BIRTHFIT Podcast: Mary Shenouda aka Paleo Chef
The BIRTHFIT Podcast Episode 58 Mary Shenouda
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What’s up, BIRTHFIT community? This is Dr. Lindsey Mathews, your BIRTHFIT founder. We’ve got a super rad BIRTHFIT podcast today with the one and only Mary Shenouda a.k.a. Paleo Chef, but first we’ve got a few announcements. If you are pregnant or postpartum and you have not checked out the Education tab on birthfit.com, I urge you to do so now. Under the Education tab, you will find online coaching. You’ll find consultations and you’ll find more good stuff, but online coaching, we have prenatal online coaching. This is four days a week of online training that is handed to you, delivered to you. This is specifically designed for training for labor and delivery. This was designed not only by myself, a doctor of chiropractic, a strength and conditioning coach. I’m trained in Strongman, weightlifting, power lifting, you name it, gymnastics, but I’m also a doula, a childbirth educator, and I’ve been trained in Energy Healing, HypnoBirthing, Sacred Pregnancy, eight postpartum certifications, and the list goes on.
It has also been like all the programming has been exposed to and edited by and critiqued by the rest of the BIRTHFIT senior leadership team, which encompasses our pelvic floor and core health doctor, other doctors of chiropractics, other doulas, other childbirth educators, other midwives, other OB/GYNs in the area, so I have no doubt in saying that this is the best online prenatal postpartum training program.
And with that, I transition into the best online postpartum training program, which I love. We utilize the DNS principles and it’s basically from breath back to movement and motor patterns that are innate into your body and then back into strength and conditioning. So do yourself a favor, train intentionally, train smart, train efficiently, and if you have any questions at all, utilize those consultations. Under the consultations, you have a nutrition consultation with Dr. Gina, who’s phenomenal. You have a mind-body nourishment consultation with Eating Psychology coach, Melissa Hemphill. You have pelvic floor and core health with Dr. Erica. And then if you’re a practitioner, a coach, chiropractor, physical therapist, anybody, set up a consult with Dr. Mumma. Even if you are thinking about incorporating BIRTHFIT into your practice by becoming a BIRTHFIT professional or a BIRTHFIT regional director, set up a consult with Dr. Mumma. She can answer all the questions you have. So utilize that Education tab. It’s like the juice of everything on BIRTHFIT.com. And then right beside it, you’ll find the podcast button where you can listen to the podcast via our website right there, so there you go.
Also, if you have not signed up for a BIRTHFIT Postpartum Series, check out the Regional Directors tab or join me in Los Angeles at Bini Birth starting next week for the super special breath and flow BIRTHFIT Postpartum Series at Bini Birth in Sherman Oaks. So on to the podcast.
This is the one and only Paleo Chef, Mary Shenouda, and you may have seen her on Instagram. She’s got a great social media game. She’s also the brains behind Phat Fudge, so if you have not tried Phat Fudge, go to paleochef.com and you’ll see a little tab at the top that says Phat Fudge, get you some. It’s a wonderful snack not only to throw in your birth bag, but to throw in your gym back, your backpack, your briefcase, whatever. It’s a great snack for on-the-go.
This is my friend, somebody I look up to in the entrepreneurial world, doctor — we can call her doctor — Mary Shenouda and we’re going to jump right into the conversation because we just started talking and we didn’t really say let’s do the podcast, but here you go. You’re going to just jump right into the conversation with us. I hope you enjoy.
Mary: People ask me, “How do you know dandelion greens does this?” or how do you know turmeric or — Phat Fudge is a great example. The way it’s being used with mothers, with chemotherapy patients, with athletes, I didn’t intend for that and people go, “Oh, who do you have it formulated?” Me. “How did you know this stuff?” I go, man, I’m just going to — big ups to my grandmother. I just think some people know and I’ve learned that when I’m going to eat something for the day or even if I’m going to take my supplements when I do choose to take supplements, I smell everything. And whatever makes my eyes light up, I then assume that’s what my body wants that day.
Lindsey: That’s cool.
Mary: Yeah, so no classic training, understanding of food. I always felt and I still feel like an impostor. I really respect what other chefs go through to become chefs. I think about a year into Mary, the Paleo Chef, I got to do a collaboration with Chef Michael Mina in San Francisco and he’s kind of a big deal chef. He’d just written an article a week before I met him about how no one should call themselves a chef unless they have ten years restaurant experience, so naturally I brought up that up and I’m like, “So you wrote this article, which I read, and I want to know how you feel about me calling myself a chef,” and he goes, “Explain to me how you made this dish,” and I went through the process. He goes, “What you just described is a sense of balance and I can’t teach that to anyone, so I would call you a chef.” I’m like, “Could you say that into the microphone?”
Lindsey: “Can we record that?”
Mary: And even still, as wonderful as to get props like that from a lot of people like that, there is still a sense of like I don’t really know techniques.
Lindsey: Yeah, or protocols or whatever you learn in school.
Mary: Yeah, none of that like I don’t wear a chef’s coat.
Lindsey: Right, but I would say that’s true of any profession. Like what he just said, there’s always the intangible part that you can’t teach and I think that’s huge. That’s a huge compliment.
Mary: As long as it’s fun, I’ll keep doing it. I have a tattoo on my finger, HFF. It stands for “have fucking fun”.
Lindsey: I was like, “HFF? What is that?”
Mary: And as long as it’s fun, I’ll do it. I think the idea of strapping into a chef’s coat and having a restaurant that I have to be in seven days a week might sound fun in the future, but right now it doesn’t sound fun. I don’t know. I don’t want to take away from the path people take to become chefs. It just wasn’t my path.
Lindsey: That’s so interesting. So what does your life look like right now? Monday morning rolls around. You may not have the typical week, right?
Lindsey: Maybe you start on Sunday or Wednesday night.
Mary: This year has been a year of ease for me on purpose because I’ve been doing so many different things the last three or four years. So this year, I say “no” to a lot of things and I have a lot more time to breathe and figure out what I’m going to do next with Phat Fudge, what I’m going to do next with Unicorn Fuel, which is a YouTube show, book stuff, appearances, more pop-ups. So because I need time to think, I actually say “no” to most private clients unless it’s really interesting or really fun.
Monday comes around, I get up naturally with the sun and I sit in bed. I don’t get out of bed. I just sit there and I am so grateful that I have built a life for myself to which I don’t have to get up and rush anywhere, so I actually sit there and I’m like, “Nope. Just sit here.” My dog is going to be like, yow, time to feed me, and I’m like, nope, we’re sitting here. Every day is different. So if it’s a day like that, I’ll get out of bed, do my little morning routine with my different concoctions and drinks and then go for a walk and then email. It’s kind of boring right now, emails, checking on status of fulfillment stuff, some menu planning, some recipe stuff.
Lindsey: What are some morning concoctions?
Mary: I wake up at apple cider vinegar, black seed oil and water with ice. I wait about 20 minutes. Right now, I’m doing Perfect Ketones, so that’s 20 minutes after that also in ice. And then about an hour after that, it’s Phat Fudge and a cup of coffee.
Mary: Yeah. Sometimes supplements, sometimes not. It depends on how I’m feeling.
Lindsey: Depending on what you smell.
Mary: Yes. I don’t have a meal-meal probably until about lunchtime.
Lindsey: And is that meal-meal eggs and bacon or whatever you feel at the moment?
Mary: Whatever I feel at the moment like right now, I dig in a lot of vegetables, a lot of mushrooms and raw stuff like you saw me eat the raw fish a second ago. I’ll do raw tartar, just going with it until not. And then sometimes I’ll have carbs at night with another piece of protein. Sometimes I’ll have more veggies.
Lindsey: Amazing. Now we’re talking about your meals. See, we skipped over. I go on tangents. So two big meals a day, is that what you would say you operate on?
Mary: Yeah, for the most part. I was coming off of something where I was doing breakfast and dinner and they were both kind of heavier, more protein/fat-dense, but then I’m injured right now and I notice that I eat less when I’m injured. I don’t know if that’s —
Lindsey: Yeah, because you’re not moving as much maybe.
Mary: I don’t know, maybe. I kind of thought maybe my body was so focused on healing itself that it didn’t really want to bother itself with digesting food.
Lindsey: Or the metabolism slowed down.
Mary: Yeah. So right now, it’s light-light and then heavy.
Lindsey: Got it, and then do you allow a certain amount of time before you go to bed between eating or you don’t care?
Mary: No. I respect people that do that.
Lindsey: Yeah, I don’t know.
Mary: I don’t do that.
Lindsey: Me neither.
Mary: Sometimes I’ll be in bed and I’m like — I’m kind of snacky and I’ll go get something.
Lindsey: Yeah. Some people are super strict.
Mary: Yeah, I respect it. I would say make sure your actions match your intentions. That’s all that matters to me.
Lindsey: There you go. Okay, so what would a day look like if you had to go to somebody’s house? You would do the morning concoctions and then —
Mary: Yes. So if I’m going to cook at someone’s house, I’ll have two Phat Fudges in the morning because I want to make sure I’m really focused and —
Lindsey: Can I ask a question?
Lindsey: Did Phat Fudge come out of a need for you?
Mary: Yeah, a little bit. It was something I had always thought of like I needed to find something to fill the — I used to love gel packs and GU packs. So much so, I don’t use drugs. So I go to Vegas with my friends and they’re all partying and I’m on the dance floor at 3:00 a.m. with my little gel pack like, “I got this! I could totally keep up!”
Lindsey: And go all night, guys.
Mary: Yeah, and then learning more about food, I rejected that. I did some consulting with the Oracle sailing team and they really wanted some on-the-water food and I always had it in my head like, “What can we do for them?” The recommendation I gave them was before paleo, before Phat Fudge, but that was always in my head. And then I was making fat bombs for one professional athlete down here and —
Lindsey: Fat bombs?
Mary: Just butter and tahini and that would be his little go-to fat bomb. And then we had Unicorn Fuel, which is my coffee concoction, and then something called halva, which is a Middle Eastern dessert of just honey and tahini cooked at high heat and it crystallizes, so all those things are in play.
People are complaining about Unicorn Fuel not being portable because of the spices they have to mix in their coffee. So one day, I was making halva for myself, which is a dessert very high in honey, and I messed up the timing on the temperature for the honey. I was like, oh fuck, I’ll just turn it into fudge, so I threw in all the Unicorn Fuel ingredients into it and the next day, I took a bite out of the fudge and I’m like, oh, this is delicious!
And then all those things drew a line together and it was like, ding-ding, this is it! This is totally that portable thing I’m going to make. I’ll just cut the honey by like 90% and now I’ve got my on-the-go snack because I’m not a big bar person. If I need something like that, I want my body to digest it quickly, so that’s how Phat Fudge was born. It was a recipe that went viral and turned into a product.
Lindsey: That’s great.
Mary: Yeah, so Phat Fudge was just all these different needs and wants, and again, just kind of luck, kind of being aware, kind of always being thoughtful.
Lindsey: Right, but it was definitely from stuff you had put into the universe.
Lindsey: Okay, so back to your day. Whenever you go cook for someone —
Mary: Yeah, two packets because it’s a marathon to cook for someone. It’s a lot of work. I probably would’ve menu-planned the night before and shopped the night before. I will sometimes do the menu planning while I’m shopping, get inspired on it, so it depends on the needs. I have some clients that have some serious medical conditions and I’ve got to keep that in mind when I’m cooking or just people who want to look good or people who just want some good food or an athlete, et cetera. I will pack up all the groceries, all the things that I need, so that’s very taxing.
Lindsey: Yeah, so time-consuming.
Mary: And I cook on a balance board. I don’t like standing straight all day, so I’m now in the kitchen prepping and I’m on my little balance board and jacked up on Phat Fudge and just going. So two ways I cook for people, I’ll make them breakfast, lunch, and dinner fresh and I’m on-call for the day, or I’ll spend those eight to ten hours making meals for the next few days for them.
Lindsey: Got it.
Mary: So then I’m just jamming for eight to ten hours, clean up —
Lindsey: And you’re in their kitchen?
Mary: Yeah, which is cool. Most of these people have really dope views, so I just turn on their sound system and I’m going.
Lindsey: Do they have the balance board or do you bring that?
Mary: I bring it like a weirdo.
Lindsey: Oh my goodness. So you’ve mentioned that you either cook for them on demand or you cook days in advance. What’s the more common and how many days in advance do you cook for people?
Mary: I would say it’s split at the demand of whether they want meals for a few days. It is pretty split. I have some people who just want dinner and they’ll fly me to Chicago just for dinner and I’m like, what?
Lindsey: How much notice do they have to give you?
Mary: I think it depends on the client. Yeah, it depends on the client. Sometimes I’ll get notice a few months in advance if it’s something bigger like four or five days or a week notice. I won’t do same day unless —
Lindsey: Unless you love them.
Mary: Yeah, super love them or it’s like a new celebrity crush and I’m like, hey! I’m totally showing up! But I think I’m really moody now. It really depends on my mood how much advance they have to give me, if I’m being just really honest about it.
Lindsey: Yeah. It’s funny because the chiropractic world is very similar. If somebody says, “Hey, are you available today?” it’s like, I could make myself available, but I’ve got this meeting, this meeting that I would have to switch around, this life plan. But yeah, as you become older and more mature, you realize you’ve got to take care of yourself.
Mary: Yeah, and I think that’s where I am now. Before I would say “yes” to almost everything and now I’m like I’m just not feeling it. I refer out a lot of people like I referred something to Chef Antonio recently and the team coach was like, “You’ve set us up with these chefs up and down the coast. That’s so incredible just to give away business.” I just can’t do these gigs and it doesn’t take away from me to source that out to another badass chef.
Lindsey: Right. Have you ever thought about hiring a team or creating a team?
Mary: I’m not a team player and I know that about myself.
Lindsey: My goodness. Well, maybe you can put somebody in between you and the team?
Mary: I’m having to learn that process for Phat Fudge right now at how to scale the business. I’m still a business of one and I know I’m not great with people or rather it takes certain kind of people to understand the way I operate, and the idea of having to manage a team in a chef capacity — again, hats off to people that can do that. I’m not very good at it and I’ll work on it.
Mary: Maybe, yeah. Somebody asked me, “What’s your goal with Phat Fudge?” I go, “To grow it as big as possible communicating with as few humans as possible.”
Lindsey: Have you always been more of an introvert?
Mary: Yeah, for the most part definitely, quiet little girl with her pigtails, a nice little dress. The first day of school was when I experienced my first bat of bullying. I didn’t really understand why people were mean and then I think that’s where I got my edge, was trying to overcome the bullying, but still the quiet girl. I think people confuse introvert with energy. I have a lot of energy.
Lindsey: You do.
Mary: I’m very enthusiastic, but I like one-on-one. I don’t like one-on-ten. That really stresses me out.
Mary: And people that know me will notice that if I walk into a crowd, my hands will start shaking and I’ll have to reel it in so I can get through the next couple of hours, but I played basketball; I was a point guard. I played soccer; they made me goalie. I played volleyball; they made me setter.
Lindsey: Very singled out.
Mary: And then I loved tennis and then tennis was my jam. I enjoy snowboarding and did sales, again, an individual role, a private chef, so I could fight it if I want, but why?
Lindsey: Right, embrace it.
Lindsey: Totally. So what are some of the — and I don’t want to say illnesses, but what are some of the issues that people have you cook for? What are some of the more common ones?
Mary: Newly discovered autoimmune issues, cancer, cirrhosis, MS. Sometimes they’re just in pain all the time and they don’t really know what’s going on. A lot of moms, I like that. I love nothing more than coming in after a woman has had a baby and making sure that the house is just filled with food that’s going to be nourishing for them. There’s a couple of —
Lindsey: I’m already putting my request in.
Mary: Right on.
Lindsey: For ten years. No.
Mary: There’s “How to Conceive Naturally After 30” that’s written by my friend, Christa Orecchio, from The Whole Journey. She took a couple of my recipes and put them in there. It was weird to promote that for her like, “I’m in this book with the baby on the cover, Mom! Do not get any ideas.”
Lindsey: Yeah, do not think ahead.
Mary: But I didn’t know that the food that I was cooking naturally fell into that world. The liver one is the most popular, the Bangin’ Liver.
Lindsey: Yeah. Was that for fertility recipe or are you talking about a recipe for postpartum —
Lindsey: Oh, good, because other cultures will hold organ meats and eggs and meats and things like that sacred for women during the motherhood transition.
Mary: I didn’t know that.
Lindsey: Which our culture is kind of a little ass backwards, so that’s cool that you’ve made a recipe and probably multiple recipes.
Mary: It’s fun.
Lindsey: What are some dishes that you create postpartum-wise?
Mary: Fenugreek tea, really [0:24:37] [Indiscernible] helps with lactating. The Bangin’ Liver, it’s liver that’s served like Egyptian street food style. It’s got a bunch of different spices, garlic, peppers.
Lindsey: It sounds hot and spicy, which is — I don’t know if it tastes hot and spicy, but it sounds warm.
Mary: It’s got some warmth to it, yeah. It gets cut with some lime juice, so it’s got a lot of pop to it. I always say for anyone that doesn’t like liver, holler at me if you’ve tried that liver. It’s not called “bangin'” for nothing.
Lindsey: That’s amazing. Did you know that creating a dish like that or maybe any other dishes that — so cultures around the world will also view the postpartum period as a cold period or a cold state, so they make dishes like that that are warm or —
Mary: I didn’t know that. I think because —
Lindsey: But your intuition told you.
Mary: I mean, I’ll give credit — I can’t say I created that recipe. That’s just the way we ate liver growing up and I’m just making it popular here, or at least in my little world. I don’t know. People call things superfoods and I’m like, yeah, we just call those spices.
Lindsey: It’s just part of the gig.
Lindsey: Have you got any more dishes that come to the top of your head?
Mary: I do a chili with dandelion greens, which supports your liver function, a lot of fatty things, preserved lemons, Meyer lemons with saffron and black seeds. In Egypt, they say black seeds will cure anything but death, which cracks me up. I really don’t understand what that means.
Lindsey: That’s hilarious.
Mary: But I think they’re starting to get popular and they’re starting to enter that superfood world here, but again, that’s just been a part of everything for me, being able to preserve the Meyer lemon. Eating the entire lemon is really important, a lot of preserved foods, preserved eggplants, things like that, a lot of organ meat. I try to explain this to people. When you eat more organ meat, your body gets all the nutrients it needs. You end up consuming less muscle meat because you don’t need it and you’re eating more vegetables. And when you’re doing that, we’re actually saving the planet because we’re not needing to have meat mass-produced.
Lindsey: Totally. You’re eating the whole animal.
Mary: Yes, and you’re getting what you need from that organ meat.
Lindsey: Yeah. I was reading somewhere — I think our society mainly eats muscle meat as compared to other cultures around the world where they would eat the organ, the fats, everything, and I think that plays a big role into the health of our society.
Mary: Yeah, or lack of.
Lindsey: Yeah, definitely lack of for sure. So from the time that you stopped working in the corporate world and you became a chef until now, has there been a shift in just your diet or the way you see food or the way you view things like organ meats or have you always been a fan of organ meats and —
Mary: I always loved organ meat. I never really understood why people didn’t like it.
Lindsey: I wish I’d grown up in your family.
Mary: My mom is a badass. My mom is a biochemist, multiple languages, three kids, full-time job, sauer for breakfast, sauer for dinner. I don’t understand that. I can barely handle my dog, but she’s an amazing cook, and so is my dad. And when my grandmother was living, she was too, so all I know is good food. We weren’t allowed to have fast food. I said I started getting sick in 2nd Grade. That’s when I would try to sneak lunch food at school.
Lindsey: Oh, busted.
Mary: I wasn’t eating my mom’s food anymore. That’s when I started to get sick because I was eating the American diet, processed stuff.
Lindsey: The sad diet.
Mary: The sad diet. Yeah, I didn’t really understand why people didn’t like organ meat. And then I went over to a friend’s house for her dinner and her mom served this liver and it was great. It was chicken liver and onions or something like that, and I’m like, “Gracias!” So I think having that from my parents makes me appreciate that stuff.
I think what shifted is I guess being more mindful about it or I might just had that phase of loving jack in the box and then realizing let’s just go back to the basic, go back to the way my mom was feeding me in the beginning. I try not to read the next greatest book that comes out, the next trend because there’s just so much information and a lot of it, they’d read one paragraph of a study and they’d go crazy over it and then write a whole book behind it, but diet is so individual. Find your baseline, figure out what works for you, and then understand that your body is going to change, so what worked for you five years ago is not going to work now.
And for women, we have four weeks of different cycles. You’re going to want to eat something different for each one of those cycles. That’s why if you’ll notice in my social media, I don’t prescribe any way of living. I say this is how I live. This is how things might react for you. Go figure it out for yourself.
Lindsey: Right. Have you ever gotten a request from a woman to cook for her cycle, depending on her cycle?
Mary: I had a client that couldn’t — this is back when I was saying “yes” to everything — couldn’t afford to hire me as a chef, so I did a Skype cooking lesson with her and I was teaching her to cook for her cycle.
Mary: And I was learning a lot while I was doing that, too.
Lindsey: What did that look like?
Mary: I’m not going to remember it now. There’s like one week you should be having a lot of red vegetables and meat. There’s one week where you should be having only vegetables and no meat at all, certain vitamins at this time, certain carbs at this time. I was learning a lot while I was going through it because she could learn that information, the data. She didn’t know how to apply that to a delicious meal and that’s where I come in.
Lindsey: Yeah, that’s so key integrating that into your life.
Mary: When nutritionists become chefs, I want to stab my taste buds out. I’m like you do not know how to make this taste good. You’re an embarrassment to food. Stop it. Don’t be everything to everyone. Make friends with a chef.
Lindsey: My gosh. Okay, and you touched on MS and cancer, so what are some of the things you do there?
Mary: MS is the Wahls Protocol essentially. It’s dense greens, lots of greens, really high quality meats, fats, staying away from most sugars, fruits of any sort, and then doing a lot of monitoring, going through that process. Cancer depends on the kind of cancer and where they are in their treatment, what’s being cooked for them, but it’s just again a lot of organ meat and high fat, keto all the way.
Lindsey: I was just going to say, what do you think about ketosis and cancer? Because there’s so much evidence out there pointing that way.
Mary: I am not a scientist, a disclaimer. I think ketosis for treatment is phenomenal. I think ketosis for high-performing athletes is phenomenal. I think ketosis the day before you do something really epic with your body is phenomenal. Ketosis every day just to being ketosis, I don’t really understand the purpose of that. So for every day, high fat, low carb works for me. It doesn’t work for most women, but when it comes to cancer, again, depending on where they are and what kind of cancer they have, ketosis is really legit.
I have clients who are working this way with their doctors and seeing awesome things. I get emails that — I created Phat Fudge for fun. I definitely had the need for it, but I get countless emails of people saying, “Thank you so much for creating this product. It was for me initially, but I gave it to my dad who’s stage four and it’s the only thing that he’s been able to keep down to maintain his weight to fight.”
Lindsey: Oh, that’s awesome.
Mary: So those are the days I don’t stay in bed for extra hours. I’m like I’ve got to get up and do something for the world! So I get a lot of emails like that. The body needs nourishment and it’s in the form of fat. If you are that fragile and your body is craving fat, I think that’s a big indicator that our body prefers fat.
Lindsey: Yeah, for sure.
Mary: But again, I’m not a scientist.
Lindsey: Yeah, everybody should eat fat.
Mary: And I’m not saying go nuts and only eat bacon and butter. I think you’re an asshole if that’s what you hear when I say that. It’s being mindful. Listen to yourself and make sure your diet is matching your activity, but if you can get your body to use that as a fuel source, do it.
Lindsey: Yeah, for sure. Okay. With the crazy variability in your schedule, how do you take care of yourself?
Mary: I don’t. I’m working on that.
Lindsey: Because you have to take care of yourself, right, with celiac?
Mary: Yeah. Well, that’s easy. I don’t eat like a jackass. People say, “It must be really difficult for you.” No. I don’t have cheat days. It’s not worth it to me. I cook most of my own food.
Lindsey: Wait. What happens when you have a cheat day or when somebody slips you —
Mary: Oh, my cheat days are actually really clean. They’re epic, but they’re still paleo. So when I’m “glutened” as I call it, “glutened” —
Mary: Yes, and if anyone wants to know how I treat myself when I’m glutened, if you look up “Ma, The Gluten’s Got Me!”, come to Paleo Chef. A page will pop up on my website of the things that I’m drinking and what I’m doing. So when I’m glutened, my stomach will swell up and I look like an adorable pregnant woman. I get these awful hives that’s —
Lindsey: I saw that, which I thought you were pregnant. It’s on your social media awhile back. I was like, whoa, double-take.
Mary: Because people are like, “What happens when you get gluten? It must be not a big of a deal.” I’m like, no, it’s a big deal. I’ll get gnarly hives.
I’ll get dark circles around my eyes. I’m really heavy in the head. I can’t think. I’ll get an eye stye. I’ll get a cold sore. I’ll get a flu, headache for a few days. I can’t fit into my shoes. Were you at Mark Sisson’s party before Expo? No?
Lindsey: No, but BIRTHFIT South Bay was, Lacey was.
Mary: Yeah, I know. So I was glutened right before that and I couldn’t fit my own shoes, so I had to sit on my back with ice on my feet to wedge them into the shoe so I could have the evening.
Mary: It’s gnarly. It’s super gnarly, so that’ll happen and the effects of that will last a month. I’m just getting over that, starting to get over that glutening and that was three weeks ago. It’s not worth it. So then my cheat days are just ridiculous. I make myself the most decadent chocolate cake stuffed with something and it’s all gluten and dairy and soy-free.
Mary: Yeah, I don’t feel bad about it.
Lindsey: What about fitness, recovery?
Mary: I don’t train like I used to. It bums be out a lot.
Lindsey: It just sounded really sad.
Mary: It does. I, for better or worse, identify with being strong and being an athlete and I’m not that right now, so it’s challenging for me and sometimes it’s difficult to talk about because people look at you aesthetically and they go, “You’re in shape,” and I go —
Lindsey: Not my “in shape”.
Mary: Yeah. If you’ve been an athlete before, you know what your body is supposed to feel like, so I’ve been struggling with that. And every time I start to train, I’ll have a wicked back injury and it’ll put me on my ass and then I’m even more inside me like, “What lesson do you want me to learn?” I’m just getting back from another injury. I was super stoked to start with Emily. We did one day and a back injury came. I went to go do the normal treatments and then they did an MRI this time and found out I have some skeletal anomalies, which I’ve been excited to tell you about actually.
Lindsey: Skeletal anomalies?
Mary: I have two extra vertebrae.
Mary: An extra disc that slipped. My sacrum is completely detached on the right side of my hip and I have a permanent hairline fracture. I’m like, “Oh! No wonder I can’t do anything without being in massive amounts of pain,” so I’m excited right now to actually have that knowledge and do the type of treatment to strengthen everything to then hopefully get back into training the way it was. So when I’m at my best, I’m training four or five days a week and it’s usually interval training and weights, and I take a lot of quiet time at the beach. Right now, it’s Therapeutic Pilates, which is actually really hard when you’re in pain, so I’m not going to hit on Pilates at all.
Lindsey: How often are you doing that?
Mary: Every other day.
Lindsey: Oh my goodness.
Mary: There’s this amazing woman who has 20 years experience and she really understands how your body moves and she will get involved in the stretching and pulling with you and she ends the session with a foot massage.
Lindsey: Oh, nice!
Mary: Yeah, so that’s how I’m taking care of myself right now.
Mary: And I did floating for the first time.
Lindsey: Yeah? How did you like it?
Mary: I don’t.
Mary: Yeah. I think it’s something I don’t want to do, which means I need to do it and need to like it.
Lindsey: What was it that you didn’t like? Was it being in that contraption or was it that everything was quiet and you had to be —
Mary: I felt the floating aspect of it to be distracting to the ability to breathe and chill out, but I think it’s because it’s new and it’s foreign. So about 15 minutes into it, I got comfortable and I’m like okay, I dig this, and then 20 more minutes into it, I was swimming around in the pod and stretching and just playing. And to me, I still feel like I got what I wanted out of it because I was having fun and playing with it. I loved the aspect of the salt being on my body, but props to the people that sit there for an hour and a half with no movement.
Lindsey: I fell asleep in there.
Mary: What? Did you fall asleep the first time?
Lindsey: Yeah. Well, I was in the next state where it’s almost sleep, but not. But then the second time I fell asleep and they had to knock on the door. This happens all the freaking time.
Mary: I’m super jealous.
Lindsey: But I’ll tell you — I just want to pause over here — I was supposed to come home and meet Logan for dinner at 8:00 p.m. I got out of the damn thing at 8:30 p.m. That’s how long I fell asleep in there. It was like 90 minutes.
Mary: I was hoping to get there.
Lindsey: They say it happens after a few, but I’ve always been — I’ve done hypnosis growing up and I’m one of those where if I’m ready to go to sleep, if I’m tired, I’ll knock off right here and you can’t wake me up.
Mary: And that’s from the hypnosis, you think?
Lindsey: I don’t know.
Mary: Can I have some? Do you have some in the kitchen?
Lindsey: Logan was like, “You’re totally narcoleptic.”
Mary: If you can control it, I don’t think so.
Lindsey: But sometimes I can’t. I’ll be just watching TV and then all of a sudden I’m asleep and I didn’t even mean it. Logan has videos of me.
Mary: That’s hilarious. I mean, as long as you’re not hurting yourself in the process.
Lindsey: No. Logan was very similar. He was in there for like 15 to 20 minutes and then he was like, “Okay, what are we doing?”
Mary: Yeah. I’m going to keep trying it. I always try something a few times to make sure that I understand it, and so I’m going to keep going, but I want to go do the sauna. I really believe in the sauna work.
Lindsey: I love the sauna.
Mary: I don’t know. I was trying to do the whole breath work thing when I’m in there. It was tough. Like I said, it’s something that I don’t want to do, which makes me think it’s something I need to learn to love. I think when I posted about it, I was like, I hated naptime in preschool, but I love naps now, so maybe it’ll happen with the floating.
And a lot of the athletes I cook for, they do it and they think it’s amazing. I’m like, “Maybe you’re just really tired after that game,” so maybe I need to go play games and feel exhausted because I had a lot to think about when I was there. I was trying to download. I had to make some decisions for Phat Fudge, some decisions in my personal life, and I don’t think you should fight clearing your mind. I was trying to go with it, but then I was a little distracted with the water. I just wanted to play in the water.
Lindsey: Yeah. Okay. What kind of big stuff is happening with Phat Fudge?
Mary: So the way I built Phat Fudge — I know you know this, but for the people who are listening — the popular recipe went viral. They wanted to turn it into a product, “they” being the readers, people who are posting pictures of Phat Fudge in sandwich bags.
Building a business like that takes a lot of capital and I didn’t have a proof of concept to go and raise capital. And so, I just put 50 orders available, which is 600 packets on a lame website. I don’t know when this comes out, but it might still be the same website today. I’ve been using the same —
Lindsey: Two weeks.
Mary: All right, so yeah, it’ll probably be the same lame website that’s going through its first final, real, grow up stage. I was wearing a unicorn head in periscope in Instagram. I said, “There are 50 orders up of Phat Fudge. Go for it.” It sold out in less than an hour with that little tiny post. The people that bought it were really interesting because the names that came in, I respect them like oh shit, Nom Nom Paleo, Michelle, is one of the first people to buy them like oh, I have sheep support, so then it’s going to be a winner. And so after that happened, I had to figure out what is this going to look like.
Lindsey: What did you do next?
Mary: So I went and got three vacuum sealers off Amazon, plastic things that I made these little pouches, ketchup bottles, and I just did 600 pouches. I did that every Monday for a few months until I got to the point where it was selling out in less than a second and people were really pissed like, “What is this, a Beyonce ticket?” They’re super mad they can’t get their Phat Fudge, so I was looking at scaling it with a co-packer and that’s at least $50,000.
I got this first co-packer to do it for $30,000 for obviously less than what I wanted to produce. Again, I think it’s because I spent so much time in tech and seeing investments, I don’t want to raise money. I wanted to make money. I didn’t want to have a kickstarter. It’s a full-time job and they have so many fees. I didn’t want to go on Shark Tank, none of that stuff, no. I’m going to figure this out.
I’m pretty transparent for better or worse. I don’t care if I’m vulnerable. I don’t care if I look weak or whatever. So I said look, this is what the co-packer wants. I need this much money. I want you to hold me accountable to it, so if you want to preorder it, understand that it might take a few months to get to you. This is what’s going to happen. I needed $30,000. In the first 30 days, $90,000 worth of preorders came in from a brand new product and I don’t really have a big following. I have a pretty humble following by comparison to real companies.
Lindsey: But $90,000?
Mary: Dope, right? So I was able to fund it.
Lindsey: BIRTHFIT community, listen.
Mary: And it was super awesome. I love that it’s something that not all people have done, so I’ve been documenting this process so I can share it in more of like a process-oriented way. So that was supposed to be able to fund two runs. That first co-packer made an $80,000 error. He then cut it to $40,000, which then I had to pay for and that has to do with a lot of the way things are “That’s how it’s done in this world” and I’m like, FU, dude!
I cut ties with him. I was able to fulfill those orders, but essentially I had to start over. I went through so many phone calls, and then learning that so many brands including some brands that I loved cut corners with the quality of their ingredients, cut corners with the way things are produced.
Lindsey: Oh, you probably found out a ton on those.
Mary: Now I know everything. It’s ugly. I walked through Expo this last weekend just shaking my head and I’m like, “Oh really? Japan company? You mean Japan company that still sources from China.” I’m so angry with stuff.
Again, it feels like a betrayal like telling someone you’re celiac and then getting glutened. So the co-packer I have now, I love. I have a very unique setup with the woman that I work with that helps me source all my ingredients. It’s not been done before and I’m hoping it’s the new baseline for new companies to be able to remove all the noise. Where I am now, I’m in a position where I’m in Whole Foods. That’s badass. That’s awesome.
Lindsey: Yeah, I saw that.
Mary: I didn’t have to do any free fill, which means usually to give out a lot of product to get — I didn’t have to do any of that. They contacted me. I’m at the register. I didn’t ask for that. That’s so awesome to have that. You usually have to pay extra for it. I’m one person. They know this, so they don’t mandate that I go and do demos just yet. That’s all going to come down the line. They’re really supporting me. I’m in a bunch of other stores, selling a lot online. I’ve had plenty of copycats come around.
Lindsey: Really? Already?
Mary: A couple of them are huge companies that I’m just like, man, you’ve got so many SKUs and so much funding. Why? So now, I’m in this position where I can keep growing nimbly, growing my roots deep, or I can consider taking an investment. I’m not at a shortage of people knocking on my door wanting to invest, but for some reason, I can’t do that with enthusiasm.
Lindsey: Hold the trigger.
Mary: I want to do this. I want to say I was able to build this at least to a certain point.
Lindsey: Right, and the investment would be for the —
Mary: Purchase orders.
Mary: Yeah, and I’m like, that doesn’t feel right. Actually, I came up with an interesting proposition to my co-packer and I think they’re going to accept it, which might allow me to do this without an investor, which again would be very unique and one of a kind and something I want to write about eventually, but then I’m like do I still want to take investments to go balls to the wall because the vegan and coffee-free are coming out, and coffee-free has no honey, no mocha, no cayenne, so it’s no hormone disruptors, adding MCT — Caveman Coffee MCT plug — maybe some mint and beets, so it’s for performance, really for inflammation.
I want to go balls to the wall and have all three of those SKUs out there, actually design my boxes because my boxes are white boxes right now. I’m growing nimbly. Every cost means something. So I’m stuck there because I’m okay moving at this pace, but someone could come in and eclipse me. Am I being stubborn because I know I can or is there an ego play in this? I’m trying to understand all of that and it’s difficult to talk to people about it because the majority of my friends with businesses have multiple investors, so their answer is, “You can’t do this without an investor.” I’m like, “No, you can’t do this without an investor.” So it’s the situation where I’ve got to take any outside feedback with a grain of salt because they haven’t done it the way that I’m doing it, so that’s a decision I have to simmer on and make.
Lindsey: When do you have to make it by?
Lindsey: Good! That’s hilarious.
Mary: I’ve got some interesting people that have started to follow my work recently and I might just cold DM them and be like, “You’re following me for a reason. Can I ask you some questions, get your opinion?” I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I feel like if I have to ask for advice, I don’t know what I’m doing and it’s weird that I have that mentality.
Lindsey: I have that mentality sometimes too. It’s weird being a female entrepreneur. Two years ago, it’s like I need an investor and then you get to another step and you’re like, “No, I don’t. I can do this,” but now I feel I don’t have a product like Phat Fudge, but a service —
Mary: But you do.
Lindsey: Yeah, a product service. Those are all thoughts that have gone through my head like somebody could come through and eclipse and —
Mary: But they can’t.
Lindsey: It’s not the same, yeah.
Mary: They can’t. Literally two people ripped off my exact recipe and my logo design and they’re doing their thing, but they don’t know the formula. They just do the ingredients. It’s not as good as mine. You don’t have the transparency that I have. You’re forgetting the fact that you’re not Mary. You’re not Eat Play Crush. You’re not Phat Fudge. Your roots are not as deep. And I think people who prematurely take investments, they don’t do the hard work to build deep roots and when the storm comes, they topple over.
Lindsey: For sure. It’s not built from the inside out.
Mary: No. You have roots. There’s no one that could come in and do BIRTHFIT, period. And if they tried your coffee —
Lindsey: I’m going to Eat Play Crush them.
Mary: That’s what happened with one of mine like somebody put it up, a bigger brand, put it up and my audience was like, “This girl hand-packed them with her hands!” and they had to pull back. I’m like the Beyonce of Paleo for the day. Yeah! That’s what would happen if someone would try to come in and do BIRTHFIT and those are the things that go through my head. There’s a lot of nuance to building a business, building a business as a woman.
Lindsey: Yeah, so that was exactly what I was going to ask, was what do you have for tips for building a business as a woman? Because if you think about it, BIRTHFIT is the umbrella brand and then we have the regional directors that are in all locations throughout the country and even overseas now, and those are basically little businesses under BIRTHFIT and they’re all entrepreneurs. They’re all doing the hustle thing, so what kind of advice have you got for them?
Mary: I don’t know. It depends on the individual. The definition of settle is to gradually sink and that word terrifies me. Don’t gradually sink. Don’t settle. Know what your values are and if you know what your values are, it makes all decision-making from there very simple. Just don’t question yourself. Women — and I say this with quotations — take more risks because we’re far “luckier” than we know. Yeah, we have a lot of things going against us, but we also have the competitive edge and lean into that competitive edge. We’re super badass. The longer you stare in a woman’s eyes, the more you can feel her power, which is why most people look away. Just know that’s there.
You don’t need anybody to build your business. Don’t put anyone on the pedestal. No one’s doing better than you. Just don’t worry about that stuff. It’s cool that the idea is out there, but don’t think you need that person to succeed. Don’t try to impress that person. Transparency is dope. Just be really honest in that process. I don’t know how tangible those pieces of advice are. I guess it really depends on what you’re trying to do.
Lindsey: Those are great. Those are awesome pieces of advice.
Mary: Thank you.
Lindsey: All right, so that’s Phat Fudge. What does the future look like for chef life?
Mary: I’m doing a lot more pop-ups, so I don’t want a restaurant just yet. That’s a lot of responsibility, so I get invited to be guest chefs at things. I go to San Francisco. I did one at RN74. I did one with Bourbon Steak at the stadium, Plan Check. There’s one coming up with Maple Block going to Miami, so what that looks like is the restaurant and the chef allows me to write the menu for the day and for the day I have a restaurant and people get to have my food that otherwise wouldn’t be able to eat with me, so a lot more of that. I think I have to write a book.
Lindsey: Have you written a book? I feel like you have. No?
Mary: No. I have those e-books that I did because I was over answering questions online and I’m like, ugh, this is what Paleo is. Here are my favorite five recipes. That’s another thing I have to decide about what is the book going to look like.
Lindsey: Yeah. What? Any ideas?
Mary: Yeah. I don’t want to talk about them just yet.
Lindsey: They’re all floating around in your head?
Mary: Yeah. One of my friends is an amazing editor to a lot of amazing, successful authors and supports my work. He put me in touch with an amazing agent to a lot of amazing authors, and so they check in with me every couple of weeks like, “Hey, what are you doing?” So we’ve thrown a lot of ideas and we have one that’s pretty clutch and it’s just me feeling 100% about it because it’s a hell yes or a hell no.
Lindsey: And pulling the trigger.
Mary: Yeah because it’s a commitment to write a hundred recipes and mine is going to be 400.
Lindsey: Oh my God.
Mary: That’s a big deal. So book stuff, Phat Fudge, more video stuff, Unicorn Fuel. I’m going to have you on there. We’re going to cook together. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Lindsey: I was just going to ask. Can I learn to cook from you?
Lindsey: How do we do that?
Mary: We should do a Facebook live in this kitchen because when I teach someone how to cook, I teach them how to cook for them. I don’t need you making the food I make for myself, so I bring out a bunch of different spices, a bunch of proteins —
Lindsey: I need to learn spices.
Mary: I’ll have you taste each one individually and we’ll talk about how do you feel when you eat that, not in a hippy-dippy way, but literally how do you feel about this, and then we’ll play with combinations and then we will come up with a recipe that day that’s unique to you and that gives you a sense of confidence to play moving forward.
Lindsey: Let’s do it because I’m going through — well, Facebook and social media already knows that I’m healing metal toxicity, going through chelation and parasite. I’ve got one of those.
Mary: High five! Winner, winner!
Lindsey: I’ve got one of those, but then on top of that, I have asthma and MTHFR mutation, so healing the gut.
Mary: It’s huge.
Mary: Oh, that would give me so much joy because — I don’t know if I still feel this way. By the way, I really like this light that’s over us, the gradient of the green to the gold. I really like it. I don’t think I’m here to change the world, but I do think I’m feeding and impacting people that can and will change the world, and I view your work as world-changing. So to be able to support you in that way and teach you how to feed yourself and heal yourself only allows you to do your work in a greater capacity and that stuff makes me really excited.
Lindsey: Hell yeah. Definitely that’s our follow-up, Chef Life, because you have the camera and you have a camera.
Mary: Yeah, and you get the bonus of eating.
Lindsey: Awesome! Okay, so let me think. Did we miss anything?
Mary: I don’t know.
Lindsey: I don’t know. How often are you traveling right now?
Mary: I’m trying to travel more.
Lindsey: Are you going to PaleoFX?
Mary: Yeah. You’re going, right?
Lindsey: Yeah. We’ll be there. I’m trying to decide if I need to ship everything there or just buy things there.
Mary: Oh, like what?
Lindsey: We want to set up a breastfeeding lounge.
Mary: Ship everything because if you buy it all there, are you going to ship it back? Are you sure all those things are going to be there?
Lindsey: There’ll probably be an IKEA.
Mary: There’s an IKEA in Austin?
Lindsey: Round Rock.
Lindsey: I have family that lives around there because it’s where I’m from, so I’ll probably just say let me store some stuff there.
Mary: Yeah. Make it easy on yourself. I’m going to go for two weeks. Anytime I go to Austin, I try to extend the stay.
Lindsey: That’s what I was thinking, maybe a week or so.
Mary: Yeah. Get a nice Airbnb. That’ll give me an opportunity to cook for people, too. There’s a lot of good food out there.
Lindsey: Nice. Okay, so where else are you traveling? Any ideas?
Mary: I’m going to Mexico City for a royal wedding, for a wedding.
Lindsey: That’s awesome.
Mary: A lot of San Francisco trips. I have not given myself a break in four years, not even a getaway.
Lindsey: Not a true vacation-vacation?
Mary: No. Every trip I’ve taken has been for work or for somebody else like it’s somebody’s birthday and they want to go camping or it’s somebody’s anniversary or someone had a baby and I’ll go do those things, and as much joy as that brings me —
Lindsey: Where would you go if you could take a vacation and nobody would call you to cook? They’re like, okay, she’s on vacation.
Mary: Egypt, Argentina, Italy.
Lindsey: Oh, those are legit.
Mary: I’ve not done anything like that for myself in so long that it’s kind of sad to say. I don’t know where I’d go or what I’d do.
Lindsey: Have you been to Egypt?
Mary: Yeah, the other two places, I haven’t been. Egypt, all the time growing up, multiple times; not so much lately. [0:58:06] [Indiscernible] The whole family is there.
Lindsey: They’re still there?
Mary: Yeah. My parents were the only ones that moved here from both sides, and then my uncle is here as well. I had another uncle, but he passed, but the rest of the family is there. As they get older, they become doctors, lawyers, architects. I’m the sheep.
Lindsey: You’re the chef.
Mary: I’m the first person in the entire family not to go to college, which is like the opposite story that you normally hear, but they get older and they either stay in Alexandria or they move to Europe, so I have family throughout Europe and Egypt.
Lindsey: Okay, so Egypt, Argentina, and Italy.
Mary: Yeah, places that I can go play with ingredients and cook. I want to take a cooking vacation. I’ve toyed around with posting on my social media like who wants to have a chef for a couple of days and then a couple of days, you let me just play in your city and see what cool — like if there’s anybody in some cool cities that I could go and have an adventure and document it, but then traveling as a woman alone is kind of scary, too.
Mary: So that’s what goes back and forth in my mind.
Lindsey: Yeah. Okay. Well, we’re just going to put vacation vibes out there for you.
Mary: Thank you. I would like a trip somewhere, but here’s the other thing. I’m so grateful to live here. We have a beach.
Lindsey: Yeah. This is a pretty dope area.
Mary: I kind of live on vacation, so I don’t take that away like, “Oh, I haven’t had a break in a long time.” I live in a beautiful place. I have beautiful friends. I have food. All these things are awesome, so I don’t want to —
Lindsey: Logan and I do say that because we take a vacation every year to Fiji —
Mary: Which always looks awesome.
Lindsey: Yeah, but it is the time where we shut down social media. We almost have headache withdrawals. It’s so wild how you have to peel away layers, but when we’re coming back — some of the people on the trip are literally going back into Boston or not Venice Beach and we’re like, well, at least we get to live in our dream world still.
Mary: Yeah. I get homesick and I think it’s really awesome. I’ve built the life that I wanted right now, the life I choose. And if I didn’t want this life, I would do something different.
Lindsey: Yeah. You’d just take a little step in the other direction.
Mary: Yeah, pivot. I believe there’s no such thing as failure if you master the pivot.
Lindsey: Oh, that’s a good saying.
Lindsey: Hashtag that quotable. Awesome! So where can people find you at?
Mary: Paleochef.com is the site, which is really just an online business card. I usually play on Instagram @paleochef there and @paleochef on Twitter. And then the show is called Unicorn Fuel, but it’s on the mixed makeup channel, so I’m talent on that channel.
Lindsey: Got it.
Mary: And then Phat Fudge online, phatfudge.com. Buy it, post about it, hashtag it, and you can find it in Whole Foods in the Rocky Mountain region, the 23 stores there, SunLife Organics, [1:01:12] [Indiscernible], and if I get my shit together and figure out what to do next, hopefully every other store in the United States of America.
Lindsey: Yeah. Phat Fudge is awesome and if you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out. Put these in your bags for labor and delivery because that shit’s legit and it’s literally a fuel that will last.
Mary: I’m so humbled that you like it. Anytime anyone likes it, I’m just like, “Really?”
Lindsey: It’s good. I can’t even keep a box in here without Logan —
Mary: Are you guys out?
Mary: Tell me when you’re out.
Lindsey: This was probably two or three weeks ago with three boxes because we got a box from Grown Ass Woman, and me and Lacey were like, “Okay, we’ll split it.” I come home and it’s halfway gone in a week and I was like, are you kidding me?
Mary: I want to donate to the gym, but I don’t know if that’s weird or imposing, but I’ve been wanting to send some to you and to the gym just so you guys can give it away.
Lindsey: Yeah, for sure.
Mary: Okay. Well, let me know when you’re out. [1:02:11] [Indiscernible] the homey perks.
Lindsey: Awesome! Well, thanks so much for hanging out with us.
Mary: Thank you for having me.
Lindsey: And we’ll see you soon.
Mary: Yeah, in the kitchen.
Lindsey: Go find her. Bye, guys!
[1:02:47] End of Audio