We’re so excited to introduce you to Melissa Joulwan, the latest curator to join our Quarterly family! We’ve asked her some questions to help you get to know both her and the paleo lifestyle that keeps her ticking.
For those of us new to paleo, what is it?
Generally speaking, the paleo diet is made up of nutrient-dense foods that began with dirt, rain, and sunshine. They come from the earth and would be recognizable as food by a person from any time in human history. At it’s most basic, it’s just real food: animal-based protein, vegetables, fruits, and natural fat sources.
There are many variations of paleo, and by building on those basic food groups, each person can really find the version that works best for them. Some people include grass-fed dairy and sweeteners like honey. I follow the guidelines of the Whole30 most of time, which means I say no to grains, legumes, soy, added sugar, dairy, vegetable oils, and alcohol about 95% of the time. I realize that makes me sound like I’m no fun at all, but I promise, I love food and I know how to have a good time.
There are two primary health reasons to eat paleo: it helps regulate the blood sugar-insulin cycle and it reduced inflammation in the body. Both of those things are important for good health and weight management, but they’re also essential for being happy, thinking clearly, sleeping soundly, and tackling life with energy.
Have you tried other diets/lifestyles? Why paleo?
Ha! Have I?! I went to Weight Watchers camp when I was 14 years old. I also did the rice diet (nothing but rice with no salt and fruit), the Zone, Slim Fast… I did them all. And they were all pretty OK for rapid weight loss and pretty terrible for having a healthy relationship with food and living a happy life.
The reason paleo works is that it’s based on real food in quantities that are satisfying and nourishing. It removes the dieting mentality of deprivation and reward and makes eating a peaceful, nourishing, nurturing experience. I know that seems very groovy, but it’s true. After more than 30 years of dieting, I learned how to feed myself properly, to eat to satisfaction not stuffed, and to enjoy food without guilt.
I originally started eating paleo for reasons of vanity: I really wanted to lose 15 pounds. Around that time, I also learned that I had a nodule on my thyroid. The risk of cancer was high, so the nodule was surgically removed, and the doctor hoped that the remaining smidgen of my thyroid would continue to function. It held on for a few months, but then conked out. Eating paleo has helped me keep my body healthy while I work with my doctor to get to optimal thyroid levels.
Why did you join Quarterly?
I remember how thrilling it was to get mail when I was a kid — something about the formality of an addressed envelope was delicious. This is like the grown-up idea of that. Plus, my husband Dave and I have decided that my Quarterly persona is your kind of wacky, punk rock aunt that insists on sending you care packages. My Quarterly boxes will be collections of things that I love and that I think other people will like, too.
What is the best thing you have ever received in the mail?
That’s easy: my black ankle boots. I bought them on ebay about 15 years ago, and the seller, a woman from France, told me via email that I was going to fall in love with them. She was right. I wear them ALL THE TIME, and I’ve had them resoled at least a dozen times.
Any spoilers for your first Quarterly box?
My husband Dave and I teamed up to create and illustrate a new recipe using two of the paleo products in the box. On their own, these two paleo staples probably wouldn’t make anybody do cartwheels, but taken together, they’re luxurious and delicious. And the handwritten, illustrated recipe is really freakin’ cute.
What is the most important thing you want your subscribers to take away?
Trying to live a healthy lifestyle can look pretty restrictive on paper: no grains, no dairy, don’t stay up too late, workout a few times a week (but not too hard)… it’s a lot of rules. But it can also open up a whole world of awesome. I want to give my subscribers a box of awesome a few times a year.