Why Michelle Tam went Paleo + Other Things You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Her
Michelle Tam is cool. No, scratch that, she is awesome. We visited this full-time cookbook author/mom/entrepreneur/food enthusiast in her warm California home. She greeted us with her iconic pigtails and showed the way to her gorgeous kitchen, where tasteful dishes have once steamed, sautéed and crisped their way to the dinner table.
So, who is Michelle Tam? If you haven’t recently graced the book section of Costco or walked the aisles of Whole Foods in the Bay Area – where her recipes and action figure hang out all around the store – or read up on the influential people of the Paleo diet, then let me tell you more about this food aficionado.
Image from Nom Nom Paleo. So. Cute.
Michelle attended UC Berkeley, where she received her undergrad degree in Nutrition and Food Science. That’s also where she met her hubs, Henry. She went on to get her doctorate in clinical pharmacy and began a career as a pharmacist. Somewhere down the road, the two got married (hooray!), had two kids (named Big-O and Little-O) and then decided they wanted to get in shape (those who workout together, stay together!). They started with P90X garage workouts and then Henry decided to turn to Cross Fit and become Paleo. At first, Michelle didn’t want any of that Paleo stuff, but then she gave it a shot and things changed for the better.
Fast forward to today, Michelle is creating her own empire of a brand called Nom Nom Paleo. She’s produced her own iPad app with hundreds of mouthwatering Paleo recipes, is running her own blog and has published a really, really, really cool cookbook. All with her supportive, artistic and creative hubs Henry helping her along the way.
Michelle + Henry. Image from Nom Nom Paleo.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is going to be an article that tells you to drop your current food choices and become Paelo, stat. You’re thinking that Michelle is going to be some crazy woman who practices and preaches the Paleo lifestyle. But you are wrong. She doesn’t care what you eat or what you do, actually. She just cares that you are allowing your body to live happy and comfortably. It all starts with what you fuel your soul with.
Fiterazzi Magazine: I know that Henry became Paleo first, and you said, “I’m still going to cook pizza all day long!” How did he get into it and how did you finally give in?
Michelle Tam: He used to do P90X because when our younger kid was born, we thought we were really out of shape. We started doing that and then kept ourselves accountable by having a blog. To keep it interesting, he started writing about the people in the videos. There are a ton of really interesting people in the videos besides Tony Horton.
One of the people is Mark Sisson. He must have been developing the nutrition and supplemental powders. Mark was doing some new thing called the Primal Blueprint and when Henry first looked at it, he was like, “Oh this sounds kind of crazy, but I’ll try it.”
So he started doing it and he felt so much better and immediately got a 6-pack, which is not fair! I thought that it sounded so crazy and went against everything I ever learned. I mean, how could you not eat whole grain? I studied nutrition in the nineties and that was when everything was all about low fat, high carb diet. Anyway, when we were on a cruise in Alaska, there was someone in front of me in line and they were in one of those scooters with an oxygen tank. There were options like sugar-free maple syrup and all these crazy danishes and I’m just like, “I’m just going to try this Paleo thing and see. If it doesn’t work, I’ll go back.” And I just felt soooo much better.
FM: What are some of the things that you noticed?
Michelle: There were a lot of things I noticed. I’ve always had achy joints. I had this tendonitis that they said was a common thing that all mommies get from lifting up your baby. I also had these chronic shin splints and GI stuff that I thought was normal. I thought my stomach was always supposed to gurgle. This is probably too much information.
But when I went Paleo, I just felt better. All of that went away and my bloating went away and my bouts of narcolepsy that I would blame on working nights and having to shift all the time went away. I know I sound like crazy, but I felt so much better.
You know, I don’t normally talk to people about it unless they ask. It sounds crazy and I used to make fun of people who sound like me. I have this friend from college who saw us recently. We saw each other at Disneyland and he’s like “What would Michelle from the 90’s say and think about Michelle today?” and I was like “Omigosh, she would totally hate her! She would think I was totally crazy!”
The most important thing is, I don’t think that anybody needs to be Paleo perfect. If whatever is working for you works, then don’t change. There’s no reason to just change. But if you don’t feel great, this is something you can try and then maybe you’ll become a crazy evangelist like me.
FM: What are the funniest things people have said to you when you’ve said you’re Paleo?
Michelle: Oh they’ll say all sorts of stuff like, “All you do is eat meat!” or “Why are you trying to reenact what the caveman ate?”
Well, who knows exactly what they ate? But I don’t care. I’m not trying to do a reenactment. All I’m trying to do is kind of bring it back to basics and if anything, Paleo made me pay attention to what I was putting in my mouth. It made me pay attention to the ingredient list and not eat something just because everyone says it’s healthy.
I used to have a body bug. I had the whole “calorie in, calorie out thing” but I wouldn’t care about the quality of the food at all, you know?
FM: Yeah, well it’s interesting nowadays because people think all food is good food, but then you look at the ingredients and it’s scary.
Michelle: Totally! You don’t even realize it. Things look right but when you actually look at it, you read the ingredient label, and you wonder why this food needs this. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s all about making conscious choices.
FM: What are the red, yellow and green light foods if you’re on a Paleo diet?
Well, green light foods are definitely meat and veggies. The way my plate has changed is my portion of meat is about the same, which is about the size of my hand. But instead of having the rest of my plate be a giant thing of pasta, it’s all vegetables now. That’s the main thing.
The yellow, you have to taste out and see if you can tolerate it. It’s not necessarily Paleo, per say. I mean, I eat chocolate and that’s not Paleo. But I like chocolate and it makes me happy and I think chocolate is good for you! Dairy is also not Paleo, but if you can tolerate some high quality dairy, then go for it.
Grains are the red light foods. A lot of people are like “I can’t believe you don’t eat grains, they’re so good for you and they’re the bottom portion of the food pyramid!” Well yes, I think for some people they are okay, but for me, I felt a difference.
FM: Before going Paleo, do you think you had a different view of your body then and now that you are?
Michelle: I think so. I think I am happier with how I am now. I have definitely been skinnier and have had smaller jean sizes but my belly would hang over. It’s like, “You’re skinny! But you’re not!” I just love that I am stronger and I don’t hurt all the time.
To learn more about Michelle, check out her blog, Nom Nom Paleo. Stay tuned next week for our release of our very first YouTube video in which Michelle shares her favorite recipes!