Nutritionist Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, CSSD, has worked with many RealJock members one-on-one, and through our Weight Loss Challenges. He is San Francisco's leading nutritionist, and a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. Now, Manuel has created a website, Eating Free, where he lays out a new philosophy of food.
The new website takes a different approach to weight loss by asserting very clearly that food is not the problem. Rather, it's the modern way we prepare our food (or don't), and the lifestyle that surrounds eating. Manuel lists some of the ways we painfully and unnecessarily limit ourselves: "No wheat, no dairy, no potatoes, no rice," he says, "no carrots because of the glycemic index and no fruits since they are too high in sugar! Is there anything left we can eat? All of these 'nos' have killed the sacred tradition of food and created fear, guilt, and an overall bad relationship with our self images and the food we eat (or don't eat)."
Manuel thinks his new program can change this. "With eating free," he says, "we want to take all of these myths in regards to food and show you that food is not the problem. The problem is what we have done to food in regards to processing it, its portion-size and the mindless way in which we eat. With Eating Free, we take away the guilt and fear and teach people how to eat what they like in a responsible and healthy way." He councils ""a return to hand-picking your fruits and vegetables, grains, and lean meats; chopping, slicing, cooking, putting love into your foods; and smelling, tasting, and savoring the palate of flavors before you."
The site helps you do so by averaging out your food intake over a week, rather than a day like most eating plans, and by encouraging you to eat what you actually like. "With this plan," Manuel says, "you have a week to eat what you like and when you like. It’s up to you to manage what you are going to eat. We now know that eating is not just about counting calories. With Eating Free, we take away the guilt and fear and teach people how to eat what they like in a responsible and healthy way." For instance, the system includes Freebies, allowances of different food groups that you can eat each week. Manuel explains, "Say, for instance, you know that you are going to eat chocolate cake at a party this weekend. You simply plug what you want to eat into your own Eating Free plan and it tells you exactly how to adjust your Freebies so that you can have your chocolate cake and never have to worry about getting off track with your weight loss goals."
Lifestyle is at the center of this plan, which takes into account nutrition-compromising factors such as stress, lack of sleep and time management. "Many times when clients tell me they exercise 6 days a week, 1 - 1.5 hours each day and don't have time to sleep, cook, or shop," Manuel says, "my response is to cut their exercise time in half and use the extra time to sleep more and to shop, cook, prepare and eat their meals. Let go of the idea that preparing and eating is a chore. If you do not prioritize your health, your health will not prioritize you!" Instead, he says, good nutrition is about: "Knowing your limits, managing your time, and including time to relax allow your body to refresh. Mindfully eating by smelling, chewing, savoring, and eating guilt-free not only minimizes your digestive efforts but also nourishes the body to support your daily activities."
The Eating Free plan begins with the FreeQ (which, by the way, is free). The FreeQ is food plus rest plus energy expenditure. It is a method of evaluating, not only your caloric intake and expenditure, but the relation of these to your quality of life. Manuel explains, "FreeQ is a score-system that tells you where you are with Eating Free. But this system also takes into account your quality of life and your quality of weight loss. For instance, even though a person may be maintaining their weight loss, perhaps they are eating in such a way that takes away from their quality of life. They are essentially not eating free." By treating you as an entire person̵ rather than just a caloric equation—the FreeQ lets you get an honest picture of where you are.
In the coming weeks, we'll introduce other features of Eating Free, along with Manuel's nutrition tips and food philosophy. In the meantime, please check out Eating Free and take your FreeQ. The results might surprise you.