The skinny on losing weight with the HCG Diet

GERMANTOWN (WITI) — Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows there's more than one way to lose weight. But is there a safe way to lose weight, and lose it fast?

A woman from West Bend called the FOX6 Investigators and complained she had paid $1,411 to lose weight on the HCG Diet -- but instead, she had gained.

"I have some special weddings coming up and I wanted to look good for these people I haven't seen in a long time," Tiffany said.

"Tiffany" talks about the heavy toll this ordeal weighs on her mind.

Tiffany is not her real name. She says she's too embarrassed to show her face.

"I am embarrassed of my weight and how big I've become," Tiffany said.

Desperate to lose weight fast, she sought the help of a medical weight loss clinic in Germantown.

"They said they had miracle results 100% guaranteed," Tiffany said.

Initially she says she was given an appetite suppressant.

Supplements used in weight loss program.

"They prescribed this medication and it caused me heart palpitations, more anxiety, so I ate even more and I gained five pounds in six days," Tiffany said.

When that didn't work, Tiffany says she went back and was convinced to try the HCG diet.

"The program itself costs $1,200," she said.

Tiffany says she was told she could lose 40 pounds in 43 days by eating 500 calories a day and giving herself a daily injection of HCG, the hormone women's bodies produce during pregnancy.

Injections used as part of the weight loss process.

"So they gave me seven shots in a little lunch bag. I had to pay them $502," Tiffany said.

"Well I gained weight with it, " Tiffany said. "My doctor said it is impossible to lose 40 pounds in 43 days and it's so unhealthy for your body."

Lindsay Carmody opened Forward Medical Weight Loss two years ago. She's helped more than 150 lose 30-100 pounds.

Lindsay Carmody, a licensed nurse practitioner opened Forward Medical Weight Loss two years ago. She says she's helped more than 150 people lose anywhere between 30 and 100 pounds.

"If there were issues with this, I wouldn't do it," Carmody says. "I treat you like I would treat my family, myself, my friends, and if I didn't feel this was safe and effective, I wouldn't do it."

Carmody says she's seen the average woman lose .65 to 1 pound a day with HCG, and men lose about two to three pounds per day. HCG, she says, targets extra fat on your body. Because the diet requires patients only eat 500 calories a day, HCG pulls fat cells from your body and burns them as energy instead of extra food. Carmody says the program is highly supervised, and she meets with her patients every week to track their progress and hear their concerns.

Carmody says Tiffany is the first person to ever complain, or want their money back.

"I'm out $1,411," Tiffany says. She admits she never actually finished the HCG treatment because she started to worry it was unhealthy.  "And that doesn't include the misery, the weight gain, the heartache, the pain that I all went through," she says.

Craig Strowig disagrees. He started going to Forward Medical this year, and lost 45 pounds in his first 45 days on the diet.

Craig Stowig shows before and after photos of his weight loss success.

"I mean, that's incredible. I have young kids, and they're at the age where they're getting involved with activities, soccer and things like that. And I didn't want to be the fat daddy anymore," Strowig said.

After researching the program offered at Forward Medical, he and his wife signed up for the HCG treatment.

"Right away you start losing that weight," he says. "I thought 'I'm going to have to wait two to three weeks before seeing results.' No. You start seeing it right away."

The Better Business Bureau says it's never received  a complaint about Forward Medical Weight Loss. But as clinics like this one become more popular, it can't hurt to do your homework.

Over-the-counter HCG products are illegal. If it's not prescribed, and it's not injected, don't trust it. HCG is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Critics of the hormone say HCG doesn't make you lose weight — eating fewer calories does. But Carmody says her patients' success is proof enough that the diet works with close medical supervision.

If you only have 10-20 pounds to lose, a medically supervised weight loss program is probably not for you.

"It's not healthy to be fat. It's not healthy to lose weight fast, either. But this seems to be a good middle point," Strowig says.

He and his wife are returning soon for their second round of HCG treatment next week.

"The other day I was at Fleet Farm and I bought a bag of 50-pound solar salt to put in our softener," Strowig says. "I picked that up and I was like this is what I had on my body that I just lost. That was heavy. And I was carrying that around constantly, everyday it was on my knees, on my body. To have that off of me and to lose maybe another one of those bags — it would be incredible.”