Everything started 22 years ago when I moved to the U.S. Growing up in Peru, food was hardly a concern or even a passing thought. Food was practically a reflex and preparing and eating a meal was as normal and necessary as, well, breathing! It never occurred to me to plan when or how to breathe nor when or how to eat. I woke up,I ate breakfast. I got hungry, I ate lunch. I got hungry again, I had a snack. The day ended and I had dinner. Plain and simple.
Enter the American way. The bustle of the city was exciting and new. Swept up in all things American, the social dining etiquette was extremely fascinating to me. Food was not a reflex here. Suddenly, there were all sorts of food I had to avoid including meat, rice, potatoes, bread, sweets, chocolate and sometimes even fruit! For discipline’s sake, I wasn’t supposed to eat when I was hungry and not only did I have to start scheduling meal times, but they should also be last priority on the to-do list. Empty refrigerators and convenience stores, sandwich shops, cafes, and restaurants were shockingly common fare. No longer was going out to eat a celebration, but rather, cooking was a special event. But no matter how hard I tried to acclimate, I just couldn’t bare to have a cold sandwich for lunch or even restrict myself from the sustenance I soon realized I cherished. What was a Peruvian boy to do?
From childhood, I always knew I wanted to help people. I entered UC Berkeley to complete an undergraduate degree in pre-med and knew I wanted to continue on this healing path. Learning to cook for myself throughout college, food became the forefront of my interest while simultaneously learning all about the body. Almost naturally, the two worlds collided. I knew at that moment that what we ate was at the root of form, function, and disease, the cause and the cure, and that my healing quest would come through food. It was my AHA moment! It is then that my medical path took a turn towards dietetics.
My last 16 years in private practice and years before that in clinical, have truly humbled and taught me an enormous wealth of knowledge. I have not only witnessed a physiological manifestation of a starving fat nation, but also the strength of the human spirit to endure through exhaustion. Time and again, my clients tell me what they don’t eat, what they’ve cut out, what they eat-on-the-go, and how well they can survive on nothing. Astonishingly, the food which nourishes us is covered in guilt and fear.
With the momentum of thousands of successful clients behind me, I have developed a dream and a goal to bring food back! The current degraded state of our health demands a return to hand-picking our fruits and vegetables, grains, and lean meats; chopping, slicing, cooking, putting love into foods; and smelling, tasting, and savoring the palate of flavors before us. Through the launch of a national movement, Eating Free, eating will no longer be a chore, a practice in discipline, a guilty pleasure, or even just a reflex.
Just as I learned nearly 22 years ago, mindfully selecting, preparing, and eating whole foods should be cherished as the air we breathe.
Photo credit: Photo.com