5 Myths about the hCG Diet – Thyroid and Metabolism

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“The hcg diet will ruin your thyroid and your metabolism for LIFE and you’ll never be able to lose weight on your own without hcg AGAIN!”

End of article.

Oh wait, you want more?  Like how do I know this will happen?  Oh….well, er….uh….I don’t have any proof.

     Instead, let’s combine a belated (like SUPER belated) celebration of my 1 year anniversary off of the diet (it will actually be 2 years now in just a few months-) with addressing the 5 main negative comments made about the diet.

What I have is my results with the hcg diet- including this pic of me a year later after finishing this protocol.

     I became inspired to write this post after a fellow hcger was feeling a bit down on herself when she was recently told something similar to the above “rant” by her naturopath.  I hate to see people become discouraged by statements made thoughtlessly and without real merit.  So this article is for all you out there who have been bummed out or even scared by similar comments.

I actually began writing this article at my 1 year anniversary mark from being off the protocol, but you know how time flies- still, it’s worth celebrating, since my results prove the title of this blogpost entirely wrong.  I don’t have a model-perfect body, but I have a body I’m happy with and that I can easily maintain.

I totally GET that on the surface, if you just read the rules of the hcg diet and leave it at that, it sounds unhealthy.  It sounds extreme.  Yes it does.

I’d like to tell you a little story about surface appearances though.

Have I told you the story about the time I went on my very first backpacking trip at the age of 16?  I LOVE the outdoors…absolutely everything about it.  Except for the thought of large wild animals.  Oh yeah and mosquitoes.

But back to the large wild animals.  The first night it was very windy.  I knew it was windy.  Yet, while I lay in my tent in the dark, I was literally shaking uncontrollably with fear at the thought that the horrific movement happening to parts of my tent and horrific sounds were SURELY that of a bear.  SURELY!!  Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore and roundabouts 2 a.m. or so probably, I grabbed my pot and stick that I’d been holding in a vice grip for the past hour and started banging it loudly while running outside my tent (not sure why I ran out of the tent- like that  really would have been safer if it really was a bear).

Did I mention I wasn’t backpacking alone?

Yep.  All the fam and friends (including my now husband, then not even boyfriend yet) were awakened.  Probably one of my most embarassing moments ever.

My point is that things are not often what they appear on the surface.  

And you won’t know this for sure about something until you really delve a bit deeper.

I know the rules of the hcg diet go against the generally-accepted-as-balanced-and-healthy-way-of-doing-things premise, but on looking deeper, you see that it doesn’t.

  • It will ruin your thyroid
  • It will ruin your metabolism (for LIFE)
  • The above will prevent you from ever losing weight again on your own
  • It’s a starvation diet and you will just lose a bunch of muscle
  • You will regain the weight because of the above

This is funny to hear because my experience has been the exact opposite.

     I’m not saying hcg is always the right choice for everyone and that it will always produce an amazing outcome 100% of the time.  Certainly not.

The HCG Diet, like anything, can be abused, and if not used properly, YES you can and will cause damage to your body. 

     Even then I wouldn’t call it lifelong damage- the body is actually pretty resilient and given enough time and proper care, can recover from a lot of things.  In fact, when you lose weight, you are having to recover from the effects of being obese for however long that lasted for you.

But done properly and mindfully, my experience at least, has been that hcg totally turned my life and body around – in a good way.  So let’s dissect each of these scare tactics one by one.

     I have had a thyroid condition for several years, caused by hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease).  I didn’t discover it until about 4 years ago.  I was taking 87.5 mcg of t3 – aka Cytomel – thyroid medication prior to starting the hcg diet.  This is a pretty high dose of a pretty potent medication.  If any of you are dealing with similar hypothyroid issues, this is literally THE best resource online for getting yourself informed:  Stop the Thyroid Madness

After the hcg diet I’ve been on a fraction of what I was on before- I now take just 12.5 mcg of this same medication.  As of June 2014 I’ve actually been off all medication but I can’t say for sure that I don’t need that small amount, for this example’s sake, we’ll stick with the 12.5 mcg – it’s been I believe more than 2 years since I was on the higher 87.5 mcg dose.

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That’s 1/7th of the medication I was taking.

Now I must mention that I also started up going to Crossfit in between my rounds of hcg and removed gluten from my diet, so I’m sure this played a role in the reduction of my medication.

Basic Answer to Scare Tactic #1: If hcg and the very low calorie diet (vlcd) had negatively effected my thyroid further (done the proper way, with healthy breaks between rounds), it’s seems highly unlikely I would have been able to make such a huge reduction in my thyroid medication like this long term.

I’m not saying hcg improved my thryoid – perhaps it helped, perhaps it had no effect.  I made so many other changes as well like I mentioned- the gluten, no more sugar, Crossfit.

But it’s obvious that my thyroid was not negatively impacted by the diet or there would be signs showing it did.

Do I think you can hurt your thyroid if you live on hcg for a year, consistently cheating, etc. – yes certainly. But that is not the way the hcg protocol was meant to be used.

Does hcg diet cause hypothyroidismWatch Vicki’s Full Interview here

What is a ruined metabolism?

     I’m not sure what the definition is exactly, but we’d probably all agree it involves getting to a point where you gain weight very easily, and have to eat less and less just to maintain your weight- less than someone else of a similar body weight/build would eat.  Usually when this happens, the person HAS to start counting calories because otherwise, eating a normal amount, they will gain weight.

Additionally I see the “for life” thing thrown in quite a bit when I did some google searching about ruined metabolisms.  This is scary of course to think about- the idea that one wrong move, and you will literally be stuck for the rest of your life having to eat less than you feel satiated with, and there’s nothing you can do about it because it’s not reversible. Yikes!

My experience

     Not only did I eat only 500 calories for every one of my 5 rounds of hcg total, I also ate as little as 300 calories at times– sometimes I was just that un-hungry (this is the #1 reason why the dosage of hcg you take is so important btw).

Because I don’t count calories, I can’t really tell you my daily caloric intake, but that alone is a good indicator.

First of all it varies- some days I eat more because I feel more hungry or because I worked out, and some days I actually purposefully intermittent fast for 18-24 hours.  The fasting I have probably done a total of maybe 12 days in the past year, so it’s not a big part of the picture.  My guess is I eat around 2000 calories a day (and remember I crossfit, so that allows me to eat more).

The best I can do is give you an example of what I ate the other day:

2 baked potatoes with maybe 4 tbs. of butter total.
3-4 oz of leg of lamb
2 large grapefruits
large salad with raw carrot and pinenuts + maybe 1.5 tsp. olive oil (guessing here)
a spoonful or two of sesame seed butter
3-4 oz of pastured raised Chicken- dark meat

I don’t know how many calories this is and I’m too lazy to look it up right now, but my guess is it’s FAR more than 1200 calories.  I’m going to say it’s maybe around 1800-2000 calories.  Don’t forget I’m 5′ tall and weigh 123-125lbs now.  And remember that is not what I eat every day- some days I eat far less because I’m busier and not as hungry.

I’m pretty sure any sane person who sees my above menu and knows my height and weight, would not say I’m having to under-eat in order to maintain my weight.

Basic Answer to Scare Tactic #2: Since I’ve maintained my fat loss from the hcg diet for a full year now almost 2 years, have not had to under eat to do so, and eat what I need/want (in a healthy way) to stay healthy, I don’t feel my metabolism has been affected negatively by the protocol.

And remember, this is coming from a person who BEGAN hcg with a thyroid problem (that I was being properly medicated for).  I would think someone who didn’t have a thyroid issue to begin with and did the protocol properly would fare even better.

Now it’s not like I finished the diet and then laid down on the coach and didn’t lift a limb to see what would happen over the next year though.  In keeping with my new body and new health goals, I have been crossfitting for two and a half years now (I took breaks from crossfit though when I was on my rounds).

Did Crossfit help my metabolism?  I think it would be pretty much impossible for it not to!  I think it’s a HUGE part of how “comfy” my body is able to stay where it’s at and even improve.  But even at that, I literally only spend 3 hours a week doing this exercise.  The remainder of the time I’m actually fairly sedentary.  No 2 hour sessions running on the treadmill.

I’m also not saying that everyone who does hcg will be able to eat the same diet as me.  A large number of the women who frequent my site are in peri-menopause or straight up menopause and hormones whether it’s too much or too little DOES affect how our bodies utilize calories and definitely can make maintaining weight more difficult.  But rather than give up, I’m glad hcg is here to have a way to combat this.

Let’s move on to the ruined metabolism FOREVER part.


     I feel the idea of a metabolism being ruined forever is a myth now.  Not for just the hcg diet, but for any diet really- even fasting.

Let me clarify- your metabolism WILL slow down if you fast for a length of time.

But it’s not permanent, and also doesn’t mean you’re damaging your body.  There are actually several books on fasting
I read recently that described the physiologic process your body goes through when you water fast and how the body does reduce the metabolic rate after a certain period of fasting (but at the same time it is also accomplishing some other amazing things like autophagy- a process where your body breaks down diseased/less than perfect tissues and eats them up, allowing your body to create new healthy tissue in it’s place), and that it then takes a period of weeks to return to normal- but it WILL return to normal, provided you do the right things to take care of yourself.

I know that’s sort of off-topic, but I mention it mainly because the notion of this extreme viewpoint that if you made a mistake when it came to your body the change would be PERMANENT is a little too much- hence why I called it a scare tactic.

The reason I feel so confident about this information now is because of the book: Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering DiseaseDoes hcg diet cause hypothyroidism, and my own long term results using hcg and using fasting at times.

Does hcg diet cause hypothyroidismWatch B’s Full Interview here

     IF this is true in certain cases, it’s most likely more a matter that the individual couldn’t lose weight without hcg to begin with- meaning there’s likely other hormonal imbalances like thyroid issues they have but are unaware of etc, in which case, doing the the diet changed nothing about their body’s ability to lose weight, positive or negative.  This protocol is not a replacement for addressing other things that are wrong in your body.

However, I’d like to share my recent experience that proves that, at least in my case, this scare tactic is not true.

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I don’t think the definition of success from a diet means that you lose the weight and then never gain or lose a single ounce from that point forward forever more.

Anyone who does is either not being honest, or is amazingly more impervious to life trials than the vast majority of human beings on planet earth.  Good for THEM.  We are imperfect beings with imperfect lives.

I have multiple health conditions that have been going on 10 years that flare up from time to time, and at times this and other stresses have caused me to eat more than I should, or to eat the wrong kinds of foods, for a short period of time.  I have even experience weight gain for NO reason that I could pinpoint to any specific action on my part- meaning I was eating the same and working out the same, but my illness was making me feel unwell and my weight just shot up – meaning something had changed inside my body and was not functioning as optimally as it was.

To me the real success is how you learn to deal with errors you might make in your diet from time to time.

     So I have actually gained a few pounds at a few different points this past year.  But I also managed to lose the weight gained, on my own, without hcg.

My first error was right after my final hcg round ended- I jumped into P3 too quickly and as a result, even though I ended the round with just 21.3 lbs of fat, I immediately gained about 2 pounds of fat in the next few weeks.  I didn’t bother to try to re-lose this though, I was perfectly happy stabilizing and maintaining at a slightly higher weight, which I did well, staying between 23.5-25 pounds of fat for 5 months.  In the four months from April to July though I gained another 3 lbs of fat.  I WAS eating more than I should- I was feeling pretty down during these months and actually feel I did pretty well with my eating considering it all.  But that particular bodyfat test in July was a wake up call.  I had been maintaining a nice 18-19% bodyfat for several months, but now I was at almost 22% with over 28 lbs of fat (to keep it real, this is still a VERY good level of fat for a woman’s body, but the fact that is was increasing is what was bothering me).  At this point I made some changes-

I tightened up my diet by:
  • Periodically eating low carb for a week here and there
  • Intermittent fasting here and there for 18-24 hours at a time.  I probably did this 1-2x’s a week for a couple months.
  • Removed dairy as a trial (okay except for 1 tsp. of half n half in my black tea each morning, and butter).  My weight really started coming down without doing anything at that point.  I think this is because the dairy was causing inflammation in my body.

Follow up hydrostatic body fat test?  October 2013:  17.8% bodyfat, 22.15 lbs fat.  This is almost EXACTLY where I was at when I ended my final hcg round a whole year ago.  I managed to go from 28.32 lbs of fat to 22.15 lbs of fat, all on my own, between July and October.  A later body fat test from April 2014 showed I had dropped to 15% body fat, with 18.39 lbs of fat on my body (3 lbs of fat LESS than my end of hcg).  But just to be honest I didn’t maintain that for long.  Would have been nice.

Basic Answer to Scare Tactic #3:  I lost over 6 lbs of actual fat during a few months, without hcg.  I did not do a super hardcore diet on a daily basis during this time or anything, but just used the methods above AT TIMES throughout the past 3 months.  Weight loss possible the “normal way” after hcg? Check!

That’s huge because most weight loss is actually a combination of water, fat and muscle, so when someone says they lost 15 lbs with a diet, only a portion of that will be pure actual fat- maybe 8-10 lbs or something usually.

I think this protocol is great for losing larger chunks of weight.  Since I really only had a small amount to re-lose, and my health was on the better end at that point, it was worth it to me to see if I could save myself the loading, the vlcd, and the strict P3.  And it worked!

Does hcg diet cause hypothyroidismWatch Amy’s Full Interview here

     I actually talk about this whole subject in detail here:  Common concerns with the hcg diet.

What I have come to believe is that when DONE PROPERLY (there are a LOT of rogue hcg diet methods out there, meaning not on the original protocol- and I’m also not opposed to some alterations done mindfully) the body retains a normal amount of muscle mass for that person’s body height.

I found a GREAT blog called Barbells and Beakers that has compiled and explained a number of studies on this topic – one part I’d just like to quote on her blog from this post is:

“But if there’s so much science – and common sense – showing that you don’t lose muscle preferentially, where did it come from? Turns out a few studies showed a decrease in lean body mass (muscle) during a fast. Don’t worry, new science helped to remedy what may have been a misunderstanding. Turns out that majority of the “weight loss” from muscle was a loss of glycogen and water. Glycogen, for you non-bio nerds, is the stored form of glucose. So most of the loss of “mass” from muscle was water and stored glucose. Additionally, these same studies showed that about 14% of the energy from a fast came from protein, whereas 85% came from stored fat.

Basic Answer to Scare Tactic #4:  I have lost as much as 88% fat (of the total weight lost) on the hcg diet, proved through hydrostatic body fat testing.  Sabrina’s body fat testing showed she lost 93% fat on the hcg diet.

     That’s pretty amazing.  So because of my own good results and others with high percentages of fat loss that can be proved, I do feel that hcg helps the body spare lean muscle mass and favors more fat loss.

But this doesn’t mean a person will never lose muscle on the hcg diet. 

I actually did lose over 16 lbs of muscle/lean mass my very first round.  That’s pretty huge.  There could be two reasons for this.

1.  a very overweight person typically has a lot more muscle than someone who is a healthy weight of their same height.  Your body has to carry more muscle to carry the extra fat. 

So if you are starting out the hcg diet 50-100 lbs overweight, yes you will most likely lose some muscle.  But it never prevented me from maintaining my weight loss after the fact.  Actually, the easiest Phase 3 I had was after that first round- I was amazed how well my body just stabilized by just sticking to no starches and no sugars for the 3 weeks.  So to me this was a natural part of the process.

Just to give you an example, when I began this diet, I had 111 lbs of lean mass at 172 lbs (5’1″).  When I was in high school I weighed 102 lbs TOTAL.  Depending on your height and your frame size, there is a normal range of muscle and lean mass that you will have – in order to even BE a normal weight for my height and still be a healthy body fat percent (meaning not having so little fat that my body is compromised) I technically HAD to have less muscle.

If I still had 111 lbs of muscle, and I weighed what weight now which is really at the high end of a healthy weight for my height, about 125 lbs, that would mean I would be at 12% bodyfat.  Its pretty uncommon for an everyday, full grown woman to have a bodyfat percent that low and depending how it’s achieved, can be unhealthy.

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2. I did a few things I shouldn’t have.  I drank diet coke everyday.  I ate coconut oil.

I’ll never know now if those two things caused me to lose more muscle on hcg than I should have- it’s certainly plausible.  I have never lost that much muscle on any subsequent round of hcg.

One last thing I want to mention here that I didn’t know before is that because muscles store a lot of water – actually kind of a water and sugar mixture called glycogen – body fat testing results ARE affected by water levels in the muscles.  I didn’t realize this before.  The reason I came to find this out was when I started having a few body fat tests close together- one right at the end of Phase 2, then another one about 3 weeks later.  During that 3 weeks I would gain like 6-7 lbs right away (I have done a few of my hcg rounds without fruits or melba making the diet VERY low carb which then depleted my natural muscle glycogen stores far more than usual) and would be amazed to find I had suddenly “gained” like 5-6 lbs of “muscle” in just 3 weeks doing all of like 5 workouts.  This couldn’t be all straight muscle fiber- this was mostly water- just my muscle’s glycogen stores refilling.  So you could take a body fat test right at the end of phase 2, before you’ve had a chance to eat more normally and have your glycogen stores refill, and it might appear as if you lost several pounds of muscle, when in reality, it’s just water.

Does hcg diet cause hypothyroidismWatch Sabrina’s Full Interview here

We’ve already debunked the other four tactics, so at this point, I’m just going to show you this:

November 5, 2012:  17.9% body fat, 21.3 lbs of fat, 119 lbs total, 97.5 lbs lean mass

October 10, 2013: 17.8% body fat, 22.15 lbs of fat, 125 lbs total, 103 lbs lean mass

April 2, 2014: 15.08% body fat, 18.39 lbs fat, 122 lbs total, 103.6 lbs lean mass

All stats above are from hydrostatic testing, which you can see here:

Basic Answer to Scare Tactic #5:  It has been a whole year almost 2 years.  Not only that, but I took several months of breaks between each of my other rounds as well, and consistently maintained 99.5% of my fat loss from those rounds easily too.  No calorie counting.  No under eating.  No having to be low carb for life.  I don’t eat low carb now at all in fact.  Reasonable working out-  3 hours a week (course, I don’t know if Crossfit could really be called reasonable).

Does hcg diet cause hypothyroidismWatch Jenny’s Full Interview here

    • Get rid of sugar.  Replace with stevia.  Seriously- after awhile you won’t even remember or miss it.
    • VARY how much you eat by becoming more in tune with your body.  It’s okay to eat more some days if you feel like it.  But try to start taking notice of days you feel less hungry- perhaps a day you’re super busy- it’s okay to eat less or even not at all those days- seriously- I am so freed by no longer fearing that my metabolism will crash if I don’t eat for a few hours.  It’s almost laughable now to think how duped I was by this info.
    • Have TACTICS for fixing a minor weight gain.  Intermittent fasting.  Low carb for a week.  Remove a food group you’re suspicious of.  Nothing has to be permanent- these are all just things to try- you will discover some of them work wonderfully well for correcting dietary errors.
  • Address thyroid and adrenal issues.  Don’t take this lightly.  Sometimes I get emails from people who know they have a thyroid condition but don’t take medication and they wonder if they will be able to maintain their weight loss after hcg.  I doubt it.  hcg doesn’t fix everything else wrong inside us.  I actually am experiencing this problem right now.  My lyme disease has been acting up and I have a small amount of what I deem unwarranted weight gain, while eating the same foods and same crossfit lifestyle that I’ve been living that has kept me at the same weight for the previous several months.  I know my hormones are off.

Prior to starting HCG

    • I was severely hypothyroid (details below)
    • I had Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease (involves the thyroid).
    • I took 87.5 mcg of Cytomel aka T3- a thyroid medication that is essentially active thyroid hormone.  This was the amount medically prescribed to me by a real doctor.  This is a very high dose of a very potent medication- very few people take this high a dose.  Very few people even take active thyroid hormone.  Most people are on completely different thyroid meds that are not nearly as potent (aka Synthroid, T4, Levothyroxine, Levothroid, Levoxyl, etc).
    • I gained weight to the tune of 172 lbs.
    • Wore a size 18 (only 5’1″ tall here people)
  • 34.5% bodyfat – 59 lbs of fat on my body – tested by by hydrostatic body fat testing

After the HCG Protocol

    • I am 124-126 lbs
    • I’ve been between 18-19% for almost the entire year since finishing hcg – again proved by hydrostatic body fat testing.
    • I have maintained an approximate 50 lb weight loss from hcgfor close to 2 years.
    • I take 12.5 mcg of Cytomel thyroid medication.  A fraction of what I used to take.
    • I don’t count calories
    • I eat carbs – baked potatoes, organic corn tortillas, fruit, rice bread, etc.
    • Maintaining my weight is not difficult
    • I still have Hashimoto’s- it’s not really reversible, but the testing levels for it are far lower than before.
    • I recently gained about 6 lbs of fat and lost it all on my own, without hcg, simply by tightening up my eating and doing a little intermittent fasting.  This seems to debunk the notion of never being able to lose weight without hCG again.
  • Had an April 2014 body fat testing at 15% body fat – the lowest I can remember.

I feel that if the hCG protocol really did ruin your thyroid and metabolism, all of the above would simply not be possible.

It might be tempting for some to say I’m making this stuff up, but I simply have too many youtube videos cataloging my entire hCG journey and too many dated body fat tests for there to be any doubt that, yes, I lost close to 50 lbs, and yes, I lost it with hCG, and yes, I’ve maintained it for close to 2 years.

But when you are new to the hCG diet and haven’t had your own personal success story yet, it’s far more difficult to feel as confident- you don’t have that ultimate proof in your own experience to stand on.

They most likely point to people they know or that they’ve seen online who have gained weight back after losing it with hCG.  Yes this totally happens.  All the time.  Even happened to me once!  See a few clips from my failure after Round 2 in this hcg video – it’s about 2 minutes into the video, so just forward it.

But guess what?  This happens every day, with every diet.  It’s not the diets that are the problem.

It’s our own ability to make long term changes.

I had one round that I regained the weight lost.  I had 4 rounds where I maintained the weight lost.  And now it’s been almost 2 years.

If your definition of a healthy diet is only one that will allow you to live at fast food joints upon completion without gaining weight, dream on.

What we need to provide people more help with is SUPPORT for making those long term changes.

It can be a difficult, emotionally trying experience.  It sure was for me.

And that’s what hcgchica.com is all about.

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