So your best friend’s getting married in six weeks and you want to look hot in the cleavage-baring, spandex-like dress that Ms. Bridezilla has foisted upon her hapless bridesmaids, whom she’s confused with Jennifer Lopez.  What’s your best option?

 A)     Go with the flow and buy the gown in your current size.

B)      Commit to losing 5 pounds in six weeks and go a size smaller.

C)      Swear a blood oath to lose 30 pounds in six weeks by embarking on a starvation diet and injecting yourself daily with a hormone made from the urine of pregnant women that is thought to cause morning sickness.

D)     Leave the country until after the wedding.

 Many women apparently would choose C) the hCG diet, which, in addition to adopting a daily routine similar to that of a heroin addict, requires consuming only 500 calories a day. 

According to an article on, that’s not enough calories to “support normal brain function.”

 But normal brain function is not what we’re after here.  The goal is quick, easy, dramatic (read:  unhealthy) weight loss, with no thought to potential short-term side effects or long-term consequences, like, for example, increased risk of cardiovascular “events” (e.g., heart attack or stroke).

 Oh, and by the way, there’s no scientific evidence whatsoever that supports the use of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone sometimes prescribed to promote fetal nutrition, for weight loss.  In fact, the Food and Drug Administration says:  NOT.

 According to The New York Times, women are paying dodgy doctors upward of $1,000 a month for “consultations” and daily injections that are prescribed for off-label – that is, unapproved – weight-loss use.

 Put another way:  They are forking over more than a grand a month for “professional” assistance in starving themselves.  People with serious eating disorders such as anorexia do that on their own for free.  Who’s sicker?

 I’ve read online comments from many people who swear by the hCG diet:  They lose enormous amounts of weight in no time at all, with no side effects.  An accolade from one woman begins:

I am 57 years old, with numerous medical problems, such as fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, pre-leukemia, sleep apnea, and obesity. I began the protocol under a doctor at a clinic using daily injections of 125mgs on 3/2/2011 weighing 280 lbs. I just returned from the clinic for my one week check. New weight is 262 lbs. That is a one week loss of 18 lbs.

No real doctor would condone this kind of weight loss, especially in someone with so many serious health problems.  It’s dangerous.  Yet poor “Fat Lady,” as she calls herself, is determined to stick with it.  I worry for her and others like her who are so desperate to lose weight that they are sucked in by charlatans who don’t give a rat’s ass about their safety.

 And let’s face it, if you’re taking in only 500 calories a day, when the average person’s daily consumption is somewhere between 1,800 and 3,000, how on earth could you not lose weight? 

I could rant on about hCG – it’s so easy – but the problem is really so much bigger.  Like all crash diets, the hCG diet speaks to our fundamentally unhealthy relationships with food.

 I remember in my early 30s launching gung-ho into the “cabbage soup diet,” one of the most obnoxious diets known to man, best undertaken (if at all) if you live and work alone so as not to expose the innocent to the toxic gastrointestinal side effects.  I did a week on and a week off for a couple of cycles.  And I lost a lot of weight fast – about 25 pounds in three months.  But the most significant thing I did was embark on a daily exercise regimen of speed walking for about an hour.  I didn’t miss a single day.

 My theory is that the crash diet jump-started my metabolism (those were the days when I had an enviable metabolism!), and the exercise did the rest. 

 About six months later, I changed jobs and all of a sudden I had an hour commute to and from work.  My speed-walking went out the door.  And guess what?  All those LBs I worked so hard to lose came back.

 That’s what generally happens with crash diets.  We’d all like fast results.  We’d all like to it be easy – to not have to sacrifice or feel hungry or sweat at the gym.  But if we’re really serious about achieving and maintaining a healthy weight for life, it’s going to take some of that.

 It doesn’t have to be terrible.  We don’t have to suffer all that much.  But we do have to work at it, recognizing that success requires a certain amount of perseverance.

 But there’s no way that success requires starving yourself. 

 And I don’t know about you all, but there’s no way I’m sticking a needle full of urine-derived, morning-sickness hormone crap in my bod!


Progress Report:  After several weeks of exotic travel (including but not limited to Cleveland, OH), debauchery and very minor sickness (a really annoying and persistent cold),  I’m happy to report that I’m officially on track again – recording my Weight Watchers points online and visiting the gym.  I did gain some weight; this morning the scale said 180, up 2.5 pounds from my last official weigh-in.  But I feel focused and grounded now, and I’m optimistic.  More next week.