This Is What Happens When a Professional Chef and a Personal Trainer Make an App
I have a friend who is 40-years-old, yet has the body of a 20-year-old. I used to watch her eat spoonfuls of peanut butter, order heavy cream lattes, and scarf down steak tip salads on the regular. She also never dieted, but she did workout regularly. With all of the studies on heart disease, eating a modified Atkins-like, low-carb, high-fat diet just didn’t seem like a good way to live. Even though she looks great, her insides must be all cholesterol, I thought. Or maybe that was just the jealousy talking.
But then I talked to Astrid Bengtson, whose credentials include personal training and orthopedic exercise specialist certificates from the American Council on Exercise; a corrective exercise specialist certification from the Academy of Sports Medicine; and an orthopedic massage certificate from the Orthopedic Massage Education and Research Institute. (Just to name a few.) Not-to-mention Bengston was also a former gymnast and gymnastics coach in Sweden. The self proclaimed “science nerd” has taken countless courses on nutrition and other exercise modalities such as kettlebells, pre- and post-natal training, and stretching/self myofascial release (soft tissue therapy for the treatment of skeletal muscle immobility and pain).
One thing became clear as we spoke: She eats in a very similar way as my friend, and looks equally fantastic. Are they on to something? Is high-fat the way to go? “Fat is my source of energy,” Bengtson says. “My body is consistently burning fat.”
Bengtson teaches out of her private North End studio called Bodytalk Factory, where she works on her client’s posture and other body ailments. She starts by taking a picture for posture alignment and then takes a video to see muscular imbalances during movement. “[I do this] to see how they are aligned and then I translate that into the movements we do on the floor,” she says. “If the left shoulder is higher than the right one for example, then I explain how it got that way. I believe that everyone should implement corrective exercising into every aspect of their fitness lives.”
Bengtson is married to Samuel Monsour, the acclaimed former JM Curley chef, who is currently working on a burger book and other projects. The two met when they were neighbors in East Boston and connected over “grocery shopping and Super Nintendo.” One of his most inventive menus, which was called, “The Future of Junk Food” was a delicious and elegant take on classic “junk food” items like hot pockets, Doritos, and doughnuts. But how can you stay in such great shape being married to a chef? “Everyone thinks if you’re married to a chef, they will cook for you but he works at night, so I do the cooking at home,” she says. “I eat a pretty strict a Paleo diet, which I started in 2009. It’s very low in carbs, but I eat a lot of butter.”
Wait… what? Butter? Isn’t butter dairy? Isn’t dairy forbidden in Paleo? That’s the catch. Bengtson’s Paleo is a modified version, different in a few ways such as eating sticks of butter, always using heavy cream, and frying chicken in lard. “America is the biggest ‘non-fat nation’ in the world, yet it’s also one of the sickest. The idea that fat is bad is not right. The real issue is lack of hormonal balance through carbohydrates,” she says, while adding that she also doesn’t eat a lot of fruit, which is a staple of Paleo. “I eat seasonally. [I eat] what’s available in nature.”
Bengtson and Monsour’s new project is an iPad-only app (they are working on the iPhone version) called #True28. “It’s a lifestyle improvement app founded on the principle of bridging the gap between the Paleolithic Era—how we’ve lived for 2.6 million years—and the present which will bring us closer to our true nature,” Bengtson says. The app’s explanation is pretty much the exact way she eats. It’s a modern version of Paleo.
Bengtson says that the app ($4.99; iTunes) navigates users through a four-week journey of self-rediscovery, embracing the ideal that the true nature of humanity is to live happy, healthy, and meaningful lives. It’s broken down into four sections: power, provisions, presence, and progress. “The goal is to reincorporate unique Paleolithic qualities into our modern Western lifestyle,” she says.
“Power” is the fitness portion of the app. It included four exercise videos and a detailed exercise gallery featuring descriptions and photos. The “Provisions” portion includes more than 60 unique modified Paleo recipes created by Monsour. “All the recipes were created by [Monsour] and you can tell it’s his style,” she says. “He has a talent for recognizing people’s cravings. All of these recipes have his spin on it, whether it’s classic, soul food, or comfort food.”
Sample recipes include: The Hand Held Omelette; Maple Cured Pork Belly; Chicken & Waffles; Fish Tacos with Mango Guac & Kiwi Hot Sauce; Smoked Sausage Pizza; Squash “Mac” & Cheese; NY Strip Pad Thai; Crab Cakes Étouffée; and Chocolate Ganache Cake.
The third and fourth sections include lessons on reflection and monitoring your results. The app is a 28-day plan, but the goal is to incorporate this way of living into your everyday life.
I want to try the app, but I’m a vegetarian, so it would be pretty tough. “It would be difficult to do as a vegetarian,” Bengtson admits. Plus, I’m still not convinced completely. Sure, there’s science backing up this particular theory. And there’s also conflicting reports. That said, $4.99 for 60 recipes by one of Boston hottest chefs and workout videos from a premier instructor seems like a good deal.