We first had the pleasure of meeting Dallas and Melissa of Whole9 back in Atlanta on a REALLY cold January day when we were knee deep in writing Paleo Comfort Foods. I still remember shivering during their workshop while simultaneously thinking of things we needed to do for the book! That said, it was a fantastic workshop (and if you’ve not gone to one yet, you should. Check out more information on their workshops here.) Not only were we impressed by Dallas and Melissa’s presentation style, their content, the fact that they are tall like us, as well as their great analogies (e.g. gluten exposures and the effect on your gut if you take weekly “cheat days” being like taking a piece of sandpaper to you arm and rubbing it raw in the same place every week), but we got something so incredibly important out of the day: a rekindled love of olives and coconut flakes. Thank you for that! (this came from watching the two of them snack on the aforementioned items during the day).
Of course, their workshop is filled with way more than just that. Their approach in talking about food and whether it makes you more or less healthy, their Whole30 program, and so much more..the entire day was chock full of information, and we got to say we heard them BEFORE they were Mr & Mrs and book authors (yes, they are writing a book, to be released in 2012!). We’re proud to call them friends and are so thankful they agreed to share a little glimpse into their lives!
PCF: Who started it (and by it I mean eating paleo)? Was there any resistance? What did you notice first in your experience?
Melissa: Dallas first started eating this way about six years ago, after a shoulder injury.
Dallas: I stumbled onto one of Dr. Cordain’s publications when doing some research about managing inflammatory conditions for my sister, who has rheumatoid arthritis. At the time, I was nursing a fired-up rotator cuff after competing at USVBA Nationals (volleyball is my first love), and asked myself, “If removing dietary lectins decreases inflammation in RA patients, can it also help my shoulder heal?” So I basically did a 6 week elimination diet, with no grains or legumes. And six weeks later, after having shoulder pain for almost 18 months, all my pain was gone. That got my attention, and I really dug into Cordain’s work, which led us to where we are today.
Melissa: After his experience, he then introduced me to the basics of the diet, and I started easing into it about four years ago. It was a pretty easy transition for both of us – we were already pretty on top of what we ate, we just had to change our focus. For Dallas, his healthy shoulder was tangible proof that he was onto something really good. For me, I noticed more subtle effects – improved digestion and sleep came first, and then my energy levels skyrocketed and totally evened out. During my first Whole30, I leaned out without even trying, and my performance metrics all shot up. (Yawn, right? Sure, it’s pretty awesome stuff, but it’s also pretty typical for someone changing to a Paleo-style diet.) I didn’t have any health issues or conditions, but since changing my diet, I’ve never felt better – and I’m convinced our solid nutrition is what keeps us in good health with all our current stressors (especially travel).
PCF: You two have inspired thousands upon thousands of people to be on a paleo path worldwide through your Whole9 site, your Whole30 program and your workshops. Is there a particular inspirational story or client that really struck a chord with you and to this day makes you say, “This is why we do this!”
Melissa & Dallas: We get stories every single day that amaze, inspire and humble us. Women who used the Whole30 to get on a healthier path post-eating disorder, dads who lose weight, regain energy and come off their high blood pressure or cholesterol medication, athletes who “miraculously” heal after an injury, previously infertile couples who now have twins. People are willing to give of themselves and share their personal stories with us, open up their lives to us after their experiences with the Whole30. They write from the heart, they hold nothing back – and essentially open themselves up to total strangers because they believe so strongly that our program changed their lives. Those stories are one thousand percent what keep us going.
PCF: What would you say your one “non-paleo” vice might be?
Melissa: Just one? That’s hard. Right now, it would be hot, buttered, salted popcorn. I could eat my weight in popcorn, and we use darn near an entire stick of (pastured, organic clarified) butter per bowl. But before that, I was in love with dark chocolate-covered mango. It’s bin #8486 at Whole Foods, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Dallas: Umm, I love homemade French toast, made with fresh-baked boule bread and plenty of butter. And, of course, drowned in (real) maple syrup.
PCF: If you had to eat one meal every single day for a week, what would you choose?
Melissa: I pretty much live in Groundhog Day – when I find a meal I like, I eat it every day for weeks on end until I get sick of it. Which doesn’t happen for a long time – I have an amazing tolerance for repetitiveness. Right now, it’s three poached eggs with Horsetooth Hot Sauce (Rubin’s Red flavor), the oh-so-versatile chimichurri from Paleo Comfort Foods and Dallas’ watermelon salad. The textures and flavors are amazing, and I’ve got this new poacher thing that makes perfect medium-hard poached eggs every single time.
Dallas: Unlike Melissa, I need lots of variety in my meals. But recently I have really been loving a coffee steak rub on grass-fed ribeyes (yes, plural – I usually eat two), paired with our now-famous watermelon salad. I’ve eaten that multiple consecutive days this week. And I could pretty much eat Melissa’s guacamole every day. Oh, and since I’m currently on a Caffeine Holiday, I might add a cup of home-brewed Sumatra to that list. (I found myself humming along with Willie Nelson’s “Coffee on My Mind” earlier today.)
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?
Melissa: Hands-down, fun. We’ve got food, sleep and exercise all dialed in, mostly because we make those a priority (in that exact order). After work and our other household obligations, then we squeeze in some fun, if we have time. It’s hard to own your own business and take a day off just to relax – Dallas is much better about that, but I’m always thinking about work.
Dallas: But we’ve been doing our Tuesday thing for more than a year now, and it’s become our most favorite day of the week. We’ll hang out at the park, read, play games or just go outside and mess around, MovNat style…it’s one day a week of purposefully scheduled fun. (Which is ironic, but I suspect the only way it would happen for Melissa.)
PCF: Who does the (grassfed) cow’s share of cooking around the house?
Melissa: We definitely take turns, although I have an apron collection so awesome, sometimes I’ll throw one on while I watch him cook. Dallas usually mans the grill while I work on side dishes and veggies, and I pretty much always cook breakfast. He’s a much better cook than I am, but he’s inspired me to toss the recipes aside a bit more and just go with my instincts when it comes to putting flavors together. So far, I’ve not had any major kitchen fails.
Dallas: We also cook together a lot, which we both love. Sometimes it’s the first down-time we’ve had together all day, and there’s something really nice about settling into the rhythm of a kitchen. We’ve got our kitchen choreography down to a science, and many of my “Albums of the Day” come from music we listen to while cooking together. #soundtrackofmylife
PCF: Fill in the end of this sentence…
Melissa: The best thing I ever ate that Dallas made was: It’s a tie between the first time he surprised me with tequila-avocado sauce on a grilled grass-fed filet, and the fig compote he created last week for our January US Wellness Meats feature. They were both ah-mazing – and he created them both from scratch, based on something he ate or a random (not healthy) recipe he saw. The man’s got skills.
Dallas: The best thing I ever ate that Melissa made was: She made this mango gazpacho last year that rocked my world. We actually ended up serving it at my mum’s wedding reception – and got rave reviews from folks. And we served it to Andy Deas when he came to visit, and he thought it was pretty damn good, too. In fact, I might revise my one of my previous answers – I’d eat that gazpacho every day.
When these two aren’t writing their book, teaching workshops, writing fabulous Manifestos on their fantastic Whole9 site, doing private consultations and generally speaking changing people’s lives, you can find them on Facebook at facebook.com/whole9 and on Twitter #whole9life (be prepared though – they create the best hashtags ever!). Thanks so much Dallas and Melissa!