You’d have to be pretty desperate to lose weight to do it the HCG way. But enough people are going that route — using homeopathic products containing the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin and slashing their calories to 500 a day — that the FDA has felt compelled to intervene.

In a consumer update posted on the FDA Web site last week, the agency explains that selling over-the-counter products containing HCG is illegal. Though the hormone, produced by the human placenta and found in pregnant women’s urine, is approved for use by prescription to treat female infertility and some other medical conditions, it is not approved as a weight-loss drug. And the claims made by marketers of HCG weight-loss products are unsubstantiated, says the FDA, which has, along with the Federal Trade Commission, issued warning letters to makers of seven of those products.

The FDA further warns that maintaining a 500-calorie-a-day diet is a dangerous way to lose weight. Doing so for too long could lead to malnutrition and associated ills such as gallstones, electrolyte imbalance and irregular heartbeat.

As I write in this week’s “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column, I learned a lot last year during my Me Minus 10 campaign to lose 10 pounds before I turned 50. But I learned even more in the year following that weight loss. I have gained and lost a few pounds here and there — and come to grips with just how much time and effort I’m willing to invest in being thin.

I’ve decided to strike a balance between the dietary hyper-vigilance and long hours in the gym and my sheer enjoyment of life, food and the company of family and friends. At age 51, being skinny matters less to me than being healthy and happy, even if that means I carry a little more padding than I did when I weighed a bit less. I’m not going to go on a feeding frenzy or stop exercising, and when my jeans or jowls tell me it’s time to make an adjustment, I will. But life is too short to spend so much time fretting about the size of my thighs.

So, I’m clearly not the target market for HCG products. I’d like to know who actually is in that market. Anybody out there care to share their HCG story?