Drawing on our ancestors' wisdom for healthy living
A health program that draws on the dietary choices of Samoan ancestors who lived longer lives has set a goal to remove American Samoa from the list of obese nations.
The program called ‘Slimmer Stronger You’ includes a meal program and was founded by life coach Will Ena Spitzenberg.
The major difference with the program is its food component called the Polynarian Diet.
Spitzenberg told the Samoa Observer in an interview that he describes the program as a “hybrid” Polynesian diet.
“We created that term because we created our own Polynesian diet basically following our ancestors’ way of eating plus some modern food that we like. It’s like a hybrid. We coined the term to differentiate between vegetarian, it’s different from all the other diets,” he said in an interview.
“There is a Mediterranean, but this one is heavily starch-based and mostly focused on eating more plants.
“There’s still meat, you can still have meat but our program actually recommends that you eat at least 80 percent plants and no more than 20 percent meat in your meals.
“Mostly, we recommend seafood. Local seafood is best.”
Local seafood, he explains, is “straight from the source” and is rich with fresh vitamins and minerals to help heal the body.
“Local seafood is best because it is straight from the source and to the dining table. Also, fruits and vegetables, local, we always recommend local.
“It goes straight from your backyard or the market to your dining table so all the minerals, all the vitamins are fresh and it comes straight into your body and helps your body heal itself.”
Spitzenberg added that healing the body first should be a priority and then the weight will take care of itself.
“Our priority is to help heal the body first and let the weight take care of itself. The more you eat, the more you’re going to heal your body the Polynarian way and the more the body is going to release the body fat because it doesn’t need it anymore.”
Looking at the record of American Samoa, in terms of obesity amongst the local population, he claimed that the American territory is at the top and it needs to be addressed.
“American Samoa is number 1 and we’ve been number for about five years or so. It’s between Tonga, us and Niue and I think Samoa is number five or number six on that list.
“We’ve been tracking that and in 2017 we started this movement and we challenged ourselves and our local folks. We’d like to remove American Samoa from the top five most obese nations in the world by 2025.”
And Spitzenberg and his wife Sisi are walking the talk too, in terms of their overall fitness, as they have both lost 170 pounds since they switched to their Polynarian diet.
Their six-week boot camp averages 200 to 300 people and started with a group of friends who changed their eating habits and utilized public spaces to exercise. They now have a gym behind the Red Cross in Tafuna.
As a life coach, Will’s job is to train people’s minds and he believes that if he can change your mind then everything else falls in place.
“I focus a lot on training people’s minds. I believe that if I can help you change your mind, everything else will follow, so we do a lot of mindset training and I train a lot of people to start changing their beliefs…we are actually our worst enemy,” he said.
“We are the only person stopping us from doing what we need to do.”
Boot Camp which now has a $200 fee is now in Season 13 with more than 3,000 people having gone through the program. They’ve also introduced an online 14-day Food Challenge which requires a $50 fee.
In the challenge, people learn how to cook healthy Polynarian foods and hopefully in the process lose weight.
The Boot Camp in American Samoa which closes this weekend already has 200 people enrolled.
Coach Will said a lot of people can do well with the physical aspect but it’s the food that gets them.
“Most people do real good with the exercise but they really struggle with the food,” he said.
“Many people do well on the exercise but they just can’t seem to handle the food…the secret to weight loss success is the food but it takes a long time for the brain to figure it out.”
In ‘Slimmer, Stronger You’s’ previous Boot Camp of 170 people a total of 1,700 pounds or 800 kilograms were shed.
Spitzenberg says people are dying too young because of the food we eat.
“Our ancestors they were plant eaters, not meat eaters but if you look at a faalavelave…if you go to a faalavelave, they serve you those big VIP plates, big round ones, if you look at the meal, it’s like four of five meats and maybe two plants and one is taro and the other is some greens,” he said.
“Most people will eat everything else but the greens. It’s very bad and that’s the reason we have a problem. We are eating way too much meat and not enough plants…the kind of meat we are eating is very high in fat and lots of hormones and antibiotics injected into the food we are getting now, it is really damaging our organs.”
Coach Will said in order to commit to the journey there has to be a “super why” reason that makes you cry and his 'super why' is "connecting us to our ancestors."
"It's a powerful reason to do it. If you look at our ancestors, if you go back to the 1900s anywhere in the Pacific; Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, go online and look at their historic photos of our ancestors. The majority of them were very healthy people. They were slim, they were strong and they were healthy," he said.
"And they lived up to old age. That is where we came up with the name Slimmer Stronger You. If you look at the photos it's like wow. If I Can help you connect that to your ancestors, I think that will be a powerful reason for you. If you cannot do it for yourself, do it for your children or descendants or do it for your ancestors, to honour our ancestors."