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Duly Noted

Wednesday, Oct 19, 2011, 12:58 pm

Slate Celebrates “Love Your Body Day” By Touting a Quack Diet

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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Opacity, Creative Commons.

Contrarian, or simply clueless?

Wednesday is the 14th Annual Love Your Body Day, described by its sponsor, the National Organization for Women Foundation as, "a day when women of all sizes, colors, ages and abilities come together to celebrate self-acceptance and to promote positive body image."

On Wednesday, Slate's DoubleEx blog ran Rachel Larimore's testimonial for the human chorionic gonadotropin diet, entitled, "I Did a Crazy Fad Diet From the Internet: And it worked." The $450 program consists of three weeks on a semi-starvation diet coupled with injections of the hormone hCG, followed by three weeks of moderate calorie restriction.

Larimore is completely untroubled by the fact that there is no scientific evidence that this diet works. She writes:


Like many diet plans, the efficacy of the diet is disputed. The FDA requires that prescriptions carry a warning that the drug “has not been shown to increase weight loss, to cause a more ‘attractive’ distribution of fat or to ‘decrease hunger and discomfort,’”as the New York Times reported in March. The few studies done on the diet seem to indicate that placebos work just as well as injections. (Maybe, but if I had to eat 500 calories a day without some kind of assistance, I’d be gnawing on the furniture by the end of Day 2.)

The other rules of the Simeons hCG diet that Larimore followed are so preposterous as to discredit the entire enterprise:

I understand the skepticism. The diet is full of oddities that Dr. Simeons discovered in his research. If you cheat or gain weight while taking the injections, you’re supposed to eat nothing but apples the next day. You have a long list of vegetables you can choose from, but you can’t mix them (no tomatoes in your salad, for example). You’re not supposed to use lotions or creams because the hCG will burn that up instead of the fat in your body—this can stall your weight loss.

Your body will not burn your moisturizer for fuel. That is physiologically impossible and anyone who tells you otherwise is a quack. Full stop. Do not believe anything they tell you. Definitely do not inject hormones on their say-so.

The American Academy of Bariatric Physicians has rejected hCG as a treatment for obesity. The Academy's position paper casts doubt on the theory that hCG stimulates muscle growth in dieters because the diet is so low in protein that the body can't possibly be synthesizing new muscle tissue. Obesity isn't the same as wanting to lose a few pounds, but the same arguments for the inefficacy of hCG should apply to non-obese dieters, too.

Larimore lost 18 pounds. But anyone who eats 500 calories a day for three weeks and 1,500-1,800 calories a day for three more weeks will lose weight. hCG shots are, however, guaranteed to take additional inches off your wallet.

The ethics of prescribing hCG as an off-label diet aid are dubious because the hormone is derived from the urine of pregnant women who are told that they are helping to treat infertility, the legitimate medical application of hCG.

To add an extra layer of irony, Larimore sells the diet in the language of self-acceptance:

Happily, the changes haven’t just been physical. When I started the diet, I wanted my old body back. I didn’t want to buy mom jeans. But a funny thing happened as I lost weight: I realized how much mental energy I had been wasting. I would constantly compare my overweight self to women at the gym, at the mall, at the park. It was a kind of narcissistic masochism: “My butt’s not that big, is it?” “Wow, her arms are skinny.” Once I had regained my self-confidence, this self-destructive behavior disappeared. It might have been at a moment of emotional weakness that I decided to do something mildly crazy to lose weight. But I’ve never felt so sane.

That's always the promise, isn't it? If you just spend $450 on this quack diet, you'll finally be rid or that self-excoriating voice in your head. It's not just a diet, it's a hostage situation.

Or, you could save the $450 and start loving your body right now. Feministing executive editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay suggests some reading material to get you started. No shots or purloined pee required!

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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