Episode 09: Michelle Tam, Nom Nom Paleo
Michelle Tam (pronouns she/her) is a dear friend of many years, and the creator of the Saveur Award-winning food blog Nom Nom Paleo. After leaving her job as a night shift pharmacist to found her blog, Michelle went on to author two New York Times best-selling cookbooks and produced a Webby-award winning cooking app with her husband, Henry Fong. Today, we’ll talk about how she got into Paleo and her time on the night shift, the rise of Paleo desserts (and other ways Paleo has evolved since the early days), her secret weapon for flavorful cooking, how she got her stubborn 3-year-old off the mac and cheese, and what food freedom looks like for her kids now that they’re older.
Connect with Michelle
Hi, my name is Melissa Urban and you’re listening to Do the Thing, a podcast where we explore what’s been missing every time you’ve tried to make a change and make it stick. My guest is Michelle Tam (pronouns she her). She’s the creator of the Saveur award winning food blog Nom Nom Paleo, and if you’re wondering if I spent the last 15 minutes googling, how do you pronounce Saveur, you’d be right. After leaving her job as a night-shift pharmacist to found her blog, Michelle went on to author to New York Times bestselling cookbooks and produced a Webby award winning cooking app with her husband, Henry Fong. She’s also been a good friend of mine since 2009 when Paleo meant eating like a caveman and making your own Mayo was a regular occurrence. Today we’ll talk about how she got into Paleo and her time on the night shift, the rise of Paleo desserts and other ways Paleo has evolved since the early days, her secret weapon for flavorful cooking. How she got a stubborn three year old off Mac and cheese and what food freedom looks like for her kids now that they’re older. Okay. Michelle Tam, Nom Nom Paleo. Welcome to do the thing.
Hi, so excited to be here and excited to talk to you.
Thank you. I’m excited to talk to you too. The last time I saw you was at Expo West when you were off doing your like reporting thing and your blogging thing and you were talking to all these fancy brands and I feel like you ran around during that show as much as I did.
I just ran around and I just tasted samples and I pretended that I was trying to do research on stuff, but really it was just to snag samples. (MU) I leave that show and I’m like, somebody get me a vegetable please. (MT) I know, I know, right? It’s supposed to be like all this healthy organic staff and I’m just gravitating towards all the grain free brownies and chocolate cake,
so much chocolate. Everything has CBD. Anyway. That’s like a whole nother episode I think. at the top of every episode I ask all my guests, what’s your thing?
So my thing is to teach people shortcuts to deliciousness with time tested recipes that work the first time. I have step by step pictures, cartoons, butt jokes. Just anything to kind of encourage people to get back in the kitchen. (MU) Did you say butt jokes? Cause you have two boys? (MT) I yeah, our cookbook actually has a butt joke in it. Yeah. Now I can say, yeah, there’s a butt joke. There’s a poop emoji in our cookbook. (MU) Yes. My, my son is six. So toilet humor, you know, exceeds all. (MT) It never ends. It just begins there and it gets worse. (MU) Your foray into Paleo, you like came in a little bit kicking and screaming. I have heard this story before, but tell us how you first got into Paleo. Back in like, was it 2009? (MT) Yeah, I think 2010. Um, you know, my husband and I were both new parents, but our kids were finally kind of sleeping through the night and we looked at each other like, oh, we got to start exercising and getting back in shape.
And so like we ordered all these home DVDs and he discovered p nine dx and through p nine dx he started um, doing a blog and writing about the people in there. And one of the people in the P90X videos is mark Sisson. And so he, you know, was like doing all this like Internet sleuthing about who mark Sisson is now. And he’s like, oh, he does this thing called Mark’s daily apple and it’s all about primal living. And he started looking at the way of eating. He’s like, oh, this makes sense. You’re just eating whole food ingredients and I can eat healthy fats and red meat again because Michelle’s always making us eat whole grains and vegetarian, no fats. And he told me this and I was like, this sounds terrible and I think you’re going to tell yourself you’re going to get a heart attack. Up your insurance.
But he did it and he felt so much better on both programs. So I did kind of the girl version of P90X and they have this like take your picture on the first day and at the end of the 60 or 90 day and he looked great. He’s like, oh, I have a six pack and I have so much energy. And I looked and felt worse after because I think I was exercising so much that I was just hungry all the time. And then I was like, hmm, I guess I’ll just try what you’re doing. And when I did, I just felt so much better. Like I felt like I had been living in the matrix. Oh my gosh. Like all of this stuff that I felt my whole life, like my joint pain and my GI stuff and I work nights and I thought I was just narcoleptic all the time and it all kind of went away and I was like, Oh, all you have to do is change what you eat. And I need to tell everybody. Um, and my sister like pulled me aside one day and said, you know, I’m really happy that you feel better but you’re super annoying, um, can you turn it down? And so I was like, oh, okay, I guess I’ll just put it on the Internet. And Henry was like, Oh, you want to start like the food blog? I’m like, yes, yeah, I want to call it Nom Nom Paleo. And so then he created a Tumblr blog for me and that’s how I started.
That’s incredible. And I think it’s so funny that Henry started eating this way, but like wasn’t proselytizing. He wasn’t saying, Oh, you have to do this or like you should try yet. He was just like leading by quiet example. And then you get into it and you were like, no, I need to start a blog and tell everybody.
Yeah. I, and he also I think knows how to get me to do something like he, I have to think it’s my own idea. Yes. Before I’ll do it. And I, and I think that’s just how I am. I’m someone when I discover something like, oh, I had to tell everybody like this is like the secret that everybody needs to know about. That’s how things are for me.
I mean when you go from feeling like you were feeling, especially working the night shift and having two young kids too, feeling like, oh my gosh, I didn’t know I could feel this good. You kind of want to tell everybody like that’s really the Paleo or whole experience or primal experience. So do you know how I found you? This is a really funny story. I don’t know if we ever even told you this. Melissa Mel Joulwan and I were talking, when she was thinking about rebranding the clothes make the girl, and we were kicking idea names around for her and she was like, I think I want to call myself Paleo nomnom’s and she goes, but I researched, did some research and there’s this other girl who just came out with a blog called nom nom paleo. So I don’t think I can do that. And I was like, oh my gosh, who is this nom nom paleo person. And that’s how we found you. So funny. It is. It is.
What’s funny is you guys are all kind of the originals. Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, you, Melissa Joulwan, the primal pallet couple… Those were the original people I discovered, um, and so I always think of you guys is like, you know, people who gave birth to me.
Oh well I mean I literally don’t know anyone who doesn’t have some kind of Mark Sisson story. Like he’s the gateway to basically everything. Everyone who gets healthier at some point finds Mark Sisson. he’s like the Godfather. While you were doing this blog or while you launched this blog, you had a career as a pharmacist, you were working at a hospital as a pharmacist doing the night shift.
Yeah, I totally hid that. I had this Paleo lifestyle at work. Um, and it was my secret identity for a long time.
Oh, people at work didn’t know that you had this blog. Oh No.
And I kept it secret and I worked for… cause I know that you worked at your job for three years. So I worked at mine for like four years and near the end I think, you know, nurses would come up in the middle of the night with like my cookbook and I’d sign them and stuff. I think even now, I mean because I work nights and then I like quit. Like I’m still this urban legend like there like there was this night pharmacist, who used to work here and now she doesn’t do this anymore. And she writes cookbooks and it’s this weird. Yeah, good thing.
I feel a little bit like that with my insurance job. I did work at my insurance job for like three years while I was running whole30 side by side. And I didn’t really talk a lot about it I think cause I didn’t want them to know how much I was doing on the side. Yeah. Like in the beginning it was really easy to kind of keep them both up and do well. But towards the end I wasn’t doing anything well. Like I wasn’t doing my nine to five jobs while it wasn’t doing my side hustle. Well. Yeah. And that’s like when I decided I knew I had to pull the trigger. Is that what happened with you with nom nom Paleo or did the fact that you are working the night shift have anything to do with it and like knowing how much the night shift was messing with your health now that you were into all these health initiatives?
You know, I actually think going Paleo made me work night shifts longer than I probably would have because I think it temporarily made me feel better. And so I kind of was coasting on that, um, before actually reassessing whether night shift is really a very hard thing on the human body. Yeah. Um, which is, and it’s hard. Like I, like I get a lot of readers now and I tell people, I’m like, you know, night shift is a really hard physically for your body. The CDC actually categorizes working night shift as a carcinogen because there’s so much evidence that suggests that you are at risk for cancer if you work night shift. But at the same time, if I wasn’t working nights, I don’t think I would have felt the way I did like so dramatically. I mean I don’t know, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I think everything kind of happened the way it should have.
Yeah. Um, you actually wrote a blog post that I referred people back to a lot called surviving the night shift listing your kind of strategies for like food and Diet and lifestyle and sleep cycle, but it’s not called thriving on the night shift. It’s called surviving. Cause at that point like all you’re doing is kind of mitigating the damage.
Yeah. And I even remember the first time I met you was that a whole nine seminar and I remember like introducing myself and said, I worked the night shift and I remember you saying, Oh then you for sure like have to have all your ducks in a row. And I was like, Huh. I mean I guess so. Yeah. I guess I never really thought about how damaging nightshift could be. I mean I was just like, oh this is super flexible. I love that I have all this time outside of work to do stuff I love. But now looking back and you know, reading all this stuff about sleep and the importance of sleep.
Yeah, I mean you do what you have to do, right? And, and I think when we talk about night shift, it’s really easy to say like well just get off the night shift because that’s really unhealthy. But most people don’t have that option. They’re working the next shift because they have to, they’re a hospital, they’re a first responder, you know, they need to do it for their families. So in that case then, what we’ve talked about historically is mitigating the damage by getting some of these lifestyle factors like your diet into line so that, you know, hopefully as you experienced, you can at least make the night shift more tolerable. But at some point nom nom Paleo really started to take off to the point where you realize that you could leave your full time, not just your job, but your career and make the leap. Like what was that point for you? What was it like? Was it scary? Was it exciting? Was it both?
No, it was super well, it was super scary and as a child of immigrants, like I was like, I can’t give up this like the steady paycheck by health insurance. Like just the stability and my parents like gave everything up for to, you know, so I could have this opportunity. I was like, I felt really guilty, but at the same time I was pretty checked out at work. Like I’m, when I was doing, I was doing my job, but I had no passion for it at all. Yeah. And it really was me just clocking in and clocking out. But it was, it was scary. And I think I remember talking to you about it. Like how did you do it? How’d you decide? Um, and I think I try, I just prolonged it as long as I could for finally my parents were like, okay, you know, we’re getting too old to babysit your kids. So I’m like, oh, okay, well that now’s a good time. Now’s a good time.
Now I want to kind of go back, since you and I have been in this like kind of Paleo scene for a really long time. I’m wondering what you’ve observed in terms of changes. How has the Paleo scene kind of changed either for you personally in your own philosophies or just the community in general?
Well I definitely think people were lot more rigid, um, at the beginning and it was all about like eating perfectly paleo and you know, potatoes aren’t Paleo and how dare you suggest that you could potentially eat bean sprouts or you know, like stuff like that, which I think is
lean meats. Yes, yes lean meats, I know, you know, remember back in the day how everything was based on like evolution and what our Paleo ancestors may or may not have eaten. And now it’s kind of like how it’s like an anti inflammatory diet cause we’re like leaving out foods that are kind of commonly problematic.
Yes. For me, I just have a way more laid back kind of approach to it. Like I think figuring out that whole foods make you feel better is awesome. But I think people just need to realize they have to cook and it has to be sustainable and enjoyable. And so those, that’s what I try to encourage people to do and to recognize like how food really does affect them because I think I never thought about it. I just hate it when people told him he was healthy and I didn’t think, oh, maybe feeling like this an hour after eating could be related to crappy food ahead. You know, teaching people that they have the power to change things. Yeah,
I definitely observed and I appreciate so much about you and about like Danielle that we’re so much less dogmatic about it now that I think from a really big picture perspective, like you said, it’s about making people aware of how the food they eat affects them, teaching them how to cook, getting them to eat real food and like, let’s not be so, um, you know, black and white about it all.
Totally. And I think just being super rigid about it scares people off. Um, and so they’ll never try. They’re like, oh, you know, it sounds kind of interesting but I could never do it cause I can’t eat this. I’m like, no that’s not right. You should look you like, you know, it’s all, it’s all about food freedom. So when you came up with food food and I’m like, yes it is totally about food freedom that after you figured out what works for you.
Yes I realized that after I said it, the irony of the whole30 cofounder saying let’s not be so rigid about it cause the whole30 is a very black and white program but it’s only designed to be a 30 day self experiment. After that you’re supposed to apply what you’ve learned and you know, apply it in the context that works the best for you and that is your food freedom. Um, when we first started all of this, there wasn’t really a big paleo desserts scene. Like that kind of didn’t roll in for about like maybe a year or so after we kind of got up and running. And I’m curious,
I think it was like 2012-ish is when they had like peak Paleo dessert and there was all this drama about it, but I feel like that since kind of leveled
it has leveled off, yes, because it was new, you know, you know like somebody figured out how to make Paleo brownies or Paleo pancakes and then people were so excited in part because if you actually have a legitimate food sensitivity or an allergy or Celiac, you couldn’t, there was nothing else. You couldn’t eat that. So to give those people an option is fantastic. But what you ended up seeing was this sort of mass hysteria around well, It has the word Paleo in it. It must be healthy. And then there’s all this reeducation we had to do around like, okay. Just because it says Paleo doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
No, totally. Like I think it’s like the whole like unhealthy Vegan that can have like fritos and all sorts of other stuff because it’s technically Vegan, but it’s not healthy.
I know, but we’ve seen this with other stuff too, right? Remember Bacon, remember when like everyone was just eating like pounds of Bacon.
It’s funny is I think Paleo because Paleo is no longer kind of the hot new diet. Like I see it now with Keto, like there’s Keto bagels and cakes and all of that.
Yes, yes. They’re going through that cycle too. Yes. It’s almost like we’re sitting on the porch sipping tea. Like bless, you guys. You”ll figure it out. It’ll all work out. Tell me a little bit about the recipes that you create with a Paleo framework.
So the recipes that I create are always Umami packed, which is the, it’s the taste that’s not like salt, bitter, sweet and sour. It’s just savoriness. But once you figure out which ingredients actually impart that, you just throw that into your recipes and your food will just tastes exponentially better. Um, and most of my recipes are stuff that I’ve eaten before because I love to eat way more than I love to cook. And so I’m always looking for shortcuts, like my Avatar of who cooks my food and someone who’s just like me who loves food but doesn’t want to waste their time getting to something delicious. Yeah. So that’s why we try to have, um, step by step pictures for all of the recipes and everything we do. And we have little cartoons and it’s, you know, whimsical and encouraging and it’s, you know, and I encourage people to just keep on practicing because cooking is a skill and the more you do it, the better you get and the more confident you get. I feel like people forget that cooking really is kind of a basic life skill and they should be practicing.
Yeah. It’s so funny, I hear from so many people that a Paleo framework or the whole30 taught them how to cook. And I have a good friend here in Salt Lake City who like, I don’t know, we were hanging out one night and he was like, oh, I am doing the whole30 and I used my oven for the first time in five years. And I was like, what? And he was like, I used my oven. I like don’t cook. And I was like, but how do you eat? And I think we forget because of course I didn’t cook for myself until I started paying attention to what I eat. There’s like microwave stuff, there’s fast food stuff, there’s delivery, there’s takeout. Um, that is just such a basic fundamental. However, when I look at your recipes, they look fancy but you actually cook and eat very simply.
Oh my most popular recipes are like three ingredients. Yeah. Yeah. Kalua pig, which people think is so fancy. And it literally is pork shoulder Salt Bacon and maybe garlic. If you want to be fancy, just throw it in and it comes out and it’s amazing. Or crackling chicken literally is bone in skin on chicken thighs. I cut out the bone, I flatten it, I add some salts. You can add extra seasoning if you want and you fry it or throw it in the air fire. And I was like, oh it’s so amazing. I’m like, really? Cause it’s not really a recipe but okay.
Like those are the best. I remember the first time I had Kalua pig, we made it at my sister’s in San Diego and then the key for me is we take it out of the crockpot and Broil it like in a single layer just for a few minutes. So it gets a little crispy. Yeah we ate it with every single meal in every combination you could possibly think of. It’s so simple and it’s so delicious. You’re also making a whole bunch of meat at once, which means you can take that and recycle it into a bunch of different meals in a few different ways so that you’re not bored.
Yeah. I tell people to embrace the leftover makeover. You have some protein like you can just put it in so many different things. You can make a Frittata, you can throw it on a salad, you can make an Omelette, you can do like a stir fry with it. You can make let us talk cause they’re just, you know the world is your oyster if you just have extra emergency protein.
Totally true. And you’re a big fan as I am of eating like meat for breakfast and non traditional meal ones where it’s not like eggs you’re eating like steak or leftover pipes
and you know, this is something that was like a total epiphany when I discovered the whole30 and Paleo is like I don’t have to eat like toast and cereal for breakfast. It’s like this is so weird, you know? And, and it is just so much more satiating and I can think better in the morning and it seems weird because I think everybody’s ingrained to kind of the traditional American breakfast, but I, it was a game changer and the fact that I could just eat last night’s leftovers and yeah, breakfast would be ready in three minutes was like, oh I know. Amazing.
It is scientifically proven that you can put an egg on anything so you can also just make, take whatever protein you had last night and crack afraid. I go over it and call it good and makes it look fancy. I even have like a fancy egg pan now for Instagram. Yes. Yeah. I know I had to step up my game. And you, you also do a lot with like sauces, your magic mushroom powder. Tell us about these like really flavor bonus combinations you put together for your meat and veggies.
So I call them flavor boosters and there are certain ones that we like created for the book but because I was like, oh I can’t just keep them in the book, I just want everybody to, because I am a prosletyzer. I’m like everybody needs to see these. So it’s like my all-purpose stir-fry sauce, I’m like here just shake up one of jars and stick it in your fridge and you can use it for everything. And so I literally have a post called how to use all purpose.stir-fry sauce and like at first people are like, how do you use it? I’m like on everything, but they’re like, no specifically. So like anytime I create a new recipe that uses it, I, I update that page. But it’s like you can use it obviously in stir fries. You can use it in a marinade for the barbecue. You can use it as the braising liquid in an instant pot stew. It can be used as a salad dressing and so there’s this no excuse not to have a quick and easy delicious meal. If you have this jar of sauce that literally takes like two minutes to shake together.
Yes. And your magic mushroom powder, you can make it at home, but you also buy it in whole foods now. Yep.
You can buy it in Whole Foods. And it’s also Umami packed because it’s mostly Porcini mushrooms and some salt and some herbs, but you just sprinkle it on. Even if you don’t like mushrooms, it exponentially increases the deliciousness of all your meals.
Yeah, I totally agree. It was so fun to walk into whole foods and see a stack on the meat counter of your smiling little pigtails face and I thought, I know her.
That’s why I have a cartoon and I’m like, oh, I’ll forever be young and have black hair.
I have a bunch of people in my DMs who wanted to know the best way to balance cooking for your family and work and home tasks. And we already talked about how you kind of cooked simply and prepare, but do you have some more concrete maybe some meal planning tips for busy working parents?
I definitely think that cleaning should be outsourced to someone else. Like I can’t clean and cook. Like if someone else is eating your food, they should help you clean. That’s why I love that (MU) isn’t that why you have kids? (MT) totally like this is the best thing ever. I buy precut vegetables, I have a bunch of frozen vegetables in my freezer because you can just pull this out there already washed already cat, you can throw them into an instant pot stew at the end and you have like all these vegetables. And I think the whole idea of just kind of cooking one big meaty something or other that you can reuse throughout the week are kind of the, the main things. Like, I’m like, I know there’s some people who are really great at meal planning and can kind of figure out exactly how to use like the last piece of parsley that’s in their crisper.
Like I’m not quite like that I am a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person in the kitchen, but as long as I have something that can be made over and I have some sort of sauce that can kind of make it all exciting. Like I think that’s the bare minimum. Like I think have handy. I always stock my fridge with quick cooking vegetables, no cook vegetables. So like I always have lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, things you can eat raw. And then um, Greens that are super fast and easy to cook, like a spare gas or you know, leafy Greens at the same time. I love variety. So if I were stuck eating the same thing every day, I think I would die. But there are definitely certain dishes that my family loves it. I know if I make them all the time, they’ve totally happy. And that is like my crackling chicken, which I discovered you can make mess free in an air fryer. Um, and basically any roast chicken that has like a tasty marinate on it, my family loves and they love Roast Broccoli and stir fried cauliflower rice are probably kind of the main easy things that I swear together
With your kids. Henry got on board with this Paleo style diet. Then you got on board with this style diet. When did you bring the kids into the picture and like how did you transition them?
Henry and I went Paleo when Olly was three and Owen was six. And then I think maybe a year into me blogging, everyone kept on asking me how I fed my kids and I was like, this blog is not about my kids, it’s about me and how I feed myself. But he really was just me avoiding it because I was like, shoot, how do I feed my kids and why is it that I won’t eat their leftovers? Right? So that’s when we decided, okay, no, we’re going to get the whole family on board. Um, and I don’t want to be a short order cook and cook different things. So I will cook one meal, but it should be family friendly, meaning everyone will eat whatever we’re eating and won’t complain hopefully. But it was hard. Like my older son is a people pleaser and he, as soon as we kind of said this is the way we’re going to do it, he’s like, okay. And he like cleaned his plate. But my younger son was like, what? What happened to my Mac and cheese?
Like, and one day when I was working nights and I was like sleeping during the day, Henry was like, okay, I’m going to be in charge of converting Olly. And so he told Olly like, this is my house and you live here as part of our family, so you’re going to eat what I give you and this is the new stuff we’re going to give you. And literally Olly said, fine, then I’m not living here anymore. And he like walked outside and slammed the door. Yes. Henry was like, hmm, maybe this isn’t gonna work. And so I think he actually let him do kind of a hunger strike like till the end of the day. But then he felt so guilty, he was like, okay, we gotta figure out something else. So when I finally woke up in the evening and we’re like, okay, how about we do this compromise where we know all he loves roasted Broccoli and scrambled eggs, we’ll just give him scrambled eggs and roasted broccoli as a default meal because it doesn’t take that much out of me to make those things. Um, and eventually he’ll grow tired of it. And that’s what we did. And he did eventually grow tired of it and now he eats what we eat. Yeah.
I, what I like about your story is that it illustrates that, cause people ask me all the time, how do you transition your kid? And I don’t really have any street cred in this area because my son has eaten like this from day one. (MT) I know you’re so lucky! (MU) Kind of, kind of, but now we’re facing issues because he’s in school and now he knows what a Dorito is. But, so we’re dealing with different challenges now, but it just goes to show that when it comes to kids, you have to take your kid’s personality and temperament into account. Some kids you can just flip the switch and say this is how it is. And with others you have to ease them in. Maybe there’s a slow roll process. So,
And I want to be a hundred percent clear. It’s not like my kids are 100% paleo all the time. In fact, I’m not a hundred percent Paleo. (MU) Of course. I’m glad that you brought that up though because I always assume that people know that I’m not whole30 or paleo all the time, but I really do. It bears repeating over and over, cause I still have people now who are asking me like, oh do you eat a whole30 all the time? And I’m like, no!
Well what I think is so funny is I remember how Tortillagate was such a big deal. (MU) I do, or oh my gosh, tortilla gate. That was like 2012 we were in Mexico and I ate a corn Tortilla. I thought the world was going to explode. (MT) I know, and I don’t feel like people are like that anymore. now they’re like, oh thank God you don’t eat like this all the time. (MU) I’m like, okay, well I think, you know, that was the whole point of like wanting to bring food freedom into an actual cohesive plan. because the focus was on the whole30 for such a long time. The whole point is it’s just a stepping stone to…
It’s the best thing you ever did. Thank you for food freedom. It’s my food freedom. (MU) Okay, so your kids aren’t Paleo all the time. How do they eat when they’re at home and then when they’re not at home? (MT) Because they’re older now when we are at home and I’m cooking their meals, like they’re mostly Paleo, mostly whole30, but when they’re out in the wild, I hope that I have taught them enough so that they make the right choices. Um, and so Olly does have a gluten sensitivity, so he actually knows to self regulate because when he does eat it, he gets canker sores and GI stuff. Um, so he’s really good about that. But like, Owen doesn’t have those problems. Um, and so when he’s out in the wild, he indulges but at the same time he recognize that when he does as a teenager now he’s like, oh, I’m breaking out. I’m like, you are breaking out. It could be the pizza that you ate with your friends. You know,
skin is a really big one when they get to that age. (MT) Yeah. Appeals to their vanity. (MU) So that’s kind of what I tried to do with my son. He’s six and we just tried to talk about consequences, you know, like, um, he was at school and he was eating the cheese sticks and he came home and he had like some Eczema patches and I was like, okay, well we know what cause you’re eating the cheese sticks and if your Eczema doesn’t heal up, we’re not going to be able to send you to swimming. And he really likes swimming. So that’s a way that we can make that connection or you know, he’ll eat some sugary stuff, which we don’t really do for him at home, and he’ll have a temper tantrum. And we really draw that association between like, Hey, remember when you ate this first, now can you edit a temper tantrum and you had to go to bed early. You know, he’ll now look in the pantry and say like, this has too much sugar. I don’t want to be cranky. And that’s like, that’s like a huge win.
Yes. And we do the same thing. And at first we were like, I don’t know if this is working because we went in instead of saying like, no, you can’t have this. We’re like, well, remember when you had, or you just ate this? And now like two hours later you’re all cranky and tired, um, or you saw your friend, you know, have this meltdown and you saw what they were eating, all these sugary snacks. Um, but you don’t feel that way right now. And so there were all these things that we were like, Oh, who knows if this is working? But now I actually do think like some of it has sunk in and obviously they’re gonna try to kind of exert their individuality and their autonomy. But I think you’d be surprised
I had someone asked me once like, oh, is your kid the weird kid at school? And I was like, it’s so interesting that because my kid eats real food at lunch, you’re calling him weird. Like that’s definitely something we have to change or something we’re working to change.
Yeah. And I think it’s different now because I feel at least, you know, in Palo Alto and, and kind of the Portland area, it almost is the norm to eat real food these days and have things be organic or whatever as opposed to, um, you know, all this processed stuff. Because I think parents are learning that, you know, what we thought was healthy may not necessarily be healthy. I mean, I was that parent, you know, where I thought, you know, this says it’s only 100 calories. This is the one we’re going to buy. And I think it’s so easy to be in this bubble of kind of privilege, right? Where you have the choice to buy the grass fed or you know, whatever the perfectly ethical way to eat is. And that’s not the reality. Um, initially like I was down deep in that tunnel, but I think now I’m like, no, I have to try to reach out and um, you know, figure out how it’s easier for people to eat this way when they don’t have all the resources that I have. And that’s why I think it’s so amazing that you’re partnering with stuff like Walmart and other things that are making it way more accessible to a wide range of, um, people. I mean, when you’re first question, like how do you think Paleo has changed? I think that’s another big thing for me that has changed. Like I do want it to be something that everybody can do and not just people with the resources.
Yeah. You know, in the beginning we were all bootstrapping it because there weren’t convenience products. So we were making our own Mayo and making our own salad dressing. And like my emergency food when I would be like on a hike or on an airplane was deli meat or hard boiled eggs and it was really cost effective. It’s still is more cost effective and then all of these convenience food started rolling out and it’s, it’s wonderful for people who have more money than time being able to buy your own Mayo or by your own whole30 approved salad dressing is awesome, but I realized about two years ago that we had swung so far that way that we were leaving people out of the equation who didn’t have access to a whole foods, who didn’t have the privilege. We have tried to go back and revisit some of our resources and recommendations partnerships to, because the whole point of the whole30 like the program is free.
We want everyone who wants to be able to do it, to have access to it, but in order to do that we have to actually make it accessible. (MT) Right. Yeah. I totally agree. (MU) Well on that note, this has been a really fantastic conversation. I’ve got a lot of people out there who are going to be inspired by your Paleo Story. Maybe they’re working the night shift, maybe they can relate to, you know, having a family and wanting to cook more healthy food for them. So at the end of every episode I’ll ask what is one piece of advice you could give to someone who is ready to do the Paleo thing?
So I think you need to just dive right into the kitchen and make cooking a priority, but as long as you keep it simple and delicious, it will be sustainable and it’s something that you’ll do every day.
I love that. And you have so many resources on your website and they are so well organized. You have like hundreds of whole30 recipes categorized and tagged. Where else can people go?
Well, yes, there’s a website at nomnompaleo.com and there are two cookbooks and an ios app. Basically, if you just Google nom nom Paleo, you’ll find me.
Absolutely. Your app is also fantastic by the way. There’s so many fantastic like step-by-steps. There’s pictures and tutorials so if you’re not sure how to flatten the chicken, it shows you how and it even gives you a pre-programmed shopping list. Thank you. I love it. I was one of the Beta testers and it’s still fantastic. Michelle Tam, nom nom Paleo. Thank you so much for joining me today on do the thing. I’ve loved our talk. That was such a fun conversation with Michelle. It really makes a difference when my guest is the one I know so well and I’ve been friends with for such a long time. In fact, after we signed off and I officially thanked her, we stayed on the line and we just had this really organic, authentic, fun conversation about the parallels between what we’re seeing in ketoland and what we saw in Paleo nine years ago and she reminded me of Tortillagate, which was this really funny situation where way back in 2012 I think I was in Mexico and I took a picture.
of me eating a chicken taco in a corn tortilla and people on social media lost their minds. And it was because the concept of food freedom hadn’t been introduced yet. There was no like book people assumed that I ate whole30 all the time. So to see me in Mexico eating a corn tortilla, you would think that like I had just kicked a kitten. So I had to spend a ton of time explaining how the whole30 wasn’t the whole365 and what I do outside of the whole30 and how I make good food decisions. And that was actually really the birth of this concept of food freedom. I had to find a way to talk about life after your whole 30 in a concrete way that made sense. The conversation we had after we signed off was so fun that I said to chuck, my producer, did we get that?
Because if we got that, I want to work it into the episode and that’s exactly what we did. So I’m really happy you got to hear that little snapshot of two friends chatting. And it was so much fun. And I think the storytelling is so much better when I’m relaxed and just enjoying the conversation. It’s been a good learning lesson for me too. I’m definitely going to apply this to future podcasts, whether I am friends with the guest or not. I think from now on, everyone will be treated like a friend.
Thanks for listening!
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Do the Thing is part of ‘The Onward Project,’ a family of podcasts brought together by Gretchen Rubin—all about how to make your life better. Check out the other Onward Project podcasts– Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Side Hustle School, and Happier in Hollywood.
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