until HCG.
"Best thing I ever did," Funnell says. "I was like 148 [lbs.] and climbing, and now I'm down to 120, 122."
Dr. Wycoff's program, like many used by physicians at weight loss clinics and health spas across the country, includes a dose of HCG, either by injection or a drop under the tongue, coupled with a very low calorie diet. Exercise is encouraged but not required.
"The HCG is taking the stored fat, the fat that you don't want, and converting that into calories so your body feels like you're getting around 2500-3000 calories per day," Wycoff says.
But you're only consuming about 500 calories.
Here's what you can eat on the HCG Very Low Calorie Diet:
--Breakfast is green tea, black coffee and water only.
--Lunch is 3.5 oz. of protein (beef, veal, chicken or fish), two cups of vegetables like spinach, and fruit like strawberries.
--Dinner is the same as lunch, but with differnt protein, vegetables and fruit.
You also need to drink three quarts to a gallon of filtered water every day. That's 16 eight oz. glasses.
"It's a very, very, very restrictive, probably pushing a starvation-type, diet," says Emily Ostrowski, a registered dietitian at Sparrow Health System.
Ostrowski has concerns about the HCG diet.
While the hormone is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for fertility, it is not approved by the FDA for weight loss.
"There is a lot we need to see about it," Ostrowksi explains. "And I think people need to be aware that these quick fixes are not always what they seem to be."
She says it's not necessarily the HCG that's causing the weight loss, but the limited caloric intake and the exercise.
"It's not surprising that people are losing weight that fast, because the diet is so low in calories that you're going to lose the fluid, fat and, most likely, also some protein," she says.
Ostrowski worries the diet can throw off patients' metabolisms once they're off the program, leading to weight gain at the end of the diet. That wasn't the case for Dumas, but still, he says if you're looking for a miracle diet, you're not going to find it in HCG.
"It's not a quick fix in that you can do it for a couple weeks and then go back to the way you were," Dumas says. "No, after three months of eating healthy and changing your lifestyle and your habits, it sticks with you."
The HCG Diet lasts either 23 or 46 days, depending on how much weight you want to lose.
Dr. Wycoff's program costs $400.
It is important that anyone on the diet consult with a physician prior to beginning the program.
Dr. Wycoff says side effects like headache, nausea, hair loss, and acne can occur during the HCG rapid weight loss diet.
You can find HCG on the Internet, but it's a very low dose and not the prescription strength doctors use in weight loss programs.