Published: May 8, 2012 Updated: May 15, 2012 11:05 a.m.
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Within the span of a year, Angel Hernandez went from eating McDonald’s McSkillets to cooking a healthy breakfast for the film crew shooting an obesity documentary in Santa Ana.
Hernandez, 18, lost about 70 pounds with help from Latino Health Access, the nonprofit organization featured throughout the four-part documentary “The Weight of the Nation” that premieres this month on HBO.
To demonstrate his transformation, Hernandez prepared refried beans with a little olive oil as well as the Mexican dish chilaquiles, which he made with baked tortillas rather than fried. Chopped melon completed the spread.
Hernandez, who is 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighed 210 pounds when his doctor referred him to an eight-week nutrition and exercise program offered by Latino Health Access.
“I’d be eating fast food almost all day,” he said. “I was embarrassed sometimes. I didn’t like how I looked.”
Hernandez said he resented having to attend the class. But after a couple weeks he became engrossed, especially after a demonstration measuring out the number of spoonfuls of sugar in soda. He became even more engaged when he started losing weight. By the time the class ended, Hernandez had dropped 20 pounds.
He didn’t stop there. He organized soccer games in his Santa Ana apartment complex driveway. He started running around the block. He refused to eat fast food even when his mom brought it home. He learned to cook healthy recipes such as baked salmon with asparagus.
Hernandez, who graduated from high school and works at Target, said his mom and sister have also lost weight. Instead of buying fast food and soda, he said his mom, a factory worker, now stocks up on big bags of produce from Costco.
“For her, it was hard at first because shopping healthy is expensive,” he said. “It’s cheaper to go to the dollar menu.”
It took about a year to reach his current weight of 140. His cholesterol has gone down and he no longer needs an inhaler for asthma.
“I think without the support I would still be that weight,” he said. “It’s hard to do it by yourself.”
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