All right, let’s get down to it.
My last blog post (from last September—sorry about my negligence regarding keeping this blog timely) was about my ongoing struggle with my weight, and my last-ditch attempt to drop pounds using the HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) weight-loss program, Releana*. But I never reported back to let my devoted blog readers (all two of you) know whether it worked or not.
So…whaddya think, no news is bad news? Did she do it? Did she survive? Did she go bankrupt trying to pay for the thing? Did she lose weight only to gain it all back “and then some” and is now hiding in an ice cave in an undisclosed location somewhere in the Arctic Circle?
Okay, I won’t keep you in suspense. Ready? I…
LOST TWENTY POUNDS! Twenty friggin’ pounds!
Okay, confession time. That’s not exactly true.
I lost TWENTY-ONE.
Yep, HCG works. No question, no arguments, no “buts” of any kind…including my own, thank God. Not only did I indeed lose 21 lbs., I have kept it off, even three and a half months later, even with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holiday visit from my brother and his family, which, as always, featured the consumption of lots of donuts and hamburgers.
Miracle? Um, that’s a loaded word, but I’d have to say…hell yes. Would I recommend it? In a heartbeat. In fact, I already have, to a number of friends.
Now…was it easy? Oh hell no. I won’t lie. It was absolute torture. Of course, the first two days were fantastic. Those are the “loading” days, when you are required to chow down on as many high-fat, high-sugar foods as you can force down your gullet in 48 hours, so there’s enough fat in your system to absorb the HCG.
You’d think that part would be fun, but that was painful in a different way; I had been doing a low-carb diet for so long that my body plain ol’ didn’t like eating as much food as I was supposed to. Let’s just say my hinky gall bladder wasn’t a fan. Still, over the course of one weekend I ate donuts, giant cookies with a pound of buttercream frosting, pizza, and Indian food. I especially intended to really enjoy my “last meal” on Sunday night—pasta, which I haven’t had in, like, forever. It was going to be fettucini alfredo, even. But I couldn’t manage it. I had comparatively lighter lobster ravioli instead, and even that caused me pain. And I couldn’t even think about eating dessert.
And then it was time to bid a fond farewell to…well, most food, really. No carbs, no oils, no starchy vegetables, no sugar, no… Wait. Let me talk about what I was allowed to eat; it’ll be far more brief.
Starting Monday morning, I put the drops of HCG under my tongue and held them there for the required several minutes. (This turned out to be a fun adventure every day, as my son always tried to converse with me right then. Coincidence? I think not.) I waited 10 minutes, then had breakfast. Er, “breakfast.” This was to consist of half a grapefruit (nixed—I’m not fond of grapefruit) OR one orange (also nixed—not fond of oranges either) OR one apple OR six strawberries.
Yes, you read that right. A whopping six strawberries. Know how long it takes to eat six strawberries? A nanosecond. Before I even knew I had hoovered them up, I was staring at six green stems and was thinking about eating them as well.
Oh yeah, and I could also have coffee (or tea). But no milk. And no sugar. Bleah. (My mantra: If it doesn’t taste like candy, it ain’t coffee.) I always use no-calorie Stevia instead of sugar, so at least it was sweet, but…bleah. I choked it down anyway, especially after I found out that it was a great appetite suppressant—or at least it helped me pretend there was something in my stomach.
Lunch and dinner (dinner started with more HCG drops) consisted of 3 1/2 oz. of protein with no fat—I rotated among chicken (3 1/2 oz. comes out to half a breast), shrimp (about six), and steak—plus 3 1/2 oz. of certain vegetables, like zucchini, cauliflower, salad greens, tomato, or cucumber. And no mixing allowed—one meat and one vegetable type at a time. So my “big” meals would consist of half a chicken breast and a smallish tomato, or a few slices of steak and a couple of cauliflower florets.
Because oil was forbidden (I couldn’t even use regular lotion—had to find the oil-free kind), food was cooked with a spritz of Pam and loaded up with salt and pepper or garam masala dry seasoning mix. I soon found out that 3 1/2 oz. of salad greens was a huge pile, so I looked forward to meals where I had scheduled that as my vegetable. But no salad dressing. Ugh. That made me feel like a cow grazing in a field, but then again, I pretty much was about the same size as a cow, so it was only fitting.
I also was allowed one snack of one of the types of fruit, precisely six hours after the first serving of fruit. It had to be a different type from what I had at breakfast, so I’d usually have the strawberries in the morning and an apple at 3 p.m. I counted the minutes till I could chow down on that apple.
So yeah, I won’t lie: It was agony. Especially the first week. Even though I had subsisted on a somewhat limited diet on a regular basis, the minute the calories were severely restricted, my body rebelled. I was lightheaded often, and freezing cold even in warm weather. I found out that I could increase the amount of protein I was eating (to a whopping 4 or 5 oz.) to offset the negative reaction, but I didn’t. I wanted to get the most out of this dietary boot camp.
And I certainly was motivated by what I saw happening on the scale. I started the diet carrying water from my “monthly,” but even so I dropped 2 lbs. And then, when I flushed the excess water, suddenly I was down even more. And then more. Before the first week was out, I had lost more than 10 lbs. As I was supposed to weigh myself first thing every day, I even found myself looking forward to getting up in the morning—and for me, that’s major.
You know that hackneyed old saying “the weight just fell off?” Well, it did. For a little longer than three weeks, I watched the scale like a hawk and my diet even closer. I didn’t cheat, and I was rewarded. By the second week, I was no longer lightheaded or cold. My body had adjusted, and my gall bladder also approved—for the first time in years, it wasn’t nattering at me that it couldn’t process what I was putting into my body.
I stopped the second phase of the diet a few pounds shy of my goal because I was plateauing. I was starting to retain water again for my next “monthly,” which was messing with my results. Plus my son’s birthday was coming up, and I wanted to have a cupcake at his party. I was okay with quitting four pounds early. Twenty-one pounds brought me down to 160 lbs. I hadn’t seen that number on my scale in a decade—in fact, not since I was watching the scale go up when my thyroid started running rampant.
I started the third phase of the diet—three weeks of no carbs (yeah, I cheated with that birthday cupcake), but I could have as much other food as I wanted, and I could even use oil and butter and salad dressing! It was glorious.
And, interestingly enough, even when the third phase was over and I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted, I wasn’t inclined to eat much at all. My doctor told me that the HCG program resets your hypothalamus, which controls your appetite. I guess it did, because I haven’t eaten this little, and still been satisfied, since I was a teenager.
I celebrated the completion of my diet with a trip to the mall, mainly because I had to get new clothing before I had a wardrobe malfunction. My XL shirts gapped and fell off my shoulders; my size 16 jeans ended up around my ankles if I moved a millimeter, my size 14 jeans drooped to my thighs, my pulled-out-of-the-mothballs size 12s bagged and I spent most of my time yanking them back up to their correct location.
I bought large tops (even a medium here and there) and size 10 jeans. Size 10! I hadn’t seen that number on the tag of my pants since…well, I can’t remember. Wait, yes I can: 1996. Again, before my thyroid went wackadoodle. This was friggin’ epic.
So. It’s done, 21 lbs. are history, and I survived. Now the big question I had to ask myself was if it was worth it. Did losing weight truly make me feel better about myself? Or was I still the same old schlubby me that I hated? Come on now, let’s be honest, was I still dissatisfied with my appearance, now focusing on my remaining flab (diets don’t tone you up, after all), or perhaps my slight facial wrinkles that are an inevitable part of middle age, or maybe my insanely curly hair (the ugly curl/fuzz, not the good stuff), which has never behaved once in my entire life (that’s a whole nuther blog post right there)?
I thought long and hard and tried to come up with an honest answer to this age-old question: Does weighing less really make you happier? Is it superficial, to enjoy fitting into smaller clothes, to have people compliment you, to catch the eye of a member of the opposite sex for the first time in a decade? Bitch, please. Yes it’s superficial, but I didn’t care; I felt damned good for the first time in years.
I’m not going to try to delve into the inner workings of the human psyche, to postulate why physical appearance is so all-fire important. All I know is that, for me, losing weight made a huge difference overall. I stand straighter, carry myself better, look people in the eye because I know they’re now less likely to curl their lip at my appearance. If losing weight was what it took to get me there, to affect the rest of my behavior, so be it. I’m fine with that.
So much so that I’m going to do another round of HCG in a couple of months, to get rid of the last 15 lbs. that are niggling at me. Too much? Not according to the National Institutes of Health Body-Mass Index. Even at 160 lbs., I’m still classified as overweight. But even if I weren’t, I know I liked myself even more when I was a wee bit smaller, so I’m going for it. By spring I hope to fit into single-digit-size pants. (I tried on a pair of 8s last week and even managed to zip ’em up. Couldn’t breathe, but I zipped ’em up!) And I hope to finally, finally be at peace with my appearance.
Six shrimp and a tomato? Looking forward to it. Okay, not really, but I am looking forward to the results. And the challenge. So bring it.
* Not a paid endorsement. Shows you how good it is, dunnit?