Camila Betin is a Brazilian-born nutritional coach who has called Beijing her home for the past six years. It isn’t necessarily rare to encounter a chef who has capitalized in one way or another on the health food craze which seems to be sweeping the globe at an ever-increasing rate. It is rare, however, to meet someone who is not only passionate about healthy eating, but also innovative in her approach, and invested in providing her clients with the skills necessary to sustain this lifestyle shift after her services with them are complete.
We wanted to learn more about her personal history with food, her development from a professional chef into a certified nutritionist and trainer, and how the culmination of these things has given her a unique perspective on how to transform yourself into a better version of yourself. So let’s start at the beginning.
We asked what initially got her into cooking?
Betin responded; “I’ve always loved cooking. My grandfather is Italian, so everything is centered around eating. Every weekend we would go to my grandparent’s house, and they would be cooking gnocchi or pasta from scratch. Food was always a part of my life, and I always liked to cook. My aunt, who is also a very good cook, when I was 10-years-old gave me a cookbook with her own recipes that were very easy for me to make. Since then I’ve always tried to make things that I love. I would even make my own birthday cakes.”
From here she developed as a chef, working in Brazil, New Zealand, then the UK, Italy, and finally China. In Beijing, she worked as head chef at Salt, a contemporary European restaurant in Lido acclaimed for its ambitious take on Mediterranean themed cuisine. She then followed this by opening up Factory in 798, which eventually evolved into Factory Fresh, a kind of healthy meal plan delivery program; the first of its kind here in Beijing.
“That was when I started to study more about nutrition. I was still interested in cooking but not only creating things that were nice to eat but also good for our bodies. This was also about the time that I received my certification as a personal trainer.”
She then continued to tell us more about this shift of working from a set menu into creating more customized ones for clients, which were more focused on health.
“It started three years ago. I’ve always struggled with my weight, and I’ve always done a lot of diets. At the time I was doing the Dukan Diet. It is a very difficult diet because it is based mainly on protein. I lost weight doing that, but I realized if I can do this crazy diet for three months why can’t I just find a way that I’m eating a more balanced diet? Because I like sweets too. It’s important to live a normal life or else you will just go crazy. I started to try out recipes that I had created for the Dukan Diet, and things were turning out very good. I wasn’t even thinking about losing weight, but was still losing it and was happy.
“So I’ve been doing this nutritional coaching since last year, and I’ve since been working exclusively with one-on-one coaching, and see my clients every one or two weeks. With a 12-week nutritional coaching program, the idea is to not just provide people with a diet but to give them the tools so they can change their lifestyle and keep going forever, because you can’t have somebody with you all the time in your busy life.”
There are so many nutrition plans out there from simple to Tom Brady extreme, full of various dietary restrictions. We were wondering where on this spectrum Betin she positions herself, and how to decide which is best for you and your family?
She explained; “I don’t like following any sort of specific restrictions. When someone is vegan for example, it isn’t just about the taste of food, it can be for social, psychological, moral, or religious reasons, and I can respect that. But for myself, I believe if foods aren’t causing any problems for me, like an allergy or intolerance, why should you stop? If you are a parent and you are vegan, of course, that’s what you think will be the best. Of course, you will want the best for your child. It is possible to have a healthy vegan child, though it will be more difficult because children have different tastes and they don’t eat everything so easily.
“Usually when you have a vegan diet or maybe something like the Keto Diet, you will think about the things you are not supposed to eat, but they don’t think about what they need to eat to compensate for what they are not eating. That’s when the problem starts, because you have a lot of deficits on minerals and vitamins in those vegetable-based proteins.”
Camila Betin will be having her first baby in about two months. We were wondering if her diet had changed much during her pregnancy, and how was she feeling?
“Yes, I changed it a lot. I always had this thought that I would be the most healthy pregnant person in the world, and that was something that let me down a little because in the first trimester I was totally sick. Everything I was eating before, I couldn’t even see in front of me. For example, chicken breasts were my number one protein. Now, I can’t even see chicken breasts. Also, with broccoli and spinach, I couldn’t even handle the smell.
“So in the first trimester, I was eating a lot of fruits, but also much more pasta which I hardly ever ate. It was the only thing that I could stand. It was very hard, and I was very upset because I was sure that I would be doing everything perfectly. After the second trimester, I started to feel like myself again and then I went back to my diet. I also have more exceptions for sweets. I don’t eat them every day, and I don’t eat a lot, but when you are pregnant there are so many things that you can’t do and if you take out the sweets too, you would go crazy. So I allow myself a little bit of that. But I still eat as healthy as I can with as many greens as possible. It hasn’t been what I expected, but I’m doing my best.”
Is there anything about living in China that specifically woke you up to these ideas of nutrition or that helped put you on your current healthy path?
“I don’t think it’s China, but more the society we are living in at the moment as expats. What happened to me was not because I was here in China, but rather the people I met or maybe because I had personally reached a point where I needed to find out something different to do. I think it was just a coincidence that it was here when it happened. Right now I think that a very nice thing about Beijing is that you have this community. If you are trying to change your lifestyle, it’s great that you here because there are so many people doing that too. Every weekend there is a fitness or wellness event related to health, and that’s really nice, and it helps a lot. There is a boom at the moment.”
If you want to learn more about the online nutritional coaching services of Camila Betin you can contact her via WeChat (camilabetin83), or check out her website (camilabetin6.wixsite.com/nutritionalcoaching) to begin your transformative journey of discovering a happier and healthier you through her unique approach to nutrition.
This article originally appeared in beijingkids October 2017 issue.
Download the digital copy here.
Photos: Courtesy of Camila Betin