100% Grass-Fed, Organic, Happy People

 [Melissa & Dallas prove that Yankees can totally rock the Texas plaid.]

How freakin’ great is it when people exceed your expectations of them?!

I’ve been working with Melissa Urban as my nutrition coach since last July, and the way she’s helped me learn to eat and re-shaped the way I think about food is nothing short of miraculous. Before this weekend, we’d only talked in email, where she proved herself to be patient, intelligent, sassy, supportive, and no-nonsense.

In person, she was all that, plus kind, funny, beautiful, warm, and just generally lovely. Dallas, I should add, is no slouch in the charm, brains, and motivation department. To sum: they’re superheroes.

I attended their Whole9 Nutriton Workshop today at CrossFit Austin, and I’m urging you: if you are anywhere near one of the Whole9 workshops this summer, get yourself there. Do it! (Their workshop schedule is in the right sidebar of their web site.)

I gave up grains in 2008 (Goodbye, toast! I only kinda miss you.), and last summer, Melissa gave me plenty of reasons to remove dairy from my diet – despite the fact that cheese is delightful and a bowl of cereal with milk was my favorite ‘I don’t feel like cooking’ meal replacement.

Going into the workshop today, I expected to be familiar with most of the material. But even though I have unlimited access to Melissa and Dallas – and I listen to Robb Wolf’s podcasts – I learned a lot of new stuff and found new motivation. How brilliant is that?!

Stuff I’m thinking about after listening to Melissa and Dallas, in no particular order:

I haven’t had dairy in, like, forever, and I’m keeping it that way. Dallas’s rant on how ‘weird’ it is to drink cow’s milk, coupled with the science behind the pronouncement, is enough to make me love cheese, yogurt, and milk only from afar.

Dig this:  ‘Bad’ food we eat causes inflammation and harmful insulin reactions. That’s not surprising. BUT bad food also prevents us from taking advantage of the Good food we eat. Grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar actually hinder our access to the energy and nutrients in protein, fat, fruits, and vegetables.

The Whole9 recommends a 30-day no-cheat approach to dietary change because it takes that long (or longer) to rid the body of inflammation caused by years of poor food choices. Melissa’s words, “By eating high-quality food, you can heal your body.” I need some major healing action right now, so I’m starting the Whole30 tomorrow… not because I want to be ‘skinny’ or because I want to prove I’m hardcore, but because now that my Synthroid dose is sorted out, I can finally, fully heal myself, from the inside out.

I generally don’t eat before my workouts because I train so early (5:45 a.m.!). On weekends when I train later in the morning, I sometimes eat half a Larabar so I don’t bonk during the WOD. Turns out, that’s pretty much all wrong. Carbohydrates just before a workout are counter to the desired energy effect. Instead, Dallas recommended a small-ish protein snack to effectively open up the floodgates to release the energy stored in our bodies – and then post-workout, refuel with dense, nutritious carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, beets, or butternut squash, for example) partnered with lean protein and no added fat to reload the glycogen stores in the muscles.

So I have some neato new stuff to try… and these are just a few select lessons I learned. The workshop is a solid, 4-hour primer on how to take care of yourself. Seriously. Go if you can.

And if you’re even considering making the switch to a cleaner, performance- and health-focused diet, give the Whole30 a try. It’s one month dedicated to seeing how great you can feel. Don’tcha deserve that?!

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  • Jesse Richards says:

    I had a very similar experience meeting them at the Atlanta seminar two weeks ago. It was almost surreally(is that a word? It describes the experience!) awesome. I've been 100% clean since then, and can't get over how informative the workshop was. Glad you finally got to see them too!

  • steffy says:

    ok no wheat, dairy — what do you eat for breakfast?

  • Melissa says:

    Hey Mel, starting the Whole30 with you right now and I'm throwing in no coffee, starting tomorrow 🙂 Lately I've been skipping a lot of the good things I know I should be eating so I'm committing to a month of veggies, surrounded by lots of meat and fat of course. Hugs

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Jesse –> I think we can decide that surreally is, indeed, a word. Congratulations on 2 weeks of clean eating! Did you have a slump when you first started or did you feel good from the get-go?

    Steffy –> On workout days, I eat either eggs+sweet potatoes or grilled chicken breast+sweet potatoes as a post-workout recovery meal. The low fat means the protein and carbs go right into recover quickly during that 30-minute post-workout window when cells want to replace glycogen stores.

    Here are some example of things I eat on rest days (it looks a lot like my lunches):
    – collard greens sauteed with half a piece of chicken sausage, two eggs in coconut oil on the side, a small serving of black berries with a little splash of coconut milk (I just ate that!)

    – cabbage sauteed with cooked shrimp (may or may not add an egg)

    – swiss chard sauteed with chicken sausage and coconut oil

    Basically, something green and leafy plus protein — and sometimes some fruit

    Melissa –> HOORAY! I'm glad we're doing the Whole30 together. No coffee, too! Good on you. I don't drink coffee every day, so I'm not excluding that, but I was developing a sneaky dark-chocolate and sure-I'll-have-a-glass-of-wine habit. That stuff is fine when life is good, but I'm in full-on recovery, de-stress mode, so it's protein, fat, and veg/fruit for a month. YAY!

    Email me anytime if you need support or have a question!

  • Kevin Green says:

    I completely agree with you about exceeding expectations. I knew most of the science part but the way they put it all together and explained how to put it into practice was great. It was also very motivating and I am about to embark on the whole 30 even though I am about 85% paleo right now. Dallas convinced me to skip the dairy.

    BTW, I was the blond guy behind you asking all the questions.


  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Kevin! You asked some great questions. Good luck with the Whole30 — stop by here once in a while and let us know how you're doing!

  • Jesse Richards says:

    Hey Mel, this time around I had only about a day of adjustment as my body got used to the lower carbs. Then it was smooth sailing to better sleep, less inflamation, and recovery that was so much better between workouts I was amazed. Dropped 5 lbs of water weight the first couple of days, but have managed to maintain since then, by dint of eating around 2 lbs of meat a day (I'm trying to gain muscle currently)

    Hope everything's going well for you!

    P.S.- I really have to say thanks for all the veggie recipes and stuff. I'm terrible about variety, but after looking at all your stuff I've been inspiried and added cauliflower, avacado, and several other veggies to my go to list (which before was just carrots and celery).

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Oh, awesome! Glad to hear it was only a short adjustment. I'm hoping my experience goes like that, too.

    I'm glad you like the veggie recipes. I have some new ones coming: a killer green bean (with coconut milk!) and roasted beet salad with pistachios. This week!

  • Jesse Richards says:

    Sweet! Looking forward to those.

  • Melissa Urban says:

    A million thank yous for a fabulous weekend! You took such good care of us, we left happy and well fed (but sad because our visit was too short). We'll be back again as soon as we can to kick up our heels with you!

    You got some love on our site today, too… thanks again for being such a good friend and a fabulous cook. xoM&D

  • Kimberly says:

    i went to their workshop at cf west houston yesterday… so enlightening! i knew a lot of the stuff they were saying just based on my own prior research… but THEN they expanded it! it all makes such perfect sense. and the pre/post-workout nutrition blew. my. mind. no carbs pre-workout because it shuts down energy flow. amazing. moving towards a whole30 (when i'm not doing church stuff where they'll force-feed me turkey subs for three days over memorial day weekend), and starting it june 1st 🙂

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Kimberly! I'll look for a post from you over at Whole9 on June 1… do it! XO.

  • Dallas says:

    My dearest Mel,

    I have bad news. I fear that I might have to rescind my prior profession of love (the one after I had your Sunshine Sauce for the first time). Let it be known that, while I have spent a few years in New England, I'M NO YANKEE. I fly my Canadian colours high and proud… And if you think I rock the Texas plaid, you should see my Canadian lumberjack outfit. Ha. Miss you tons already,


  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Canadian? Yankee? You're all from somewhere cold, eh? (See what I did there?)

    Miss you, too! I should have stowed away in your car trunk. I could be your road chef! Sunshine Sauce and rare steak waiting for you post-workshop 😉