Wednesday, May 8, 2013

You're fat, now starve!

Today Hannah and I went to her follow-up for the sleep study she did a few weeks ago. I had to take a day off work because the only time they could get us in was a morning appointment. We were anxious to see if the study revealed the reason she might not be sleeping well at night, and was tired all day long.

The doctor informed us that there were no "significant" findings, certainly not enough obstructive sleep apnea to warrant a CPAP machine, and only a "slight sleep obstruction" occasionally, that could "probably be fixed if you lost 20 lbs."

Fair enough. Hannah wants to lose some weight (what girl doesn't?) so this didn't come as a huge surprise to either of us. However, that's where the discussion of her sleep study ended. Dr. Sleep rambled on about how she could "join our ACG program for weight loss" to which I asked "What is the ACG program?"

Apparently I didn't hear him quite well. What he said was "our HCG program." As in human chorionic gonadotropin, or for those of you who have been pregnant, the hormone that rapidly builds up in the early days of baby-growing. The "program" he described involved injections of HCG (which, by the way, is derived from the urine of pregnant women - yuck!), under the guidance of their on-staff naturopathic doctor. Apparently this pumped-up pee suppresses hunger (if the mere thought didn't already make you lose your appetite), and trigger your body's use of fat for fuel. As the doctor described "they're energy molecules - you won't be hungry and you'll be able to do cardio for hours, although you might have some trouble with resistance training."

As a side note, he mentioned that she would also be required to follow a 500 calorie a day diet, consisting of   small pieces of lean meat, leafy greens and, if she was REALLY hungry, some cottage cheese. YUMMO! I guess that explained the difficulty with resistance training. Because, you know, all that muscle loss from starvation.

Who wouldn't lose weight on 500 calories a day? Why even inject the HCG - you'll already be starving your body. Not to mention putting yourself at risk of gallstones, irregular heartbeat, and electrolyte imbalance.

I sat there in disbelief: minutes before I just wanted the results of my daughter's sleep study and suddenly this doctor was spewing forth a diatribe about how we, as humans, are meant to starve occasionally, but thanks to Red Robin and Cheesecake Factory's ginormous portions, we are surrounded by food and eat all the time, and, basically, we don't need to slay the antelope anymore because the antelope is all around us. So, obviously, if one needs to lose weight, we should inject ourselves with this hormone and nibble on lettuce and  a sliver of chicken breast and join in our forefathers' starvation brotherhood. (P.S. they also only lived to age 20 or so.....)

While he was preaching from his swiveling leather chair pulpit, both my daughter and I could hear his stomach growling audibly, louder and louder as he spoke. Irony is a bitch, and I'm guessing that Dr. Sleep hadn't had his tablespoon of cottage cheese that morning. I wanted to jump up and shout "Have a fucking pop-tart!" and run out of there.

Now, I'm all for nutrition - good choices, reasonable portions, cutting back. I need to lose plenty of weight myself. I buy healthy food for my family. I'm aware of the benefits of losing weight, eating healthy, and exercising regularly. And we try. Like every family, we put forth some effort, and we realize when we might need a little extra help (like Weight Watchers and an amped-up exercise program). But alarm bells were ringing in my head as he spoke and suddenly, the nearly 24 hours we spent doing the sleep study seemed like a ploy to get us to sign up for what sounded like pure torture.

Feeling pressured, we made an appointment with the psycho doctor who runs the HCG program.  Dr. Sleep also mentioned that if our insurance didn't cover the naturopathic doctor, we could just make sure to come in when he was in the office and he'd just sneak the charges under his care. Wow, superb diet advice and insurance fraud rolled into one! Bonus! I'm cancelling the appointment tomorrow.

Because, here's the thing. I brought my 17-year-old, beautiful, curvy, perfectly fine daughter into that office and that nut-job told her she was too fat and should starve herself. This same girl who, just a few months ago, spent time in a hospital because of severe anxiety and was surrounded by girls who were also there because they starved themselves to the point of not being able to walk and needing feeding tubes. What the actual FUCK? Who in their right mind, especially a medical professional, would recommend this "diet" to a teenage girl, especially without exploring other, more reasonable approaches. He didn't even say she HAD to lose weight, that her health was in jeopardy - he just said her "slight sleep obstruction" might be improved if she lost 20 lbs. Might be. Or, he might be opening the door to the eating disorder gingerbread house and enticing her in with tantalizing promises.

The more I thought about it today, the more appalled I became. What message does this send? All my daughter heard was "I can lose 20 lbs in six weeks - yay!" Nothing about keeping it off, lifestyle changes, regular exercise. When I asked him to show me the data about how successful this program was, and how long the participants had kept the weight off, he said it was "not compiled yet" but that he was hearing "great anecdotal evidence" about it. Well, I've heard "great anecdotal evidence" about fat-flush water (it was on Pinterest so it must be true!). No scientific evidence? No dice.

I did my own research online and found everything from "don't do it" to the FDA recommendation to "steer clear." Red flags everywhere. I still cannot figure out why Dr. Sleep recommended such a drastic, unproven program to a young, impressionable girl who just wants a good night's sleep.

Maybe because he's a raving lunatic of an ass-hat who was so calorie-starved he began hallucinating. Because he sure as hell didn't make any sense to me.

I spent the drive home talking to my daughter about safe and sane ways to lose weight that involve eating real food and exercising. We discussed joining Weight Watchers together and going to meetings for the accountability. We talked about the reasons why we wanted to lose weight (for both of us, being healthy and strong was number one, looking good in a swimsuit wasn't on top of the list!). My daughter will lose 20 lbs - probably more - by eating right and exercising.  What she WON'T be doing is injecting the urine of a pregnant women into her thigh on a daily basis and starving. Or thinking she needs to go to such extremes to "fix" herself. Because the last thing I want for my daughter is to end up with an eating disorder because some "professional" told her she was too fat. Did we go to a sleep clinic or a front for a gimmicky weight-loss clinic? I'm really not sure. But we won't go back.


janet Church said...

What an idiot! I met some people who were doing that diet and it made no sense to me. If you eat 500 calories a day you are going to lose weight. Why inject yourself with some foreign substance. And really do you eat too much because you are hungry or because it tastes good or you are bored. I don't think injecting something to make me less hungry would ever work. Seems to me that Dr Sleep should be reported to someone as an idiot and a doctor who condones fraud.

bluedotmom said...

whack a doodle...our society is inundated with 'dr.s' who are hocking these lose weight quick diets and they are doing it for the all mighty dollar...makes me wonder what oath that dr took when he got his 'dr' and where did he get it?

glad it opened up some healthy communication between you but sure hope that no damage was done to your daughter from whack a doodle!