A former champion Irish dancer, from Holywood, who was anxious to shift the post-baby bulge and a journalist who couldn’t fasten the seatbelt on her plane seat tell Una Brankin how they finally shed the pounds.
Aisling Holly : who lost 2 stone
This time last year businesswoman Aisling Holly lived in Spanx from her bust-line to her knees, while trying every diet under the sun to lose the weight she’d gained after the birth of her second child.
The flab-flattening undies did a good job, as you can see from her Before photo, but I have to admit I was quite taken aback by the very pretty but frankly chubby Aisling I ran into last summer.
I’ve known her for years and she’s always been a naturally petite slip of a thing, like a paperclip pulled straight. Suddenly her tiny face and head resembled a small child’s superimposed on this rather bloated size 14-16 body. The lithe little dancer was now totally out of proportion, and miserable to boot.
Always fit and health-conscious from her professional Irish dancing and choreography days, Aisling, who is based in Holywood, Co Down, had been careful not to over-eat while expecting. “I’d no problem losing the weight after my son Kailen was born seven years ago but this time I piled on the pounds and just couldn’t shift them afterwards,” she recalls.
“It was, you know, that sort of dead, stocky stubborn weight around my middle, back and hips, even though I was eating fairly normally.
“To be honest, I was really down about it and suffocating under those bloody Spanx! I tried everything from low carb diets to drinking a half pint of vinegar before every meal, which Cindy Crawford is supposed to do. I lost a pound here and there but it all came back on again very quickly. Nothing worked.”
Aisling has always been a hard worker; she worked right up to the day before giving birth to her daughter Megan and was back at work eight days later. She often works a 60-hour week in the beauty industry, where she felt doubly conscious of her weight. So after putting the kids to bed in the evening, she spent hours on the internet researching diets.
“From the reams of information I came across online, I eventually came to the conclusion that there was a hormonal link to this very stubborn weight gain,” she says. “It was then I realised I had to find some sort of medically-based solution. I went to see a dietician who put me in touch with a doctor in Dublin who was prescribing probably the only thing I’d never heard of at that stage, the HCG diet. It sounded crazy in the beginning but after reading the science behind it, I made an appointment to see him right away.”
The HCG diet is a medically-supervised 500-calorie daily programme which is supplemented by twice-daily doses of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone. It’s extracted from the urine of pregnant women — hence the ‘wee-wee diet’ tag. HCG increases the metabolism and suppresses hunger and cravings, a dieter’s dream by all accounts.
However, as Aisling discovered, it’s not a quick fix.
“It’s a very strictly monitored weight-loss process which starts by taking the hormone drops twice a day for the first 28 days. The doctor had a very holistic approach to weight loss and worked in conjunction with a nutritionist and fitness expert who gave me great advice and tips. After a week I’d lost my previously huge cravings for carbs and within a month I’d lost a stone.
“I was thrilled but still had a way to go. The nutritionist devised a balanced diet to suit me, even allowing a bit of chocolate now and again, but it’s funny, most of it tastes overly-sweet to me now, apart from the good hi-cocoa dark stuff.”
After the initial 28-day phase of the diet, Aisling followed the month-long programme devised by the nutritionist to maintain her weight loss. She lost another stone and felt her “stomach gradually shrinking”.
Five months on, she is down to size 10 and looks radiant. Her hair’s silky and her skin is smoother due to the apparently rejuvenating effect of the HCG hormone intake, and the sparkle is back in her crystal-blue eyes.
“I’ve a small frame and happy at size 10. I’d feel too skinny if I went back to my original size six to eight, which I stayed at without trying for years when I was dancing. I got an awful slagging from friends because of the wee-wee nick-name for this diet in the beginning but now two of them are on it.
“Human hormones are used in all sorts of medical treatments so why not in a diet? Like any diet, it’s horses for courses and it might not work for everyone but it made perfect sense to me after I did my homework on it. It’s a naturally based way to lose weight and I feel far healthier for it, and I’ve got the energy now to run round after the wee one.”
Andrea Smith: who lost 4 stone
Andrea Smith has lost four stone since she began the HCG diet in March. The tall 43-year-old journalist weighed in at a hefty 20st 2lb when she went for her initial consultation for the UK Hospital Group’s Made To Measure weight-loss programme.
“I was never big into dieting and just gradually let the weight creep on,” says Andrea, who lives on her own in the west Dublin suburbs. “In my 20s I’d watch what I ate a bit more but then decided my weight didn’t bother me.
“That changed when I had to start asking for the pregnancy seatbelt on planes. The mortification of it! I was so delighted when I flew to France a few weeks ago and could fasten the standard seatbelt for the first time in years. And at last the table tray came all the way down instead of landing on my stomach.”
Now a popular columnist with RSVP magazine, Andrea recently wrote of her battle to save her home from repossession after she lost her job at the height of the Irish recession. Through hard work and protracted negotiations with her mortgage lenders, she managed to keep the roof over her head, but the comfort-eating she turned to in the dark days had taken its toll on her body.
“I was existing on a totally unbalanced diet of carbs and dairy,” she admits. “Then there were — and still are — all the Press trips I went on with the best of food and wine provided. But I eventually got tired of carting around all this weight; it was literally slowing me down.
“The turning point came when I hit 20 stone. I knew I had to do something drastic. A friend recommended Dr Sami at the Hospital Group and when I went in, he and his team were so kind and encouraging I knew I was in good hands straight away.”
Dr Sami administered the HCG programme and a nutritionist put Andrea on a high protein diet.
“I always loved eating carbs but the HCG diet is restrictive so I got used to eating high protein meals. I like the discipline of only being allowed to eat certain foods. It has got to the point where I don’t even miss my old eating habits.
“Even though this is a low calorie diet, I don’t feel really mad hungry any more and I’ve lost my craving for carbs. It’s great to feel my rings slipping off my fingers and my clothes getting loose. One of the great advantages of this Made To Measure programme run by Dr Sami is that it includes a fitness instructor, who’s helping me to tone up.”
Younger looking than her 43 years, Andrea has lovely almond- shaped brown eyes and a perfect smile.
Her smooth complexion, she believes, is a welcome side-effect of the diet. She’s down to 16 stone, despite a recent lapse while she was ill with the flu and a severe chest infection.
“I took to the sofa feeling sorry for myself because I had deadlines to meet — as a freelance you can’t give yourself sick leave. I lay there typing and eating rubbish and ended up putting 6lbs back on.
“I was ashamed going back to Dr Sami but he’s the kindest man in the world, totally non-judgemental, and he put me back on track.
“I’ve dropped back four pounds fairly quickly. I have another four stone to go to my target weight but I’ve been educated for life on this programme and I’m totally confident I’ll get there.”
Diet of choice for Jersey Shore stars and social set
The use of HCG as a weight-loss product was first promoted by Dr ATW Simeons, a British endocrinologist, who concluded that it was responsible for weight loss while studying undernourished pregnant women in India during the 1950s.
The hormone fell out of favour when the Journal of the American Medical Association debunked it during the 1970s. HCG was resurrected recently after some US celebrities promoted its use, among them Snooki and JWoww, stars of reality show Jersey Shore. Despite the Irish Medicines Board’s recent questioning of the diet and banning of the advertising of the HCG, it has become the diet of choice amongst the social set in Dublin, with model Hazel O’Sullivan and high-profile restaurateur/broad
caster Sallyanne Clarke of the Michelin-starred L’Ecrivain restaurant both attributing their recent weight loss down to it.
The Hospital Group is holding information evenings on the HCG diet and their new Velashape and CoolSculpting treatments, starting on Thursday, November 8.
The HCG diet is available under medical supervision from the Hospital Group in Holywood, Co Down.
Go to www.thehospitalgroup.org for further details or tel: 0845 287 7190.