It’s been a while since we’ve done our Paleo power couple spotlight, so we thought we’d bring it back every once in a while, when you least expect it, so we could give you a glimpse into some real lives of real folks. You’ve read about the “King and Queen of Paleo (aka Paleo Baby Jesus and his Hot Wife),” super strong Aimee Anaya Everett and Greg Everett, the hashtag pros Dallas and Melissa of Whole9, and many more…well today we head on down to Austin, Texas, for a visit with Melissa Joulwan and Dave Humphries. Don’t know who I’m talking about? Perhaps if I said, “oh, Melissa “Mel/Melicious” Joulwan – who runs The Clothes Make the Girl, and is a Whole9 Envoy, and Dave, her partner in crime in all things, ESPECIALLY when getting attacked by zombies!
This pair – Mel & Dave – well you’ll be seeing a lot more from them. Especially, a cookbook titled Well Fed: Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat coming out next month that they worked together on creating AND publishing. Melissa’s already a published author (from her rollergirl days), so we’re pretty sure she knows what’s up!
Here’s a look into the life of the just-returned-from-Paris-and-Prague-(and-we’re-insanely-jealous!)-paleo-peeps…Mel & Dave!
PCF: Who started it (and by it I mean eating paleo)? Was there any resistance from the later-adapter? What did you notice first in your transition?
Mel: It’s been a lifelong project to reach the level of superhero fitness. I’ve always been interested in finding the optimal diet, which led to experimentation with Weight Watchers, The Zone, and some other crazy-town diets I’d rather not mention. I had my thyroid surgically removed in 2008, and that led to a year of health complications, and wrestling with my weight and energy levels.
I’d been eating grain-free Zone for about 18 months, and was on a push to get leaner and stronger. On the recommendation of Melissa Hartwig of Whole9, I started to eat paleo in the summer of 2009. Eating paleo immediately helped with energy levels and sleep quality. I eat Whole30 style about 90% of the time now, and eating clean has really helped in managing my health issues. I am still on the quest, however, for superhero fitness.
Dave: I started paleo in earnest in January of 2011, when I did a strict Whole30. I didn’t resist paleo because it seemed like a call to adventure that I shouldn’t ignore. I think a lot about being the best version of myself, and I decided that the best version of myself would have solid eating habits. I think the change that I noticed most was how much my energy leveled out over the course of the day. Prior, I’d had a pretty serious dip between 2:30 and 5, that I medicated with caffeine and sugar. Now, there’s no dip, and I’m leaner than I’ve been in the last 20 years.
PCF: Sometimes making the transition to paleo can be a challenge. What do you think were the most difficult things to overcome? What do you find still challenges you to this day? What advice would you offer to those making the transition?
Mel: I remember acting with extreme outrage when Melissa (of Whole9) informed me that eating blueberries with 2% milk for breakfast was not an option. I gave that up kicking and screaming! Once I got past that, I embraced the idea of steak and vegetables for breakfast and things went mostly smoothly after that. The thing I found hardest then and now is socializing. Most people in Austin define a good time as drinks after work, followed by eating whatever they want in a restaurant, then closing down the bar when the band finishes at 2:00 a.m. That is in direct conflict with our “no booze, no gluten, in bed by 10:00 p.m. lifestyle.” I’m fortunate that I have a circle of friends who eat paleo and do CrossFit training, so they have “life rules,” too, but other acquaintances and co-workers don’t really get it. I’ve always been the weirdo, so paleo is just another on my list of things that make me “different.” I don’t mind so much. My advice for people who want to make the transition is to read Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution, find a partner in crime, do a Whole30 with the Success Guide and your partner by your side, and become part of the online paleo community. It can be hard to make the transition out there in the sugar-and-gluten-fueled world, so it’s important to have resources you can turn to for ideas, support, and a sympathetic ear.
Dave: Well, day seven of the Whole30, I was at the grocery store, and the candy next to the check-out was calling my name. Loudly. And waving. Once I broke the sugar cravings, things smoothed out for me. I’d had the advantage of eating pretty well with Mel for a few years. Sugar is still a challenge for me, particularly in the form of ice cream or dessert. I think I would tell people who are trying to make the transition to jump in! Try it for 30 days, and see how you feel. When I was starting, I played this little mind game. I asked myself, “Could I survive on an island that had nothing but pineapples and coconuts for thirty days?” I decided that I could. “Then why couldn’t I survive in my house, with all these conveniences, with a significantly broader variety of food, for thirty days?” Thinking from this ‘bottom up’ view helped get me past the first couple of weeks.
PCF: What would you say your one “non-paleo” vice might be?
Mel: My knee-jerk reaction to that question is always pizza, but if I’m being really honest, I really love (and crave) these three things because I feel like they’re utterly useless in the nutrition department and are, therefore, forbidden: buttered popcorn, an icy glass of Prosecco, and whipped cream. I can imagine a somewhat disturbing scenario in which I alternate eating from a bowl of popcorn and a bowl of whipped cream, while sipping Processo in between. I also really like Americanized, greasy, Chinese BBQ pork fried rice, eaten directly out of the cardboard container, preferably while watching a cheesy ’80s movie in my pajamas. Also, Fritos. There you have it: the deep, dark recesses of my psyche.
Dave: Ice cream! There’s a family story that my granddad stopped to get ice cream while he was driving my dad to the hospital for my birth. Apparently, I inherited his passion. I still have a small dip on a sugar cone from time to time.
PCF: If you had to eat one meal every single day for a week, what would you choose?
Mel: I’m crazy for cabbage and lamb, so I could probably survive the most boring food week in the universe by eating a big pile of cabbage sautéed with onions and garlic, then topped with ground lamb, a drizzle of tahini sauce, and a few pine nuts and raisins.
Dave: Almost every morning for the last three years or so, I’ve had eggs, scrambled with turkey bacon, and occasionally jalapenos, with a piece of fruit and a cup of tea or coffee. I’d have that.
PCF: Food, sleep, exercise, fun…all are important in achieving and maintaining health. Which one of these do you find you struggle most with, and how do you go about addressing that?
Mel: This is totally lame, but the one most missing for me is probably fun. I’ve refined my schedule to the point that I can get to bed by 10:00 so I can get a solid eight hours of sleep before my workout at 6:30 a.m., and our household food routine is totally dialed in. We keep a running grocery list all week, Dave shops on Friday, and I cook up a storm on Sunday. But with all that responsibility taken care of, fun and play often end up on the bottom of the list. We’ve gotten much better at setting side “quiet time” for real relaxing, and this year, we’ve taken a handful of short vacations to play, and in October, we’re going to Prague and Paris for the whole month! But I’m still working on finding ways to make casual, spontaneous play a part of my life. Sometimes I play hide-and-seek with our cat Smudge, and that feels like pure, silly playtime – it’s really good stuff!
Dave: It’s not on your list, but I think the thing we struggle with most is ‘down time.’ — Time when we’re not doing anything, just staring out the window, kicking around the house, or reading a book. We’re a couple of introverts who occasionally front as extroverts, and we need our alone time. We try to be conscientious of what our needs are, and make those known.
PCF: Who does the (grassfed) cow’s share of cooking around the house?
Mel: I make most of our meals, but Dave is the official bacon maker, and he makes some really freakin’ good bacon. He also knows the handful of restaurants in Austin that are on our approved list — along with my exact order at each of them — so when I just can’t bear to rattle the pots and pans, he hunts down paleo-friendly takeout while I loll at home.
Dave: Mel does the overwhelming amount of cooking in our house. I make my own breakfast, but she puts together almost every dinner, and lunches are usually leftovers of that. I try to balance things out by doing the shopping and cleaning up after meals.
PCF: Fill in the end of this sentence.
Mel: The best thing I ever ate that Dave made…was chili. He followed the recipe in my blog, and it came out perfectly… plus it tasted extra-special good because he made it for me.
Dave: The best think I ever ate that Mel made was … It’s shockingly hard to narrow this down — there are 20 years of wonderful entries — but I’ll go with her chili. She makes a killer chili, which improves with a couple of days in the refrigerator, and it happens to be paleo-friendly. Read all about it on her blog!
Mel: We are dorky. We answered these questions separately and both landed on chili. It really is good chili.
Nothing about chili is dorky, in our opinion! Thanks to Mel & Dave for sharing some insights into their paleo paths, and what they’ve realized since transitioning to this lifestyle. We think you’re both superheroes! What about you all? Are you and your spouse/partner both on board with a paleo lifestyle? Trying to get that partner on board? How’s it going?