HCG Diet Plateaus: Strategies for Getting the Weight Loss Moving Again
HCG diet plateaus occur as in every other weight loss plan. If you are truly following your customized menu and sticking to the plan, you will overcome your set points and plateaus and your weight loss will eventually resume. For some reason, almost all of my patients is in a hurry as soon as they start their diet. They have gained their weight over periods of years – sometimes 10, 20, or more – but as soon as they are on a diet they want things to change on a daily basis.
Do not fall into that trap. There is not set time frame for when and how fast one loses weight. It does not matter whether your body needs two months or four months to readjust and get down in weight. You focus on doing the right thing and let the rest happen when it happens. Do not jump on the scale three times as day. Give the program the time it needs to work and change will happen. Cheating, especially high carb snacks and carbs slows down all weight loss.
Each person has a comfortable weight range that the body gravitates to. It might span 10 to 20 pounds. Someone might be able to weigh anywhere from 120 to 140, for example, without too much effort. Going much above or much below that weight span is difficult. The body fights back by increasing or decreasing appetite, and increasing or decreasing metabolism to bring the weight back to the range it seeks. —Gina Kolata, Rethinking Thin, 2007
HCG Diet Plateaus–What Appears To Be “Slow” Might Be Normal For You
I hope you have had time to read the section on slow metabolism and picking the right HCG preparation for you. There are many reasons for what appears to be “slow” weight loss on the HCG diet that you may have little control over.
- Aging Lowers Metabolism: Men and women over 60 years old lose weight slower than younger men and women. This is due to the normal slow down in metabolism seen as we age. Most people can expect to gain about a pound per year after age 45. This is due in part to the reduction in muscle mass and activity. Other metabolic factors are present.
- Women Lose Weight Slower than Men of the Same Age: Most men tend to carry more muscle mass than women and that can explain part of the reason that women have a harder time losing weight. Men, on average, tend to have more physically demanding jobs than woman and simply burn more calories with their daily tasks. (Many women will argue this point, but jobs in the trades, construction, warehousing, and the like are still mostly staffed by males.) The distribution of fat storage also plays a large role. While males store excess fat in the midsection, females tend to store it in the hips, legs, and buttocks. The fat storage for women is less available to be broken down and is therefore retained more readily.
- Weight Loss is Slower on the HCG Diet If You Have Recently Lost Weight: Weight loss slows down as you lose weight. If you have lost 20 pounds in the past 3 months, you cannot expect to lose weight at the same rate as you lost it in the beginning. This includes someone who has used HCG recently. Although there is no “tolerance” to HCG, people who have taken HCG before seem simply to lose weight at a slower rate — even if they have regained the weight they previously lost and are starting again at the same weight they started at the last time around.
- Unreasonable Weight Loss Expectations: When my patients ask me why they are unable to lose weight, I tell them to start by reexamining their expectations. Are they unrealistic? If you are comparing yourself to the bone-thin celebrity on television or what you weighed in high school, perhaps your expectations are unrealistic. Its normal to gain about 1 lb, per year or about 10 lbs per decade. You goal should always be to seek a realistic goal that you can maintain without driving yourself crazy.
- Your “Normal” Weight is Set by Your Genes: Your normal and ideal weight is set genetically. 75% of our weight is set by the genes received from our parents. Weight is only secondary to height as a genetic trait.
- Set Points and Plateaus Are Normal: On every diet, including the HCG Diet, it’s normal for metabolism to slow down and produce plateaus. Sometimes we reach the plateau at which our weight loss had stalled on previous diet programs. This particular kind of plateau is called a set point. Each person has his or her own set point, or the level at which one naturally starts to resist weight change and becomes “comfortable” with his or her new weight. There are low set points and high set points; think of them as pre-set weight zones. Your plateau might be your low set point. The trick is to learn the cause of your set point and what to do to change it.
- Getting on the Scale Every Day: Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, if you stick to the plan, you will overcome your set points and plateaus and continue to lose the weight. Don’t put undue scrutiny on your day-to-day weight by constantly weighing yourself. All that will do is create a psychological barrier and stress you out. Don’t fall into that trap and don’t jump on the scale three times a day. Just continue following the protocol and your weight loss will eventually resume.
Medical Problems Can Cause Slower Weight Loss on the HCG Diet
There are a number of medical problems that may interfere with your weight loss on the HCG diet (or any other diet), including:
- Low thyroid function
- Diabetes, especially if taking medication
- Many prescription drugs
- Hormone balance
- High stress levels
- Lack of vitamins and minerals
People experience situations differently and your hormones play a large role in how your body processes the extra weight or attempts at weight loss. The more stress that you endure the harder it is to lose weight. There are many people that cope with stress and depression with food. If you are one of those people, go to your doctor and find a good medication that will treat depression and help control the feelings of stress. This will help you to avoid eating to cope and eliminate unnecessary calories and fat intake. One of the major causes of slowdowns in weight loss is due to cheating, usually carbs. Closely related is menstruation often associated with cravings for carbs.
One of the major reasons for NOT stopping HCG during menstruation is preventing slowdowns.
Lifestyle Factors That Can Slow Weight Loss on the HCG Diet
- Inadequate Sleep: People also don’t factor in sleep as a way to regulate their hormones. Skipping sleep a few hours here and there can have a major impact on your waistline.
- No Patience: You might be trying too hard to lose weight and have no patience. Weight loss isn’t an instant thing. You may lose 4 pounds one week and 1 the next week. As long as you see some weight loss over the course of several weeks you are doing the right thing. If you rush the process you’ll get frustrated and you’ll go back to bad habits. Let’s face it, weight loss programs can get boring and everyone gets careless eventually. Whether we buy the wrong foods(usually carbs), eat too little protein eat larger portions, or are missing some vitamins and minerals, setbacks and plateaus are a normal part of the weight loss process.
- Not Enough Water and Liquids: One of the key ingredients for your weight loss efforts should be drinking water. When you drink water you help to hydrate your body and you help with your digestion. We tend to get far too many calories from the beverages we consume which are mainly in the form of sugar. By avoiding soda, alcohol, energy drinks, high sugar juice and other similar beverages we will lose weight. Try replacing all these beverages with just plain water or drinks with artificial sweeteners such as diet sodas, crystal light or the new flavor drops. You’ll cut out a huge number of calories in the process and you’ll get all the benefits of plain water.
- Insufficient Vitamin and Mineral Intake: After losing 20 pounds, some individuals develop certain mineral deficiencies, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, copper and selenium. Your body needs all of these minerals as co-enzymes to break down fat molecules. Most over-the-counter multivitamin supplements do not contain enough of these elements to make up for the deficiencies that you may be experiencing. Instead, consider specific vitamin and mineral replacements containing potassium, magnesium, calcium, and zinc, such as zinc lozenges, or calcium and magnesium pills.
Slow Weight Loss on the HCG Diet Due To Food Mistakes
Food mistakes are often due to simply making the wrong choice out of hunger or perceived lack of availability of better. This includes what you may choose to drink as well. Alcohol is always a problem. You can lose weight drinking alcoholic beverages without sugary mixes. The issue is drinking moderate alcohol on the HCG diet.
We have spent years searching for the best foods and prepared products that follow the guidelines of the 800 Calorie HCG Diet. We have listed the best brands as well as alternate brands in the 800 Calorie HCG Diet User’s Manual and Food Menu supplied in every kit. Additionally, you can download the Menu for free on the right side of this page (Dr. Lipman’s HCG Food Plan, toward the top). You can also purchase food that works in the diet plan by visiting our HCG Foods store.
In general here are the guidelines for selecting food on the HCG Diet:
- Calories: This depends on the food. Even if the carbs and fat are low, you cannot eat a 200 calorie high protein bar or shake. They must be appropriate for the food.
- Portions for low fat protein are presented in the food menus. Seek fish and shell fish that have large portions and avoid beef and pork which have higher fat and much smaller portions. The higher the low fat protein the greater the weight loss.
- Vegetables except for corn, peas and carrots are unlimited. Steaming vegetables is a great way to avoid adding fat during preparation. You can also try using herbs, lemon juice, or vinegar in place of butter. If you prefer to saute your vegetables, avoid using oil to prepare them. Using broth or a flavored vinegar is a great substitute for using oil during preparation. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter in the near zero calorie spray is a great substitute for higher calorie margarine or oils. There are a group of “negative” calorie foods, mostly vegetables that can increase metabolism.
- Fruits are limited to 3 portions a day.
- Snacks: There are two groups of snacks. All should have fat less than 3 or 4 grams and sugar less than 2 or 3 grams. Group 1 includes 1 snack per day that should be less than 80 calories. Group 2 has 2 snacks per day that are 35-40 calories or less.
- Beverages: They should all be zero or near zero calories with fat less than 3 grams and zero or near zero sugar.
In addition to not following the food guidelines for the HCG diet, another food mistake is eating foods with little nutritional value. If you’re trying to lose weight you might be eating “diet” foods. These aren’t the best choices to lose weight because they are full of additives. Often you can get away with these foods, but on occasion they do cause a stall in your weight loss. What you need to do is switch to whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, and lean protein.
Brand Guidelines: Not all brands of the same food are the same. Sugar is found in hundreds and hundreds of products. Always read food labels. Also, watch your foods when you dine out. Typical mistakes are selecting the wrong yogurt, the wrong protein bar or the wrong protein shakes. Here is a short list of items where I see the most frequent food mistakes.
- Yogurt: 50-60 calories, 2 grams of fat, 2 grams of sugar or less
- Protein Bars: 150 calories or less, 2-3 grams of fat, 1-2 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein or more
- Protein Shakes: 160 calories or less, 2 grams of fat or less, 1-2 grams of sugar, at least 12 grams of protein
- Snack Bags of Chips, Cookies, etc.: total calories 70 calories or less, 1-2 grams of fat, 1-2 grams of sugar or less.
- Ice Cream / Frozen Dessert Bars: 40 calories of less, 1 gram of fat, 1-2 grams of sugar.
- Cooking Oils: Cooking oils including olive oil have a lot of calories and interfere with fat burning. Be careful, use PAM spray, and use Wishbone spray dressings.
- Protein: portions of meat that are too large, salmon in large portions, etc.
A great way that may help you lose weight is to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Alcohol contains more calories than protein or carbohydrates and it’s very easy to drink too much. By limiting the amount of alcohol you drink, you’ll be more able to achieve your goals. Add drink mixes, which are loaded with sugar and even more calories, and you can derail a day’s worth of great weight loss effort with one drink. Read more about alcohol and drink mixes.
How to Get off the HCG Diet Plateau
Whether you need to lose 10 pounds or ten times that amount, sooner or later there comes a time when you find yourself dieting but not losing weight anymore. When that happens it’s time to adjust your dieting strategies without changing the basic 800 Calorie HCG diet or foods.
The best thing you can do is to change what you’re doing in some way. If you’re on the same diet for an extended period of time, your body gets used to it. That’s bad news because your metabolism starts to work more efficiently and burns fewer calories. When that happens, your weight loss slows down or even stops completely. In order to keep losing weight you have to keep your metabolism off balance, so it works harder. That’s the real key to dieting success and why certain very effective diet plans are designed around this very idea. There are a few ways to do this.
1. Adjusting Your Calorie Intake: Change how many calories you allow yourself in a day. One day have 500 calories and on another day have 950 calories. You can do this daily or every few days. And that doesn’t mean that you’re always cutting down on calorie consumption.
If you consume 800 calories every day for weeks on end, eventually your metabolism stops burning body fat and starts to store it instead. The worst part of all of this is that if you decide to stop dieting because it’s not working anyway, you’ll quickly start to regain the weight you’ve lost. Remember, your metabolism doesn’t automatically know it can speed back up because you’re giving it more fuel. It’s still set in conservation mode. But you can beat this conservation mode by changing up the number of calories you consume.
2. Vary Your Food: Even though you are counting calories, that doesn’t mean you have to eat the same foods day after day. You can change the types of food you eat. Variation will also prevent you from getting bored and discouraged. At times you might eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, while at other times you might go heavy on the protein. You can change breakfast from eggs to protein shakes to protein bars to omelets to yogurt with fruit. And by the way, when you diet, protein is your friend. It should never be completely eliminated because protein keeps you from getting hungry, even when you are on a reduced calorie diet. There are a lot of “zero” calorie foods that can boost your metabolism
3. Eat More Often: Another way to shake up your routine and keep your metabolism revved up is to eat more often. That may seem counter intuitive since you’re trying to lose weight. However, it works to your benefit when you do it the right way. And the right way is to eat smaller amounts more frequently. Don’t save all your calories for just three meals a day. Plan on snacking mid-morning and mid-afternoon. That way you’re not too hungry when it’s time for lunch or supper. You will also have an easier time controlling your portion size if you’re not starving when you sit down to a meal.
4. Add Some Exercise to Your 800 Calorie HCG Diet Plan: In my program, I do not ask you to wear yourself out with exercise, but I need you to do some lifestyle exercising. For some people it might simply involve walking the dog, walking more, and not taking the elevator. In addition, we need to add some more exercise when the body’s metabolism naturally begins to slow.
When faced with that problem, as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day can help you to break through the plateau and get your metabolism going again. Also note that if you are currently exercising, you might consider increasing the frequency or intensity of your workouts, or varying the type of workouts you do. Most people forget that any physical movement is weight dependent. As you lose weight, you burn fewer and fewer calories. Therefore, sometimes we really need to give the body a little additional push to get it out of the ever-slowing metabolism, which is the reason why you stopped losing weight.
Your Cheat-Sheet for Beating HCG Diet Slowdowns
- Drink more water
- Cut out beef or pork (too many calories)
- Reduce or eliminate high-calorie, high-fat lunch meats and cheeses
- Cut out cottage cheese (may have too much sugar or pose portion control problems)
- Check for hidden sugar in your food (read labels — it’s all over the place!)
- Are you on any new medications that slow metabolism?
- Are your fruit portion sizes too large? If so, cut back one fruit serving
- Add a little bit of exercise
- Rethink the number of snacks you have in a day and watch their calorie content (should be
no more than 100 calories per day, excluding the fruits and vegetables)
- Limit snacking on leftovers by freezing them right after eating your portion
- If you’re eating in the evening, try going to bed earlier
- Stop getting on the scale every day! (All you will see are water fluctuations which will make you unnecessarily discouraged)
Richard Lipman MD is a endocrinologist and board certified internist who has treated more than 10,000 overweight patients in his Miami office with his new 800 calorie HCG diet for the past 10 years in Miami, Fl