In April, he received a disconcerting report from his doctor.
“The doctor said if I can’t get my weight under control, I’m going to have to go on insulin,” Wes said.
“He had high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and low testosterone,” said his wife Patti Dingler from their home in Rhome.
Scared of needles, and knowing that diabetes has plagued his family, Wes was determined to alter his fate. His solution was to trick his body into thinking he was pregnant. He started taking a regular dosage of pregnancy hormones and limited his diet to only 500 calories per day.
He lost 40 pounds in 40 days, dropping his weight from 241 pounds to 200 pounds.
“I was averaging a pound a day,” he said. “When I went back to the doctor in July, my blood pressure and blood sugar levels had returned to normal. My bad cholesterol was down and the good cholesterol was up … I felt 10 years younger.”
His wife lost nearly 30 pounds in the same amount of time on the same diet.
“I lost 100 pounds over four years the old-fashioned way by exercising and watching what I ate,” Patti said. “But I lost 27 pounds in only 40 days.”
The couple had found the HCG diet. The diet is a combination of only eating 500 calories a day and taking HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) to stave off hunger.
The HCG hormone appears in pregnant women. When consuming limited calories, the body naturally feeds on internal organs and muscle tissue. But, in order to preserve the strength of a pregnant mother, who is eating for two, HCG directs the body to feed on fat reserves instead.
“Put me on a 500-calorie diet without the hormone, and I’d be a ravenous monster,” Wes said.
Working as a mechanic on airplanes in a warehouse, Wes has taken some good-natured ribbing from his co-workers. He’s able to joke about taking the pregnancy hormone.
“Eyes up here,” Wes said, hands flapping by his head. “I’m getting emotional.
“There were no bad side effects like losing hair, growing boobs or feeling emotional.”
The worst side effect was getting a little weak before he could eat his first meal of the day at lunch.
The instant effects encouraged Wes to stick with it.
“He’s had no willpower. He’s into instant gratification,” Patti said. “This was a desperate measure to keep him from taking insulin and it worked.”
Some days Wes was losing 2 pounds per day.
Patti struggled her entire life with weight loss. Trying every diet that appeared.
“As far as a magic bullet goes,” he said, “this really is it.”
Albert Simeons, a British doctor, created the diet for some of his obese patients in the 1950s. A homeopathic remedy, the diet has made a recent resurgence.
Although the Dinglers said they’ve had no ill side effects, and their doctor said all their nutrition levels were healthy, some recommend the HCG diet only be done under a doctor’s strict supervision, or not at all.
Karen Swain of Decatur used the HCG diet to lose a quick 5 pounds in one week. However, she used prescription injections, not the non-prescription drops used by the Dinglers.
“It’s kind of a controversial diet,” Swain said. “It’s definitely not a lifestyle change. It’s just a short-term thing you can do to lose a certain amount of weight.”
She said it’s best to do under the supervision of a doctor. Her husband, Dr. Gary Swain, prescribes HCG to some of his patients.
“You don’t want to become nutritionally deprived,” Swain said.
She took nutritional supplements for the short time she used the diet.
Exercise is also limited.
“You definitely don’t want to try and run a marathon,” Swain said. “But you don’t have to be a couch potato.”
The lack of proteins and carbohydrates on a 500-calorie diet can send the body into ketosis, a natural appetite suppressant that can lead to acidic blood.
“Our doctor can’t see anything wrong with it,” Patti said. “Wes is in better health than he was a few months ago.”
It’s also possible that the weight is easily added back to the body after the diet is over.
Despite some of the possible ill side effects, the Dinglers are stalwart proponents of the diet.
However, the Dinglers’ say if afterward you stick with the “maintenance diet” of consuming 1,500 calories per day of healthy foods, the weight shouldn’t creep back.
The Dinglers are far from alone in battling obesity.
Texas continues to rank as one of the most obese states. According to Center for Disease Control statistics, nearly 30 percent of Texans were obese in 2009, ranking it as the 14th fattest state, by percentage, in the country. The rest of the South, along with Michigan and Ohio, joined Texas in the top 15.
And several Metro areas in Texas are the worst in the nation. San Antonio, Houston, El Paso and Dallas-Fort Worth are all in the top 14 of the latest “fattest city” rankings.
More sedentary lifestyles, increased access to high sodium and processed fast foods play a role.
“I think it’s all the processed food, all the fats and sugars,” Patti said.
“The sizes of hamburgers at McDonalds have gotten bigger,” Wes said. “The portion sizes at restaurants have gotten bigger … We tend to eat what is easiest.”
They said the HCG diet has forced them to pay more attention to what they eat. Their meals consist of organic fruits and vegetables. They read the labels. They made a lifestyle change.