Style arbiter Andrés “Andy” Vazquez-Prada would be seen wearing dark clothes, blazers or loose shirts to de-emphasize his 314-lb frame.
Today, the creative director of W17 Home is unrecognizable after losing 130 lbs from the hCG diet in six months. With his new build, clothes hang nicely.
He enters the showroom dressed in a navy Balenciaga shirt, tucked in light gray Uniqlo slacks. His waist is trim enough to brandish the skinny Lanvin belt. Going sockless, he is shod in Tod’s tasseled loafers.
He looks 10 years younger than 37 years old. At six feet, Vazquez-Prada weighs 180 lbs, a weight that he hasn’t been in years. A veteran of diets such as Atkins and South Beach, he says the hCG meal plan transformed his eating behavior.
“My palate has changed completely,” declares Vazquez-Prada. He chucked the fast-food burgers and gooey pizzas for apples, lean meat and grilled vegetables. He eats in smaller portions compared to the multiple helpings in the past.
For so long, an aunt had suggested that he consult US-based endocrinologist Dr. Rex Gloria whenever he was in the country. Vazquez-Prada was reluctant. Last year, after a New York sojourn, he felt extremely sluggish, and that his body could no longer carry his weight. After consultation, he took a blood test and went on the hCG diet.
Human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG is a hormone that regulates the metabolism through the hypothalamus gland. Taken either as shots or pills, hCG originally got the nod from the US Food and Drug Administration to address infertility in both men and women.
It was discovered by a British endocrinologist who dispensed small, repeated doses of the hormone to enable obese patients to get rid of fat. The medication was effective when paired with a 500-calorie meal plan.
In this program, the weight loss is derived from the shedding of unhealthy fat, not the muscle. The hCG enables the hypothalamus to prime the fat out of its stored areas so that it can easily be burned. With a low-calorie diet, the hypothalamus works harder by perpetually releasing the excess fat for energy. Consequently, the body burns more calories of fat which leads to rapid weight loss.
“Before you start the program, you pig out for the first two days,” Vazquez-Prada recalls. The doctor dispensed candy-like hCG pills. Vazquez-Prada’s program consisted of a 45-day cycle followed by a two-week break of “normal eating” to inhibit hCG immunity. He resumed the process for a shorter cycle of 21 days.
The doctor provided a cookbook to relieve him of the boredom of eating bland foods. It gave the dieter the flexibility in how he could consume his daily 500 calories. The diet consisted of a piece of fruit for breakfast; 100 g of meat or fish, and 100 g of vegetables for lunch and dinner.
The same meats, fruits and vegetables should not be eaten for two consecutive days. The meal plan included meats such as chicken breasts, vegetables such as cucumber, celery and lettuces, and white fish that were particular to the diet.
As in many diets, dairy, carbohydrates, alcohol, mayonnaise and sugar were banned, as with pork, lamb, banana, starchy vegetables, grains, cheese and whole eggs.
If there’s a slip, the dieter can offset it by drinking water and eating six apples for a day. That could psychologically kickstart the diet.
Vazquez-Prada admits to cheating when he drank alcohol. “It set me back by six days. It wasn’t worth it.”
While most people would think that a low-calorie diet is a deprivation, Vazquez-Prada enjoys discovering new recipes and novel ways to prepare food.
His cook uses an air fryer, which cooks food with less than 80-percent fat, and a special skillet that uses broth instead of oils. For soups, he is allowed to add olive oil but not cook in it.
The cook can do wonders with eggless and gluten-free fish burgers, molo soup without the wrappers, and low-carb shirataki noodles. He enjoys tacos by using lettuce wraps instead of taco shells and pasta made from raw vegetables.
Today he is on a maintenance program. The sight and smell of fast-food make him cringe. A typical breakfast is fruit such as apples, and lunch is chilled cucumber, basil and mint soup, lamb burgers with tzatziki, a Greek yogurt and cucumber dip.
Instead of pita bread, he combines the lamb with lettuce. He is inspired by recipes from Martha Stewart Living such as salmon with tarragon and yogurt sauce and spinach and watercress dip.
Beyond the rapid and dramatic weight loss, he credits the low-calorie diet for changing his attitude toward food. It taught him to be happy with what’s on the plate, and no more.
Spinach with Nutmeg and Lemon
Trim, rinse and drain spinach. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high, then add as much spinach as will fit. Season the spinach with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook, tossing and adding more spinach for three to five minutes. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves four.
Scallop, Orange and Cucumber Kebabs
1. Heat grill to medium. Clean and lightly oil hot grates. In a small bowl, combine honey and orange juice.
2. Onto four skewers, thread the oranges, cucumber and scallops, beginning and ending with orange wedges. Season with salt and pepper. Grill kebabs until scallions are opaque, four to six minutes, turning and basting with honey mixture halfway through. Serves four.