Interview with Weight Loss Expert + a Giveaway

Manuel Villacorta, Eating Free

Recently I caught up with weight loss expert, Manuel Villacorta. Manuel is a registered dietitian and a certified specialist in sports dietetics. I met Manuel several years ago in San Francisco at a dietitian-related function. Not only is Manual a cool guy but he is very passionate about helping people lose weight and keep it off. His approach to weight loss is science-based but also simple and practical. Here he talks about growing up in Peru and his latest book, “Eating Free“…

Q: Tell me a little bit about growing up in Peru and how the diet in there differs from the diet here in the US. 

A: While growing up in Peru my relationship with food was much different than when I moved to the US. In Peru daily life revolved around meals, which were eaten hot and with family and friends. Cooking smells filled our home and stimulated our appetite. Lunch was the largest meal of the day, and Sunday meals were made and enjoyed together.

When I moved to the US 25 years ago my diet changed, and I gained 25 pounds. I tried to adapt the American way of eating; resulting in protein bars, cold sandwiches, and processed foods. I quickly learned that eating was not seen as a priority in the American culture. I began skipping meals, eating standing up, and eating on the go. Also, many of the foods I grew up eating were “not allowed” or seen as “forbidden” in the US. It wasn’t until I returned to my native eating habits that I lost the weight. Planning, cooking, and preparing my meals were key elements of my weight loss. Returning to the foods I grew up with also helped. Once I brought potatoes and rice back into my diet I was much healthier and happier.
 My favorite Peruvian dish is “seco” or cilantro beef stew. I grew up eating many casseroles and stews, and every time I have them I am reminded of my childhood. I still make “seco” at least two times a month.

Q: From your experience, what would you say are the top reasons why dieters don’t lose weight?

A: People are not prioritizing themselves and there is a great lack of practicing self-care. Self-care to me is time that people need to take to prioritize their food shopping, meal planning, eating time, and record keeping. Many people focus solely on exercise, but there is more to it. In addition to self-care people need to work on reducing stress and getting enough sleep.

Q: Can you explain what ghrelin is and what that has to do with weight loss? 

A: Our bodies secrete a hormone called ghrelin, which controls our hunger and drives our appetite. We can forget about losing weight if we do not understand, monitor and control our ghrelin. Ghrelin communicates with our brain, and influences what, when, and how we eat. If ghrelin is out of control eating will be out of control.

Many factors, which are often overlooked in diets, influence ghrelin. The act of weight loss itself increases ghrelin levels. So does lack of sleep and exercise in women.

Q: How is “Eating Free” different from other diet books?

A: Eating Free focuses on eating more, not less, taking time for you to plan and prepare your meals, and truly finding that work/life balance. Eating Free sheds light on a little-known hormone, ghrelin, which controls our hunger (the need to eat), drives our appetite (the desire to eat), and works to manage our metabolism and ability to burn fat only when it is fed, regularly and well. To keep ghrelin and its power to provoke cravings in check, I advocate eating–beginning with breakfast, within an hour after waking, and then every three to four hours.

Q: Are there certain factors to consider if you want to lose weight other than the obvious ones?

A: Eating Free calls attention to the role of sleep in weight loss. Based on studies, ghrelin (and appetite) increases when sleep is reduced to four or five hours a night, from the ideal six to eight hours. We know that weight loss is about a whole balance of factors, including our stress levels. Cortisol production, due to everyday stress, can be a huge barrier for weight loss. Stress is toxic to our well-being, so self-care isn’t just a nice idea; it’s essential to effective weight loss. Losing weight is not just about counting calories. Recent research shows us that there is a holistic component of self-care that involves every aspect of your wellbeing: physical, emotional, psychological—it all adds up to healthy eating for weight loss.

To learn more about Manuel Villacorta and his latest book, “Eating Free,” please visit his website.


Offering one lucky winner an Eating Free Book Package valued at $69.80. The package will include:

  • A vast collection of over 100 meal ideas
  • Two learning and informative 30-minute videos “Outsmart Your Hunger Hormone” and “De-Stress to Weigh Less”, a great supplement for the book
  • A holiday cheat sheet including most foods eaten through the holidays that can help you navigate the holiday season.
  • Eating Free Recipes Booklet.  Twenty delicious recipes from soups, entrees to desserts, vegetarian and gluten free options for everyone by Chef Traci Higgins named “Top 5 Personal Chefs” by San Francisco Magazine.

How to Enter

All you have to do is comment on this post. Please leave email, subscribe via or subscribe via email so I have a way to contact the lucky winner.

Rules & Disclosure

You must be 18 years or older to enter and have a valid U.S. mailing address. The giveaway will end on May 20th at 11:59pm PST. The winner will be chosen at random using The winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be selected. Trish did not receive any monetary compensation for hosting this giveaway.

  • Elizabeth

    I love a program that encourages you to eat carbs and cautions against rigorous workouts!  Seriously though, I believe its true that there is a lot more to weight control than just the number of calories that you eat.  I am interested in this program.  I am also curious about which of the foods from Peru were forbidden or not allowed in the US, and why.  I’d love to find out more about that.  

    • Dish by Trish

      Great. Thanks for commenting and reading, Elizabeth. Good luck!

  • Melissa C.

    i could really use this collection of recipes, etc.  Trying to lose some weight!

  • Katy @ Couch to 5Katy

    My friend’s mom had a similar experience of weight gain with moving to the U.S. She said the portions were so big, but she would eat them because it was there. Now when she goes back to her country, she thinks the portions are tiny, but still feels full after eating them. Plate size does matter!

  • Kitmoo

    To win or not I think purchasing this book would benefit my whole family.I am A single mum to 3 children and in my last year of finishing my nursing degree so health and fitness is very important to me.  With such a busy life style its always hard to think of meals to cook throughout the week and with your book I am sure it will help promote healthy eating and balance in life, allowing the children to get involved also and pass their knowledge to their peers. 

    • Dish by Trish

      I agree; it’s tough to think up new ideas for meals, especially during the weekdays. Thanks for reading :-)

  • Rondah

    Thanks for the great giveaway!  i subcribe to email

  • Dish by Trish

    Exactly. No such thing as a weight loss pill. Thanks for reading, Michelle!

  • Kristen @ Swanky Dietitian

    Great interview! 
    I would love to read Manuel’s book!

  • RunToTheFinish

    Oh I love finding new recipes, but particularly from someone who has seen multiple different ways of eating and knows why the US diet just doesn’t work! I like the idea that it’s about self care

  • Megan@ Run Like a Grl

    I would love some recipes! I’m always looking for new ideas and ways to eat healthy :) I’d also appreciate the holiday cheat sheet, thats the worst time of year for my waist!