The “Martha Stewart of Paleo.” –The New York Times
“The best special diets blog of 2012.” –Saveur Magazine
“There’s a contagious joyousness about the way Michelle presents food that makes you want to cook along with her. I want to cook Paleo because she makes it look so fun!” –Michael Ruhlman
My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession.
I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.
But I also had a long and torrid affair with chemically-enhanced, laboratory-concocted “foods” that continued into my college years. At Berkeley, I majored in Nutrition & Food Science because I wanted to become a flavor scientist and create Frankenfoods for a living. (Not kidding.) At the time, the faculty was packed with world-class biochemists and food researchers — all of whom were strong advocates of the low-fat dogma. Like a sponge, I soaked it all in, and modified my diet accordingly. Steak and eggs were out; bagels and crackers were in.
Somehow, through it all, my love of great food remained—and even blossomed. I met a boy in school (who later became my co-conspirator and husband), and together, we ate our way around the San Francisco Bay Area. We blew our student loan checks on lavish meals, but also sought out ethnic grub whenever we could, from fresh sashimi and Indian chaat to hearty burritos and Eritrean stews. I was in foodie heaven.
Slowly, through the course of many great meals, I came to the realization that food quality matters. Though I still subscribed to the “fat-is-bad” conventional wisdom, I began making regular visits to local farmers’ markets and seeking out fresh, locally-grown whole foods. Frankly, it just tasted better than the processed junk I’d been eating before. I no longer dreamed of spending my life developing flavor compounds for food conglomerates.
Instead, I decided to become a professional drug dealer.
I moved to San Francisco to earn a doctorate in clinical pharmacy at UCSF just as the Bay Area food scene exploded. My sister was a professional chef in some of the best kitchens in town, so I was fully plugged into the local restaurant scene, eagerly following the comings and goings of San Francisco’s foodie hotspots. And when I’d fly to the East Coast to visit my boyfriend, we descended like vultures on New York City restaurants. Trips to Europe or Asia? Forget seeing the sights; I was there to eat.
Appropriately enough, my now-husband proposed to me in the middle of a lavish ten-course meal. It’s the only chef’s tasting menu I have no recollection of eating.
After our wedding, we settled in San Francisco, where my husband toiled as a litigator in a downtown law firm, and I got a job working as a night shift hospital pharmacist. With good-paying (but hectic) jobs and no kids, we ate our way through the city. Exercise was relegated to weekends…if we managed to haul our butts off the couch.
It wasn’t until after we had kids and moved to the ‘burbs that I took notice of the muffin-top that was poking up out of my waistband. After Big-O and Lil-O were born, I wanted to ditch the loose flesh—and get stronger, too. So I did what any crazy-busy working mom would do: I subscribed to fitness magazines and ordered a bunch of home exercise DVDs. For well over a year, I did heart-pounding cardio moves in the garage every night. I counted calories. I lost weight.
But I was also starving and miserable and cranky. I wasn’t any stronger, yet I was achy all the time. And my muffin-top didn’t go away.
In the meantime, my better half had embarked on a mission of his own to improve his fitness, and stumbled upon the Paleo diet. At first, he and I shared a good laugh about it. No heart-healthy whole grains? No beans? Ha! How utterly stupid!
But the more my husband looked into ancestral eating, the more he became convinced of its effectiveness. He gradually transitioned to a Paleo dietary template, while I sat back and scoffed. I knew better—after all, I’m the one with a nutrition degree!
To my surprise, however, he didn’t just survive on the Paleo diet—he thrived. My husband worked out three times a week at CrossFit Palo Alto and ate Paleo, and was in better shape than he was in college. His blood work and body composition were much improved, and he was savoring all the stuff I secretly wanted to eat. Meanwhile, I was suffering through night after night of hour-long workouts and obsessively recording my calories, and I didn’t feel any healthier. My bathroom scale told me I’d shed some pounds, but my food cravings were off the scale.
I had to give this Paleo thing a try.
In the summer of 2010, I made the decision to go Paleo—and when I decide to do something, I commit all the way. I immediately cut out all grains, legumes, sugar, and processed food from my diet, and read everything I could about the science behind the Paleo diet. I quit doing all the crazy cardio and starting CrossFitting. I was all-in.
And whaddaya know? I feel great! After working graveyard shifts for more than a decade, I’d been mentally and physically lagging—but once I changed my diet, I found that my energy levels improved significantly, and my moods were sunnier, too. I was a nicer mommy.
Paleo’s the only approach that’s managed to improve my body composition and fuel me with enough energy to wrangle two small boys,
hold down a full-time night shift job(I recently quit after 12 years of working graveyard shifts at the hospital!), cook for a houseful of hungry cavepeople, lift heavy(ish) stuff in the gym, and maintain a food blog.
A half-year after switching to a Paleo approach to nutrition, I started this blog to chronicle my culinary adventures. Since the fall of 2010, I’ve been regularly posting recipes and photographs of my meals, and writing about how to stay Paleo when eating out. I offer kitchen tips and review my favorite cooking gadgets. I’m all about the lazy, so I’m always looking for shortcuts to deliciousness.
(Of course, I don’t do all of this alone: I’ve conscripted my husband into helping me with some of the blog’s photography and illustration work!)
[Photo: Veronica Weber]
I hope you enjoy reading Nom Nom Paleo as much as I enjoy eating. Dig in!
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