Have you ever been misdiagnosed at the Doctor’s office?
You’re not alone. And get this: medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than a quarter million lives every year. That’s significantly more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s.
So if you want to know what you really should be afraid of, it’s not shark attacks and plane crashes. It’s getting sick, then being mistreated.
This week’s guest, Mary Shenouda, The Paleo Chef, turned a misdiagnosis of cancer into a calling. She healed her laundry list of health problems with nutrition, and now she teaches professional athletes, celebrities, and other overachievers like us how to do the same.
Before we get to the show, here’s a quick announcement.
I’ve been chosen to curate the next Quarterly Biohack Box. If you haven’t heard of Quarterly, past curators include Bill Nye The Science Guy, and Tim Ferriss, but this next box of biohacking goodies will be even better.
You may have seen me whip out my Survival Pack for Kurt on the My Diet show and ABC, and now I’m packing one up for you. This biohack box will have everything you need to stay fit on the road.
Right now, I have to keep the contents of the biohack box a secret. But I can give you one teaser—it’s definitely going to include my favorite battery powered hand frother so you can make the perfect fatty coffee no matter where you are.
The boxes are limited, so click here to get all the details.
Alright, onto the show with Mary, The Paleo Chef.
You’re about to learn:
- How Mary cured her debilitating migraines with food
- What to do when you’re misdiagnosed
- Why pro athletes and movie stars rave about Phat Fudge
- How Mary dropped 30 pounds by eating more fat
- How to make a proper fat bomb
- And much more…
Let’s go hang out with Mary.
MARY SHENOUDA: PALEO CHEF AND ACCIDENTAL ENTREPRENEUR
Abel: After a lifetime of ill health and misdiagnoses, Mary left a successful career in Silicon Valley to become The Paleo Chef. These days, her clients include professional athletes, bestselling authors, celebrity chefs, reality show stars and high powered executives. What’s cookin’ Mary?
Dude, that’s the greatest intro to me ever. I’m going to commission you to do that every time I walk into a room.
Abel: You’ve shown the world that you can build a business around your passion. But health started as a place of pain and suffering for you. Can you explain the time when you were misdiagnosed with everything… including cancer?
I had been suffering from migraines starting in second grade. I was frequently sent to the nurse because I was in physical pain, and then sent back to class because I didn’t have a fever. So, they’d think I was lying, and that was the beginning of feeling like everyone was calling me crazy. It wasn’t until I had projectile vomiting that they took me seriously.
That’s when the testing started. I would have a headache almost everyday and severe migraines once or twice a week. As I got older, the migraines got worse to where people would find me passed out in vomit… because I’d vomit so much I’d pass out and be rushed to the ER.
Then people told me I was lying and I must be overdosing on drugs… and I was like, “I said I don’t do drugs!”
First it was headaches, and as I got older I had hives, physical pain, irregular periods, and problems with eyesight. I was an athlete. I played tennis, and I wasn’t going to let this pain stop me from doing what I love.
I would crush vicodin and coffee grounds together and rub it into my gums before a tennis match just so I could get through the match.
I went right from high school into Corporate America and I was crushing it in the boys’ club. And if you had a bad day, they’d assume you were on your period or you broke up with a guy. So, okay… crushing vicodin and rubbing it into my gums.
I’d also be in the hospital a lot because I was afraid I’d get fired for missing work days. Even going on dates and having to constantly say, “I have a headache or my stomach hurts,” and they’d be like, “If you want to bail on the date…” No, if I wanted to bail I’d bail.
At some point, I accepted that pain was my baseline. I just have to accept it. I’m going to pretend someone in the world is suffering less because I‘m carrying their pain.
At 24, doctors told me I had cervical cancer. Then they told me I had lupus.
They were taking 30 vials of blood every other day to figure out what was going on. I would be on different steroids which only made me sicker. I’d be under my desk with a blanket taking naps and my face would be swollen… but a good soldier must go on.
I remember looking up the meds they gave me to figure out what was going on and one was antipsychotics. I called the doctor to ask him why, and he said he was worried a lot of it was depression and psychosomatic.
HOW TO RECOVER FROM GLUTEN INTOLERANCE
Abel: My doctor prescribed an antidepressant to help me sleep in my early twenties. Ugly business.
My breaking point was one of the ER visits when the nurse was accusing me of lying to get drugs. I’m telling her, “I don’t want your morphine drip, I don’t want the needles, just please tell me what’s causing this pain!” And she’s yelling at me, telling me I’m lying and accusing me of taking drugs. I took the bedpan of vomit and threw it across the room.
I started to listen to the idea of gluten intolerance that was starting to become mainstream. I went online and found the Dr. Terry Wahls talk about the mitochondria. I did a report on mitochondria in high school, and I suddenly had this “aha” moment—It all has to do with supporting the mitochondria, and okay we’re not converting cell energy properly!
I sent out my own lab work because I had been tested for gluten intolerance by my doctor but those tests are 60% inconclusive. That is a huge margin of error.
No, that’s unacceptable.
It came back full-blown celiac, casein intolerance, and soy intolerance.
I think the biggest difference between myself and some discouraged readers is that I was stoked to find this out. This was the difference between being broken and being more awesome than I already was.
People talk about healthy being expensive. Do you know how much it has saved me in medications and ER visits?
It pays 10 fold for the food that I eat.
Within a couple months of removing those ingredients from my diet, every single ailment went away. Every single one. A cool byproduct was that I lost weight, which reels people in because people care about vanity more than health.
A few people in Silicon Valley noticed what was going on, and one asked for a consulting session with me and then asked me to cook for him. And I was like, “No thank you, I don’t cook for people. I manage multimillion dollar accounts, thank you.” And then he told me how much he’d be willing to pay me to cook some meals for him.
I tried to do both for a little while, keeping my job while cooking for this person.
My body said “nope” and went into adrenal fatigue.
I loved my corporate job. It wasn’t 100% satisfying, but now I know why.
I gave my boss notice. He said he “knew this would happen.” He made it really easy for me—he gave me a month to hang out at home to figure out how to be a chef and the rest is history.
I’d wake up in the morning with a new famous person following me, and I’m like WHAT?
Abel: I think we started around the same time, 2012. It’s amazing how things have changed since then. Now you hear the word “paleo” mentioned on Holiday Inn commercials and everyone’s talking about it… but no one really knows how to define what “paleo” means.
It’s mentioned in mainstream places but it’s tongue-in-cheek, which is fine because people go and Google it.
We all know what strict paleo is: no grains, no soy, no sugar, don’t shave your legs, and go live in a cave.
I believe in the concept of “Paleo-You.” Readers come my way and see me drinking scotch and they’re like, “That’s not paleo.” Well, It’s my paleo.Eat like you give a damn about yourself. @paleochef Click To Tweet
I care that you care what you eat. It’s important that you give strict paleo a try for a period of time so you get a clean slate. Then you can introduce some things back into your diet and if you can tolerate it, enjoy it.
I can never ever eat dairy, and I miss cheese. But a lot of people can eat dairy. And if you can, then you’ve found your “Paleo-You.”
It’s about making sure what you put into your body is going to help you level up, help you be your own awesome, and mind your own plate. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. I mean, if you want to buy 100 paleo books and find the one that resonates with you, that’s fine. But your personal profile is going to be a little different than others.
Abel: And it’s going to be different throughout your life. We all go through cycles and phases.
When I first started eating Wild, I was doing food sensitivity testing at the same time.
It turns out I was intolerant of a ton of the popular “paleo foods.” That list included honey, which is almost the exclusive sweetener of the “paleo” world.
You always have to personalize your nutrition plan.
If you have adrenal fatigue, you’re going to eat differently. How do you gauge that so you’re eating right for the way you live your life?
I don’t have a science background. I believe I was an alchemist in a past life. I have clients that are professional athletes, and I have some clients with serious stuff going on, like late stage cancer. Lupus. Narcolepsy. I’m dealing with serious stuff from a food perspective. But before I go and speak to their nutritionist or doctor, I already have an idea of what I want to cook them as far as spices are concerned and their doctors are like, “How do you just know?”
I know this is going to sound weird, but I just smell a spice or herb and something says “yes” for this and “no” for that.
I think because I had to be so aware of my body for so long, especially in my transition period, I just learned to listen to some of the trigger responses my body has.Your body is so much smarter than you, if you just shut up and listen to it. @paleochef Click To Tweet
If I’m in adrenal fatigue, I don’t do high fat low carb, which is my typical diet. Near my period my diet will change, as well.
First it’s getting all the info I need. Experiment with things. People who don’t like liver, please try it and see how your body feels.
Try new spices. See how you feel and you’re going to become your own alchemist. It takes time. It took me five years.
I love when someone wants to change 30 – 40 years of eating habits in 7 days. I’m like, come on.
Abel: Food is one of the most personal things we have. We don’t realize how much baggage we bring to the table.
Food will help you or hurt you. And I have a thing with mortality. I’ve lost a lot of people near and dear to me. And it’s so important that anybody that comes into my sphere, even in a bar walking by me and we have an interaction, that they know I really want them to enjoy as much of life as possible.
Abel: By the way, today is Mary’s birthday. For the record, it’s awesome that’s she’s doing this. I work on my birthday, too… it doesn’t feel like work when you’re passionate about what you do.
You brought up a point that I want to dig into… you want to scream out, “You can save your own life!”
But the first step is the realization that what you eat affects almost everything in your life. And it’s huge and hard for beginners to make that leap.
You were surrounded by vomit in a hospital wondering what you could do. You didn’t realize that your diet was the problem, and neither did your doctors.
How do you help people believe the idea that you can heal yourself with food?
I try to be the example. So I live a great life. I feel great. I’m having fun. That should speak for itself. And it has. That’s why people contact me.
Then when they come with their excuses, I’m like “shhhhh….” Then I ask them what they love to eat. And I show them how to make these meals they love with better ingredients. Then they have a sense of relief. I then tell them why they need to remove other ingredients.
When I walk away, they’re like, “Wait, I want more information!”
Speaking to the positive makes people more open to hearing the no’s. There was a time in my life when I’d just smack them and say, “Not gluten!”
Abel: You have to be more gentle and moderate at the beginning.
Yes. I say bacon and scotch (and the other one is inappropriate). You can have as much of that other stuff as you want, it’s great!
Abel: People around you — especially in Corporate America — notice when you start focusing on your diet. Not only do you look different, but you start performing better.
You work with a lot of performers who don’t want to just look good for vanity’s sake. They want to upgrade their brains, they want to perform better, live longer.
What are some of the things that are possible in that regard? What have you seen?
Going from good to bad-ass?
Abel: Going from okay to reaching their full potential.
The way that I cook food and with the infusion of Phat Fudge in their lives, a few of them no longer crave, need, or want anything that’s sugary or sweet. They just don’t crave sweets. This is huge for athletes. Cutting out sugar for an athlete is huge. They’ll message me and say, “Joint pain is going away. I had a PR (personal record) today. I shaved 7 minutes off my marathon.”
So they’re feeling good and attaching that to their champion mindset. I have people who feel more inspired. Their writer’s block is nonexistent. The lyrics are coming out for the songwriter.Good food, good thoughts. Junk food, junk self esteem. @paleochef Click To Tweet
Their confidence, their clarity, their focus. And with that, comes the weight. There’s no blockage between the heart, mind, soul and literally your gut. I sign all my letters with “Trust your Gut.” I mean that twofold—trust your intuition and literally trust your gut microbiome.
People will ask, “Can I have dairy?
And I’m like, “I don’t know. How do you feel when you have dairy?”
Abel: How do you still make food an indulgent part of your life when you have all these ingredients that you’re trying to eat around?
Let’s start with breakfast because it’s full of landmines…
Easy, it’s bacon.
Breakfast for me is a cube of Phat Fudge with unicorn fuel blended into the coffee. If I feel like I need more, it’s a couple strips of bacon. If I need carbs, it’s sweet potatoes.
If I want to indulge, it’s pancakes made with almond flour and macadamia flour. And it’s an indulgence because I can’t even imagine how many nuts are in one pancake.For the love of god, it’s a mindset. If you look forward to this stuff, it’s easy. @paleochef Click To Tweet
Abel: A lot of people think, “I can’t eat dairy. I’m just going to eat cheese because I can’t do this.”
How do you prevent self-sabotage?
Typically a private chef has one client, and they’re on a salary, and they work for them for years. That’s why I’ve carved myself out, made it very clear… and my rates are so high that people can’t afford me full-time. I go in there, clean everything out, show you how to be your own boss, and if you have a full-time chef I teach them how to fuel you.
My job is to give you the tools. My job is to have a rebuttal for every single one of your stupid excuses, and be like, “Now it’s on you, and peace out.”
Abel: What’ drives you up a wall?
When people say, “Oh, I’m going to miss this food.”
Why did you call me? You called me because you wanted to feel better, look better, perform better.
Or they’ll ask, “What do I do when go to a restaurant? What about my birthday?”
I don’t have this problem with my athletes. Champions have to put in the work day in and day out and then they get the trophy. The very next day they’re back to work.
The “blah” mindset is, “I want everything now and then I’m going to do the work.”
Good luck with that plan.
Abel: How can people get started in the kitchen themselves?
I do think cooking can be intimidating. Start with something simple.
Please don’t try to make a paleo souffle.
Start with bacon and eggs. Start with meatloaf. Start with chicken cacciatore. Master the simple dishes. Once you master those, you will naturally start to want to become more pro.
Maybe put some spices out in front of you with veggies and homemade mayo. Try the spices so you start to understand your palate.
What your body might like taste wise, might be exactly what your body is craving nutrient wise.
I’ve done a couple of bachelor cleanouts to teach them how to cook, and they might just have a thing of salt in their kitchen and that’s it.
By the end of the four hours of teaching him how to cook some simple things and playing with spices, we had made my tahini tuna. He took a bite and I asked him what he thought.
He’s like, “I think it could use a little more paprika.” It was fantastic.
Abel: Many people think they need a hundred kitchen gadgets. You just need a skillet and some bacon and eggs.
I can’t stand single use items. I have people ask me all the time what kinds of things I have because I’m a chef. I have four crock pots because I cook a lot in bulk, but otherwise it’s pots, pans, and knives.
Abel: You need to be an opportunist in the kitchen.
My dad cooked his way through college. No matter what we had in the fridge—we could run out of ketchup and he’s like, “okay, I can make that.”
He’s always pouring in spices, smelling things, and having fun.
I think that’s why I have so much fun in the kitchen – because I have my dad as a positive example.
The idea you can see what’s in the fridge and whip something together with no plan is life-changing.
I’ve been doing that on Periscope—I’ll say this is all I have in my fridge, watch it turn into something gourmet in 45 minutes.
But you [Abel] are the most positive dude I know, and that energy goes into your food. It makes the meal that much more healing and more flavorful.
I cannot make a meal for someone I don’t like. I will try all my skills and it just won’t come out.
There’s a lot to be said about going in there with that playful attitude. There was an experiment where they gave everybody a recipe and they made it. Then they had them think about someone they love and it came out differently.
Abel: I talk about that a lot with my friend George Bryant. There’s more than nutrients in your food. It’s more than calories in calories out.
Cooking is a gift for the people around you.
How do you encourage your clients to be that force for positive change in their own family?
It usually starts with one of them. I teach that person to be an example.
When they get the click and they become it, their family start asking questions. You can’t worry about them until it clicks. The second that happens they start to ask questions and get on board.
It’s about taking care of yourself—It’s contagious.Being happy and awesome is contagious. @paleochef Click To Tweet
When I was in Corporate America, part of how I would win my deals—because I started out 15 – 20 years younger than people in the meetings that I was pitching to—so I’d take the decision maker out for a cooking lesson because they probably never cooked.
So, now we’re on even playing ground and gaining that trust with breaking that bread. I’d always close the deal after that.
It is something we all have in common and it’s something that means a lot to me. I think it come from my culture… and having two parents in the kitchen means a lot.
I get all emotional with youth and younger generations, especially at risk areas, because there’s not someone at home cooking for them. And it has so much to do with self esteem moving forward in life.
PHAT FUDGE: THE ACCIDENTAL BUSINESS
Abel: Let’s talk about Phat Fudge. I haven’t tried it yet, but I really want to.
Phat Fudge came about because there’s a dessert called palaoua, which is pretty much Paleo—it’s just honey and tahini. I was making it and it’s a 36 – 48 hour process, and I messed up a batch.
So I just threw in all my unicorn fuel ingredients, which is coffee, butter, MCT oil, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, cocoa, and vanilla. It’s everything you need in the morning.
It tasted great. Then I said, “okay, it’s too much honey.” I cut that back, I upped the butter, upped the tahini, and my clients are like “this is amazing.”
The recipe went viral. We had football players, baseball players, actors, NASCAR racers, some of my favorite artists are making it, loving it, and asking it to be a product. They were making it and putting it in sandwich bags to fuel for races, so I’m like, “Let’s do this.”
So I started to hand pack squeeze packs myself, and I’m doing 50 orders of 12 packs. I put on a unicorn head, went on Periscope, and said, “Phat Fudge is a product,” and it sold out in an hour.
It wasn’t just that it sold out in an hour… when I saw some of the names it was like, “they love me, they really love me.”
I needed to get a copacker. So, my options: Kickstarter or investor. I didn’t want to go through the semantics of a Kickstarter and didn’t want them to take a fee. I didn’t want an investor because I didn’t want to give up 50% of my business… before I even had a business.
So I decided to do an epic pre-sale. I told my followers, “I need you guys to hop on board and preorder so I can make my minimums, and then we’ll turn this into a full fledged product.” And I accidentally created a business.
In 30 days we did $80,000 in sales, met copacker minimums. It’s been a brutal learning process. I have so much compassion for people who do it the right way. You can cut a lot of corners in quality and I refuse to do that.
The feedback I get is really cool. I have postpartum moms who are using it all the way to professional athletes and movie and TV sets that are ditching the donuts and giving their actors Phat Fudge.
This month I’m rolling out vegan Phat Fudge and Phat Fudge Burn, which has no honey and has MCT oil in it, which is the one I use personally.
I have a unicorn certificate on it that I made.
It’s cool, and this is a byproduct of me doing what I love. I accidentally created a business.
Abel: A lot of us started around the same time, and you follow the people who you knew kind of had it. And they followed very strange paths, I mean I was on reality TV and you’re making Phat Fudge.
When you get your health under control and start fueling the right way, you realize that more is possible. You just have to do it.
You start doing the things you believe in. That becomes a service and a calling.
It’s exciting to see the real food world getting traction.
It’s a gateway to so much. You have no idea what’s in your mind because your body is dealing with so many issues, it can’t access that million dollar idea back there.
You’ve got to clear out all the crap to access that part of your heart, mind, body and soul.
And I don’t know what people are waiting for. Do it now.
Abel: A lot of people struggle with the idea of eating more fat. How do you help get people on board?
My female clients have had the low fat idea hammered in for so long.
Think about your kitchen floor—if you drop sugar on your kitchen floor, it’s sticky and everything sticks to it. If you drop butter on the floor, it is slick and nothing sticks to that, so everything is fluid.
I start with that analogy first to make them more terrified of sugar than of butter. I express that feeding your brain high quality fat tells your body you’re not starving, and it lets go of everything excess.
So, it’s not that you’re eating 10,000 calories of butter… You’re just feeding the right parts of your body first so the false hunger and false cravings dissipate.
You have to trust the process.
And if there’s pushback, I remind them how much money they’re spending for my time.
WHERE TO FIND MARY SHENOUDA
Abel: What are you having on your birthday?
I’ve had a tough year and also a great one, so I’ve been doing a lot of balancing. I’m spending some time being really grateful, thinking about people not with us, and I’m going to watch the sunset.
There’s a bakery out here called Sinners and Saints and they’ll make you a paleo cake, so I’m going to have that. My friend Courtney Ford, she’s an actress out here, she made me a paleo cake and sent me a list of the ingredients and the mold testing on all the ingredients. So I’m going do this: Work on Phat Fudge, eat cake, watch the sunset, and be really grateful for the good and the bad, full spectrum living.
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BEFORE YOU GO…
It’s time to clear out the junk so you can optimize your health… and your life.
I agree with Mary… What are you waiting for? Do it now.
If you don’t know where to start, here’s what you can do next. Check out my New York Times Bestselling Book, The Wild Diet.
In The Wild Diet, you’ll learn:
- How the Big Food industry tricked us into thinking low-fat, high sugar was good for us and healthy fats were killing us
- The truth about wheat, corn, and soy
- What foods fuel you and what foods to avoid
- How to move your body for optimal results
- The biochemistry and research behind eating a paleo style diet
- Plus dozens of delicious real food recipes to get you started in the kitchen
What’s your advice to someone who hasn’t taken the plunge and changed their diet? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.