Eating to Live, Not Living to Eat
Published: May 8, 2013 (Issue # 1758)
While many Eat2Fit clients are trying to shed pounds, some are looking to bulk up. Here Grigorieva consults with one of the latter.
More than 25 percent of Russia’s adult population is obese, while 55 percent of the total population is considered to be overweight, according to an annual national study. “We examine about 1.5 million people every year, and every year the percentage of overweight people increases, especially among women,” said Dr. Viktor Tutelian, Director of the Scientific Research Institute of Nutrition at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Being overweight affects people from all social groups; however, each segment of society tends to solve the problem in a different way. People from Russia’s middle class are unwilling to pay nutritionists and prefer to act independently by trial and error with various dieting methods. Wealthier people, on the other hand, are more willing to turn to clinics for weight control. However, both groups face the same difficulty of making permanent changes in order to lead a healthier lifestyle.
“The main thing people need to understand is that food is the most important factor in what shapes their figure,” said Elena Grigorieva, a nutritionist and the general director of Eat2Fit, a new company in St. Petersburg that offers a healthy food home delivery service.
According to Grigorieva, most attempts by people to lose weight fail for one simple reason: People choose to lose weight by allowing their eyes to judge what’s good for them, disregarding their body type and needs. For Grigorieva, it’s like buying clothes without trying them on. “What would happen if you just grabbed a dress that you liked without looking at the size, not considering whether this color or style suited you? At the very least, you would look ridiculous; that is, if you could even get the thing on,” she said.
At Eat2Fit, the company has developed 10 nutrition programs each with five or six meals and calorie counts ranging from 800 to 4500 calories per day. The last option is specifically designed for athletes who want to build muscle. An example of a breakfast meal on the company’s Moderation plan includes: oatmeal with milk and green apple, cottage cheese cakes with sour cream and citrus fruit with fresh basil. The meal is delivered to customers early in the morning in a cooler bag that also contains food for the rest of the day. Despite the name of the plan, participants are not expected to starve — they are also given a late-morning snack, lunch and a supper that could include veal cutlets, vegetable stew with mushrooms and white truffle sauce or a salad with pine nuts and cranberry dressing.
“You can’t get bored because we do not repeat the menus on this diet,” said Grigorieva. “Even if the course lasts a month, we offer program participants a different meal every day.”
“Most of our clients are successful, accomplished people under the age of 40 who are ready to invest in their health and appearance. These are people who realize that a harmonious appearance is an integral part of their social status and success that needs to be maintained,” said Grigorieva.
However, Eat2Fit’s meal planning and diet service does not come cheaply. At 3,000 rubles ($96.50) a day with a minimum commitment of ten days, its customer base is limited. Instead, many people turn to self-help methods, as they are reluctant to approach professionals.
“On one hand, there is a high degree of distrust in doctors. On the other, [many] people find it difficult to spend what they see as a substantial amount of money on food,” said Grigorieva. “It is difficult for such people to begin to look at food more seriously — as an important part of their health. Excess weight is not just an aesthetic problem. We are talking about how to build your metabolism and keep healthy for years to come. “
Adrian Heini, the head physician of internal medicine and clinical nutrition at the renowned La Prairie Clinic in Switzerland, sees numerous Russian patients at his facility, many of whom are concerned with weight loss.
“The Russian patient is usually a successful businessman in his prime, like a senior executive, whose body is half-destroyed by having followed the wrong lifestyle,” he said. “Shattered nerves, insomnia and an alcohol habit are clearly written all over their faces. In addition, some clients are so touchy that it becomes clear that personal trainers and consultants in Russia are too afraid to object to these clients or to insist on something in fear of losing a well-paid contract.”
Dieting has never looked so good. This plate of seafood is one of the prepared meals that are delivered by a new service.
“Our goal is not to teach the patient to cover up dark circles under their eyes and other effects of excessive libations with a thick layer of serum. Instead we try to explain to them how to strive for beauty from within, how to look younger and fresher by using their own resources and how to sacrifice their favorite bad habits.”
“Not all agree, of course,” he said. “Sometimes clients come in and it’s a disaster.”
This is the exact problem Grigorieva sees in many of her customers — the unwillingness to part with their usual way of life with years of addiction to the wrong food and habits. “They want to get the result from the wave of a magic wand, rather than being aware of their habits and making changes,” she said.
“Unfortunately we see in many cases that the customer is ready to undertake our diet plan for 10 days but then once it’s over, everything goes back to how it was — the customer does not continue in the direction that was set in the program.”
Grigorieva adds that customers have to view the principles of healthy eating according to the analogy of building a house. “For the house to be built, we need bricks, cement and labor. For a house to stand a long time, the building materials and labor must be of good quality.”
According to famous Catalan chef Chef Ferran Adrià, founder of the legendary restaurant El Bulli on the Costa Brava, the changing role of women in the home also adds to the challenge of healthy eating. “In the past, cookbooks were written assuming that a housewife would spend all day preparing a meal. Today, women usually work outside the home and have to cook, as they say, ‘in a hurry.’ Then the task becomes how to prepare in the shortest amount of time a dish that is healthy, easy and rewarding. One has to agree that this is not very easy.”
However, positive attitudes towards healthy eating are starting to be seen in St. Petersburg restaurants. According to Vadim Lapin, co-owner of the restaurant holding company Ginza Project, patrons are increasingly interested in the origin of ingredients and their processing methods. “Diners are asking more questions. They may be interested, for example, not only from where, say, salmon is from, but also the manner in which the fish was raised,” said Lapin.
While in many European cities it is common for restaurants to offer lighter meal options, in St. Petersburg this type of menu is still rare. In March, the restaurant miX introduced a vegetarian three-course lunch that included a vegetable soup, seasonal vegetables prepared in Alain Ducasse’s signature cookpot, fruit sorbet and a glass of champagne — a menu addition directly connected with the ladies who regularly lunch there.
“We wanted to bring more women into the restaurant — their cheerful presence is pleasing, “ said miX’s Chef, Stefan Gortina.
In the end, according to Grigorieva, keeping in shape after a diet is simple, likening nutrition to a mathematical problem. “Diet is a delicious arithmetic for a healthy body. To restore the energy reserves, each of us needs a certain amount of calories. This figure can be calculated and it is from here that we design our nutrition programs.”
“You have to strike a balance — it is necessary to combine the variety of food that nature gives us.”
And for those self-proclaimed foodies out there, Grigorieva says the solution is to transition your way of thinking. “We need to move from seeing food as a treat, to seeing it more as a necessity. You cannot be a foodie 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — that is simply called gluttony.”