After years of yo-yo dieting, Linda Prinster was done.
"Any more attempts at weight loss would just put on more weight a little at a time from going up and down," Prinster said.
But when she heard about HCG, something sounded different.
HCG is a hormone produced during pregnancy. In the 1950s, one doctor noticed weight loss in patients using the hormone. He published his findings as the HCG weight loss plan.
Prinster began taking the hormone to amazing results.
"I lost 20 pounds in 30 days, which for me was unbelievable," Prinster explained.
Her success prompted Prinster to found the weight loss center "Pounds and Inches Away."
There are no meals prepared there or workout machines in place, just homeopathic HCG drops and a scale. A simple approach, that so far seems to be working for hundreds of local dieters.
"For most people, it's the best thing they've ever done besides finding their spouse and kids," Prinster said.
Betty Smotherman is one of those people.
On the plan, participants eat large amounts of high-fat foods before going on a 500 calorie-a-day diet.
"500 calories without HCG is a miserable experience, miserable. With HCG, it's usually very different from that," Smotherman said. "I was never hungry when I had the HCG in my system, I didn't have the cravings anymore."
If it seems hard to imagine what 500 calories a day looks like, it's coffee or tea for breakfast, then over the course of the day, two pieces of fruit, two vegetables and two four ounce servings of meat.
After 40 days on the drug, it's assumed your metabolism has increased, and it's back to a normal eating routine.
"It's very unusual for somebody not to be able to eat a healthy 1,500 calories and maintain it," Prinster said.
For each before-and-after success story, there's a skeptic.
Dr. Sam Klein is a professor of medicine and nutritional science at Washington University. Klein says the drug can cause heart problems and increased blood pressure, and most of the weight lost comes from fluids.
"I would not suggest taking that to help people lose weight," Klein said. "Of course if you eat 500 calories a day, you'll lose weight. The question is does HCG allow you to stick to that diet more effectively than not taking HCG and the randomized controlled trials, all the scientific data suggests that's not the case."
Believers in the diet believe the results speak for themselves.
"I don't try to explain much about how electricity works behind a wall. I know the switch works," Prinster said. "What it does for a woman when she's going to have a baby, it makes it possible to build a baby without harming the mother. So if it can do that, I can't imagine why it can't help me lose weight."
Klein said there are a few studies that show some correlation between the hormone and weight loss, but they're limited.
Smotherman believes in the product so much, she now works for Pounds and Inches Away.
While her weight loss results are indisputable, the effectiveness of HCG long-term -- still is.
"It really reflects our desperation to find effective methods to really treat obesity and help people lose weight," Klein explained. "And until we really develop better drugs, better effective therapies to help people lose weight, we'll be reaching for any kind of hope."