Maru Davila
Celebrity chef and cookbook author Maru Davila. Photo by Mimi Pollack

By Mimi Pollack

Many people think Mexican food is all about eating rice, beans, cheese, tortillas and high-fat food, and in some cases, that is true. However, Mexican food is so much more than that. Celebrity chef and cookbook author, Maru Davila, is out to prove that Mexican food can still be delicious while also being very healthy.

In her cookbook, the “The Mexican Food Diet,” Davila has modified recipes — many taken from her mother and grandmother — and turned them into satisfying and good-for-you meals and snacks.

For example, there is a recipe for guacamole made with baked jicama chips. The guacamole contains onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, hot peppers, and olive oil, all known for their health benefits. The jicama chips are a tasty substitute for tortilla chips.

To look at her today, one would never guess that Davila didn’t always follow this healthy lifestyle. In fact, she herself struggled with weight and health issues for a good part of her life.

She was born in Mexico City. Her father was an engineer and her mother a homemaker who later became a chef. It had been Davila’s dream since she was 12 years old to attend Harvard Business School. She was successful in achieving that goal and graduated from there in 1997. She moved to San Diego after graduating, hoping to become an investment banker.

However, she was not in good health and like so many women went through a life crisis, feeling torn between becoming a successful investment banker, or finding a husband and having children. She also had to decide if she wanted to pursue her career in San Diego or move to New York City. She ended up staying, marrying and working at a consulting company, but still had lingering regrets about not going to New York.

In 2000, she and her then husband split up. The health problems she had experienced most of her life began to get worse. She suffered from kidney infections and many digestive disorders. She was on many different medications, feeling stuck and depressed, and reaching the end of her rope. Her career was going well, but she didn’t feel healthy, and her weight fluctuated up and down. At one point she was almost 60 pounds overweight.

Then in 2008, a series of events happened that began to turn her life around. First, she met Andrew Dumke whom she later married. In 2010, her daughter, Charlotte, was born. All her life she had been a runner and athletic, so she decided to begin competing in triathlons. This in turn exposed her to a different type of eating. She noticed that eliminating certain foods had a big impact on her physically and it also affected her chronic conditions. A light bulb went off, and she started to connect the dots of how nutrition can affect you physically, mentally and emotionally.

She decided to study at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and took classes online. She got certified as a health coach. She also got herself tested and found out her body had issues with the protein in dairy products and digesting gluten and certain other foods. Years of taking antibiotics for the many infections had ruined the flora in her digestive system and her body was out of balance.

After so many years of dieting — she had three sets of clothes in her closet — she knew she had to come up with a healthy. life-long plan of eating. So she developed her Flaca Forever plan.

The plan has three parts. The first part is a two-week detox. The second part is to stop dieting and change that mentality by following a life-long plan of eating. The third part is to control cravings. She started surrounding herself with experts to help with the plan, so she and others who followed could develop a different and healthier lifestyle.

The detox was to help the body get rid of damaging toxins. To stop dieting and control cravings, there needed to be the correct ingredients and whole foods. She also felt (as do many experts) that taking out dairy products and gluten was important.  Finally, natural supplements were also added. As she was working on all this, she realized that Mexican food had many detoxifying elements which could be used to make healthy and delicious meals.

After developing and experimenting with different recipes, her cookbook was published in 2017. She wanted the cookbook to contain healthy, but delicious recipes and tips, so one would feel like they were eating in a tasty and satisfying way without the deprivation that strict dieting can cause.

Today, she is a successful mom, author, healthy chef, integral nutritionist, and weight-loss expert. As Davila says, “It is never too late to look and feel great.”