Welcome to the Hey Eleanor Podcast, episode three.
This week, I'm thrilled to have the one and only Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo fame.
Michelle is a wife, mom, and food freak who launched a blog devoted to delicious paleo grub. Over the past five years, she's become kind of a big deal on the Internet. What’s crazy is that while she’s built a crazy-popular blog, an award-winning iPad app and recently launched her own podcast, the gal claims she’s a total technophobe. So how did she overcome her fear of technology? Hint: Google, and a tech-savvy hubby.
Here's an excerpt of our conversation.
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Molly: Can you explain what a Paleo diet is?
Michelle: It’s kind of a loaded question because paleo could mean a lot of things. To me, paleo just means being mindful of what you’re eating, knowing which foods make you feel like crap and which ones make you feel better. It’s about choosing to eat the ones that actually make you feel better, and if you do decide to eat so that makes you feel like crap, you’re being super mindful about it and you make every bite worth it.
Molly: So for a lot of people, paleo means a decent amount of protein, lots of vegetables and not a lot of sugar or grains. Is that what you can to stick to you?
Michelle: Yeah, except they do eat rice. And there’s some things we do eat but don’t really effect us too badly. I think for some people of beans are totally not paleo, but if they’re cooked properly, soaked and somebody’s grandma made them for me, I will totally eat them.
Molly: Of course. You can’t offend a grandma. That’s a life no-no.
Michelle: There are some total paleo die hards that are trying to re-create what the caveman ate, but that is not how we are approaching at all. For us, it has to be delicious and we have to feel great afterward.
Molly: A paleo diet is a lot about eating whole foods that don’t have a nutrition label. What I think it’s really funny, Michelle, is that you studied to be a nutrition scientist and you wanted to create "frankenfoods."
Michelle: It’s so crazy. In college I was nutrition and food science major. Half the people go on to be dietitians and the other half want to work in the flavor industry. And I was in the half that wanted to work in the flavor industry… at the time, I thought it was so amazing. You can create a chemical that will cause this food to brown in the microwave. You can mimic the taste of a fresh tomato by sprinkling on a powder and so, to me it was super fascinating and I thought it was better living through chemistry. It was very Jetsons-like. I never thought about how the food made you feel or if it would make you healthier.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid 30s and we started looking at paleo that I was like huh, I’m not supposed to feel this way all the time? Ailments I had my whole life, like GI issues, bloating and achy joints, I just thought that’s how everybody felt. The symptoms went away and I was like, what the?! All I had to do was change what I ate?!
Molly: It sounds like your husband, Henry, started doing the Paleo thing first, while you subscribed to more low-fat, low calorie diet.
Michelle: I was all in with the calorie counting, whole-grain, no meat or saturated fat. That was my M.O. I was the one who subscribed all the fitness magazines, and I'm the one with a degree in this, so I know it’s healthy... even though I felt like crap, had a muffin top and no energy.
Molly: Well clearly you weren’t trying hard enough.
Michelle: I know! That’s what I used to think. I needed to do cardio at least an hour a day, every single day and no rest. It was just crazy. My husband Henry is one of those dabblers who will just read about something and if it sounds interesting, he’ll just try it out. He kept telling me about the paleo diet. I said, what do you mean you’re not eating whole-grain. What are you going to eat? He said vegetables and maybe some healthy proteins and healthy fat. And I was like, what?! What do you mean healthy fat? There’s no such thing as healthy fat. Except for vegetable oils!
He started feeling so much better that I started thinking there may be something to it. Maybe I should just try it for a week or two. It won’t kill me and I can always go back if it doesn’t work. And then I tried it I feel so much better.
Molly: Were you horrified and excited at how much food you can eat?
Michelle: Totally! I was fat-phobic for so long because I learned that’s what clogged your arteries. Before, I was hungry all the freaking time… I started eating real food like short ribs again, and I realize it wasn’t hungry all the time. I wasn’t angry all the time and I didn’t have all of these ups and downs. It took me a while to wrap my head around eating foods that I had put the kibosh on forever. When I first went paleo, I think it went a little crazy on the meat and bacon.
Molly: You say you're technologically challenged and yet you have one of the most popular food blogs on the Internet, an award-winning iPad app and now a podcast. How'd that happen?
Michelle: A lot of that is by accident, and I'm not just being modest about it. Henry was a blogger before me and he’s always dabbling in all sorts of things. When I went paleo, I was tooling around on the Internet and I said, I think I want to start paleo food blog. Henry said, what would you call it? And I said, I think Nom Nom Paleo. So he went ahead and bought the URL and I’m just kind of stuck with it. Because you know people hate the term nom nom, and paleo is so loaded, but I’m totally okay with it.
Molly: It’s kind of like a tattoo.
Michelle: Yeah it is. We’ll see how it ages. It’s on Tumblr. Henry doesn’t know anything about coding, he just looks up stuff on Google, then find HTML stuff to insert to make it look the way he wants… everything we do starts as a great idea and we say, let’s just try it. We just jump into it.
Molly: I think that’s really powerful. I’m sure you hear this all the time: I really want to start a blog, but I'm scared. Or, I want to start a podcast, I don’t know how to do that. The fact of the matter is that a lot of this stuff is so much easier than you think. And doesn’t need to be perfect right out of the gate.
Michelle: That's what I love about your site. This whole idea of doing something that scares you is really important. I think especially for someone like me. It took me till I was almost 40 to do something like this. And it took me it took me for five years of doing Nom Nom Paleo and working my night shift job before I decide to quit my nighttime job… Life is short and you've just got to grab it by the balls and see where it takes you.
Want more? LISTEN TO THE PODCAST FOR THE REST OF THE INTERVIEW.
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OTHER STUFF I TALKED ABOUT THIS WEEK:
The Hey Eleanor Mystery Bus Ride (eeeeeeek!!!)
And the best thing to happen to food since ranch dressing: Nom Nom Paleo's Magic Mushroom Powder.
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