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FEED YOUR BODY RIGHT: HE LOST WEIGHT THE ASIAN WAY
In 1997, at age 38, Lenny Vargas discovered a harsh reality of parenting: Five-and 6-year-olds are tough to keep up with. At 245 pounds, Lenny was left huffing and puffing while his two kids were off and running down their Fogelsville, Pennsylvania, street.
Vowing to improve his physical fitness, Lenny started walking and doing calisthenics—situps, pushups, squats, toe touches, and leg raises. He did only a few repetitions of each exercise at first, then gradually increased the number of reps over time. Although he didn't really lose pounds, he noticed a change in his fitness.
Still determined to lose weight, he decided to give up snacks and junk food for Lent. Voila—the combination of smarter eating and regular exercise helped him slim down. He dropped 10 pounds in 2 months.
Then came a business trip to Thailand and other destinations in the Far East, where he fell in love with the food. The fresh vegetables, fish, and rice were like none he had ever tasted. "I always liked fish and vegetables, but I really enjoyed the way they were prepared in some of the places I visited," says Lenny. Spicy-hot Thai dishes were especially memorable. "I could eat like this more often," he thought.
Back home, he was surprised to find that he hadn't gained an ounce on his trip. He figured he was on to something and enlisted the help of his wife, Kathy. They got some cookbooks and began experimenting with Asian cooking at home. Imagine their delight when they discovered that the diet they were adopting was credited with keeping Asians so healthy and trim!
Over the next 18 months, Lenny managed to take off another 50 pounds—a feat that he attributes to his continued commitment to exercise and his penchant for Asian cuisine. He has maintained his weight at 185 pounds ever since. "My wife didn't have a weight problem—even after two kids—but she has held steady, too," he adds.
Thanks to his healthier lifestyle, Lenny is able to hold his own when playing street hockey or basketball with his kids. He has even taken up running. "Not too long ago, I had to get a physical for my job," he says. "The doctor told me that my cholesterol, blood pressure, and other vital signs were all at healthy levels for a man my age." Even though he isn't jetting off to Asia as frequently anymore, Lenny hasn't forgotten the valuable lessons from the Far East.
For healthier fare, look East. Replace traditional American meat-and-potato meals with an Asian-inspired dish of stir-fried, grilled, or steamed vegetables and fish over rice or some other whole grain. Liven things up with Asian spices. Not only are these foods low in fat and total calories but they also contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber that your body needs anyway.