“Are you calling me fat, doctor?”
When she began her career, Electa Navarrete (Santo Domingo, 45 years old), nutritionist and specialist in Aesthetic Medicine, had to learn to hold back her diagnoses. “My bosses scolded me because I was very direct. I had to learn to qualify it, to say something like: ‘Considering your weight and height, and according to the recommendations of the WHO [World Health Organization], you are obese.’ Does it sound better now? Well, it’s the same thing.” Electa Navarrete usually treats powerful men in a situation of high vulnerability: in their underpants and on a scale that puts numbers to their conditions. That’s where a sorrowful David Bustamante hugged her, crying, with 20 kilos to lose. “When a patient cries during their appointment —I sometimes cry too— you have managed to connect. David is a hard worker, he lost 20 kilos, although they have told me that he has gained some back again,” Navarrete told EL PAÍS during a meeting at a well-known Italian restaurant in Madrid, while drinking a spritz. When they bring the tapas, she sets aside the bread and only eats, chewing very slowly, the protein: a piece of prosciutto.
Navarreete is a kind of guru of the Pronokal method, a protein diet to lose weight. “Nutrition is the least profitable consultation,” she says —if she spent those 25 minutes injecting Botox she would earn triple— “but it is the one that allows me to get to know people better.” The first celebrity in her portfolio was Bibiana Fernández. “Taller than me and she wanted to lose two or three kilos.” Then came Jorge Javier Vázquez. “They assigned him to me because they couldn’t find any doctor capable of seeing beyond the character,” she recalls about the television host. In fact, the character entered her office. “It lasted seven minutes. He told me about his life, his travels, the restaurants where he ate, and then he told me: ‘Now you and I are going to negotiate.’ I replied: ‘I do not negotiate with terrorists, and you are a jihadist with your health. The one who wants to lose weight here is you, so tell me how we do it.” Jorge Javier left there with a diet and lost weight in a few months. He became a disciplined and obedient patient. “When he went out to dinner, he would call me on the phone and read me the restaurant menu so that I would tell him what to order.”
Next up was Master Joao, the celebrity astrologer, a regular on the doctor’s Instagram —where she has some 19,000 followers—, who also lost a lot of weight. One day he ran into the socialite Eugenia Martínez de Irujo, who ran after him to find out who had cut down his waist and got Navarrete’s phone number. They say that the discreet Narcís Rebollo, Eugenia’s husband and president of Universal Music, not necessarily in that order, is also in the hands of Electa. The doctor neither confirms nor denies it.
She laughs quickly and easily, but she thinks through her every response. This calm change of register has been achieved with years of therapy. “I tried so hard to be someone else that I went through a process of depersonalization. I had to hire a coach, then a priest —if you are Christian, any spiritual work has to go through a priest—, and I ended up with a psychologist. Between all of them they managed to make me start to set limits, so that I wouldn’t feel ashamed for being passionate, for speaking loudly or for seeming very direct, so I could accept myself as I am.”
The Dominican arrived in Madrid in 2004 with a degree in medicine and €6,500 euros that had to last her a year. And they lasted. She did a MIR in Clinical Biochemistry, then a Master’s in Nutrition. “They were all detours, but I knew that I would end up in Aesthetic Medicine,” she says. Finally, she managed to do a master’s degree and start working at Clínicas Menorca. A whole summer doing laser hair removal was her baptism of fire. “I did whatever my master’s classmates did not want,” she says. She detests victimhood. “Victim of what? I was delighted. The Madrid metro seemed wonderful to me, just reading: ‘The next train will take seven minutes’. Only seven minutes! It made me feel lucky.”
Almost 20 years later, just after the pandemic, Electa Navarrete opened her clinic in the Madrid neighborhood of Pozuelo de Alarcón. A couple of weeks ago, at her second anniversary party, half of the nation’s celebrities showed up for photos. It’s her space and her rules. “I always said that I would choose the medical specialty that would allow me to work in heels, with my hair done and with a nice little outfit. I wasn’t going to wear pajamas and clogs because, on top of that, I wear a size 44…I can’t walk in those!” The office has no aseptic white walls or numbered booths. In her office, next to the table, sleeps Mou, a pug puppy, her new pet. “Before, I worked surrounded by all of my diplomas. I don’t know if it’s racism or classism with those people who ask me as soon as they see me, ‘what about your degree?’ Well, I took them down. I realized that I had nothing to prove. I learned it in therapy.”
Navarrete prays to two gods, the one of bruises —botox and fillers can leave marks— and the one of humility. “So he doesn’t forget to give me a little bit every once in a while,” she says with a laugh. Humility is not the tool, though, for her most difficult patients. Men, between 40 and 50 years old, businessman in the world of finance. “Everyone says the same thing when they enter the office: ‘You have no idea what an important meeting I have today,’ or they do namedropping, ‘I’m going by First Class to Singapore.’ I interrupt them: ‘Great, write down the only thing you can eat from this menu.’ All of that has to be taken down. If you manage to penetrate that ego, they adore you.”
“I am not a typical doctor. With me, patients have to reset their habits and learn to eat from scratch. Losing weight is difficult. You have to have a good reason, and it’s no use wanting to get into the wedding dress. Then you have to name the boycotter. The boycotter is that little voice —mine is called Juana Pepa— that pushes you to raid the fridge late at night. It comes out on days of great stress or when you’re pissed off. Sometimes I leave the clinic and call my husband: ‘Open a bottle of wine for when I arrive.’ The one who calls is Juana Pepa.”
Question. Avocado toast for breakfast?
Answer. It is filling, but it has a lot of fat. I don’t recommend it. If you aren’t going to exercise there’s no reason to eat half an avocado in the morning.
Q. Fruit for breakfast?
A. Yes, but with low sugar levels: berries, cranberries. Not a banana.
Q. When should we eat carbohydrates?
A. Women on alternating days, because we swell up, and men everyday. Everyone needs to know their own body. For example, I learned that pasta makes me puff up, but not rice.
A. Yes, if it’s done at night you can sleep better and that helps you lose weight. To lose weight you must be consistent and fast for between a month and a half and two months.
A. An injection does not take away bad habits and it doesn’t cure anxiety. It’s like hiding trash under the carpet.
Q. Botox for expression lines?
A. You must know how to read and interpret wrinkles. If I remove a crow’s foot, I’m erasing the marks of laughter and happiness. I prefer to do a veiling effect and not eliminate them completely.
Q. A piece of advice?
A. Relax on vacation and then do a cleanse for two to three weeks to lose the weight. It’s normal to gain weight on vacation.
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