When it comes to the way they eat, raise their kids, or live in general, Americans usually compare themselves to the French. The general idea is that the French always do it better: they eat nicer food without gaining weight, raise happier and better behaved children, and have more fun and more sex than the exhausted, stressed and overweight Americans.
But is it only the French who know better? What about other cultures? What about Latin Americans?
According to diet coach Manuel Villacorta, in places like Peru, we eat better too, and the reason is because we eat freely. When I first came in contact with Manuel’s work, I was immediately drawn to his approach to food and his concept of eating free.
“I grew up in Peru, a fact that holds a powerful influence over how I perceive many aspects of life, but particularly my relationship with food. Not only did I eat what I wanted when I wanted, but I held reverence for mealtimes. We didn’t eat to subsist; we ate to celebrate, to honor family, to show gratitude, and to live in the present moment.”
“The idea of returning to the pleasure of eating is fundamental to everything I teach. As a society, [in the US] we avoid food and make ourselves feel guilty when we indulge. It’s amazing to think that we demonize the very thing that sustains us and gives us fuel to function.”
It was so refreshing to hear a nutritionist tell people that they can eat whatever they want and still have healthy happy bodies. Granted, I have always been slimmer than the average, and have never had to worry about what I eat, but what he said still made all the sense in the world to me. A holistic approach to health and nutrition, where not only the quantity, but also the quality of the food, and the way we eat it is taken into consideration, is exactly what most overweight people in this fast-paced society seem to be lacking. Cutting back on calories and depriving their bodies from real nutrition doesn’t seem to cut it. As Manuel says, “these approaches are reductive, robotic, and sometimes really dangerous. Besides denying users the right blend of macronutrients, these plans deny the pleasure of eating a varied, exciting blend of foods we crave and enjoy. And in many instances these plans create a fear of food, trigger disordered eating, and cause guilt for loving food.”
In his new book, Eating Free, The Carb-Friendly way to lose inches, he compares his healthy eating habits, growing up in Peru, to the way his diet, lifestyle, and body changed as soon as he moved to the States. He treasures the way food is cooked from scratch in most Peruvian homes, and how people eat with family, practicing what he calls “elegant eating”.
“Recently I made my grandmother’s recipe for rice pudding from scratch using whole food products. Made with white rice, milk, and sugar, this fabulous Peruvian dish always fills my home with an incredible, aromatic sweetness. I am overwhelmed and moved by the warmth of the stove, the flavors and familiar smells comingling with thoughts of my childhood, my grandmother, and a simpler time of home-cooked meals. And inevitably, I can never escape the feeling of loss that makes me wonder what happened to food and to our tradition of eating.”
” When did the concepts of eating on the go or devouring plastic-wrapped or boxed meals in a car become appropiate methods of dining?”
Manuel advocates eating regularly to lose weight, and also taking care of the quality of our life in general instead of just obsessing about cutting calories. For example, studies show that people who sleep fewer hours get hungrier. They also show that you need to eat a minimum amount to mantain a healthy metabolism, and that avoiding carbs increases ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”. This is because your body needs carbs to function properly, so when you cut back on these essential foods, you’re actually depriving your body from what it needs for its well-being, and your body strikes back.
“Some plans prohibit white starches, like potatoes, pasta, and rice, or even worse, some new trend diets are telling us to cut out grains completely – and yet whole civilizations have subsisted on those staple foods for millenia without becoming obese.”
With Manuel’s plan, one learns to eat what one loves, and adopt a greater holistic approach to self-care. Instead of depriving his clients, he makes them adopt policies around food. For example, if they enjoy a caloric food one day, he asks them to watch their choices the next few days. And he must be doing something right, since 84% of his clients lose weight and keep it off for good. Now this is a diet one won’t dread starting on Mondays!
If you want to read Manuel Villacorta’s book, we are giving away one copy to a lucky winner. All you need to do is share this article on Facebook or Twitter, and let us know that you did.
*Giveaway open to US Residents only. Winner will be announced on Friday, June 1st. Good luck!