Ep. 23: Finding Your Power with Mary Shenouda

Fed & Fit
Fed & Fit

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The Fed+Fit Podcast | Nurturing a Healthy Mindset for a Healthy Lifestyle

We're back with our 23rd episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

Find us HERE on iTunes and be sure to “subscribe.”

Episode 23 Topics:

  • Welcome Mary Shenouda, aka The Paleo Chef.
  • Mary's story and PaleU.
  • Being successful at what YOU love.
  • Stepping into your power.
  • How to Eat, Play, Crush and the guide.
  • Phat Fudge – what it is, where you can order it, and the recipe on her blog.

We would LOVE some feedback, so feel free to leave a review in iTunes, comment below, or even give us a shout on social media!

Ep. 23: Finding Your Power with Mary Shenouda

This is the Fed and Fit podcast starting your week off with motivational thoughts on real food and fun fitness activities with Cassy Joy Garcia and co-host, Charissa Talbot. Remember our disclaimer; the information and opinions shared in this podcast are solely those of any given individual, and not a substitute for medical advice. Here are the ladies.

On today’s episode, my friend Mary and I talk about phat fudge, stepping into your power, and how to Eat, Play, Crush.

1. Introducing our guest, Mary Shenouda[ 2:45]
2. How to find your power [11:28]
3. Client success stories [17:32]
4. Struggling with optimism [23:23]

Cassy Joy: Today on the podcast, I’m so thrilled for this 23rd episode to have a friend of mine join me today while Charissa is on vacation. Today I’m introducing you guys to Mary, AKA the Paleo Chef, AKA Mer. She is a tremendous chef and lifestyle coach. She is the creative force behind https://paleochef.com/, phat fudge, that’s P-H-A-T in case you were wondering {laughs}, which may be available for order, I’ll let her tell you more about that in a little bit, and the 5-day guide, Eat, Play, Crush.

This is really one of those interviews where I personally identify with our topic so much so that I’m just going to put it out there, and I know you guys will get something from it. I came to know Mary a few years back at PaleoFx. I was just telling her about this, how I remembered meeting her. We were sitting down, there was a group of us at Lamberts in Austin, and we were going to have barbecue on the patio. And I distinctly remember this waiter walking up, and he was like, “hey guys! Can I tell you about the special today?” And she took the reins immediately, and she was like, ok, here’s the thing. We’re all following a grain-free lifestyle, so tell what’s on your menu that you can actually eat. Oh me? I’ll have a bourbon meat. {laughs}

Mary Shenouda: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: In very few words, she won my heart. She is a lady who cuts the crap, really gets real, and she’s always provided some meaningful feedback and inspiration. She reached out a few months back when I was caught in the should or shouldn’t I’s of launching the Fed and Fit project, and she literally lit the fire under my backside to push me into motion. She gave me a schedule, and it wouldn’t have happened without her. So I wanted to bring her on the show today so that one, you could meet this wonderful woman, and two, she can share a little bit about her magic. Mary, I’m so excited to have you!

1. Introducing our guest, Mary Shenouda [2:45]

Mary Shenouda: Thank you! Thank you for saying I lit a fire, I’ve always wanted to be a magician. A little fire starter.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} Mission accomplished. I told everybody that. They were like, wow, it’s like you just woke up one day and you decided to start doing this. I was like, well my friend Mary asked me for a deliverable schedule and I really don’t want to disappoint her. {laughing}

Mary Shenouda: {laughs} You know, having that accountability or that power where people don’t want to let you down is really magical. That, and enthusiasm is contagious, so I will say I was enthusiastic for you and you caught the bug, and here we are.

Cassy Joy: That’s so true. That’s it, and it’s still going. It’s chugging along. I haven’t really given you an update there, but things are blossoming, so. Thanks again for everything you did there. I definitely would love for you to share a little bit about your story with our listeners, and just a little bit about what keeps you busy.

Mary Shenouda: Yeah, I guess what I’m most known for is the transition from not just being really sick, but also being really sick and in a corporate environment and transitioning to health through my diet, but then also turning that to becoming Mary the Paleo Chef and Eat Play Crush. So to not go back to, you know, I was born in 1985, blah, blah, blah.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Mary Shenouda: For about 24 years of my life, I thought certain pains were normal. So I was really sick, but I would deal with it because that was my baseline, I knew no better, and it’s anything from severe migraines that included ER visits to strange skin conditions, emotional issues, strange things with my eyesight. And I was in the doctor’s office on and off all the time. They’re always telling me that I’m the elephant in the room, putting me on really weird medications, corticosteroids which only seemed to make the condition worse, and then wanting to throw around words like lupus and cancer. Things that could really scare you at a young age.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: I was in corporate America as a teenager with a quota, so if you aren’t making your numbers, you aren’t making any money, so you have to grin and bear and deal with it. So I was doing that, and just understood that that was my baseline. At one point I had justified my pain; I’m a spiritual religious person with God, so I’m like, ok I must be suffering physically because I can, and it means somewhere someone is suffering less. And that would help me cope with my physical pain. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: And then when they told me that they thought I had cancer again, and mind you they would never want to actually firmly diagnosis it, they just wanted to cut you up and remove things, I said, you know, I’ve got to take a step back and instead of just trusting my doctor, understand that they’re trying to figure things out, and why am I not trying to figure things out, as well.

Some research led me to find a TED talk by Dr. Terry Wahls about the mitochondria, and I had done a report on mitochondria, and I had a fairly good understanding, and I felt kind of silly not realizing that I had the answer when I was still in high school with a very comprehensive study that I had done. And it all made sense.

By understanding what fuels the mitochondria, and removing any sort of foods that would be detrimental to its function at the same time sending out my own lab work to Enterolabs in Texas to then conclusively find that I am a celiac along with some other intolerances, and then backdooring into this word paleo, instead of having to list all the things I can’t eat one by one every time I go out, all that within a few months reversed a lifetime of sickness. Which was incredible, because I knew what it was like to feel good for the first time. And it’s a very freeing feeling to have.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: And that’s when I was still in corporate America, and people noticed a difference. I mean, for as snarky as I am, I am a very optimistic person, and I’ve always had a fairly bubbly personality, but then it was like times 10, because I felt good now. {laughing}

Cassy Joy: {laughs} Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: And while body image as far as weight loss was never an issue for me, I did naturally lose a lot of puffiness and about 30 pounds, so aside from emotionally seeing a difference, my colleagues saw a physical difference. A difference of health. And I started to get asked quite a few questions about what I was doing, and at that same time, a well known person in silicon valley had asked me to do a consultation with them, one on one, and I did that and then he asked me to cook for him, because it was already known that I’m a bomb-ass cook.

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Mary Shenouda: One of the few things I have ego on. And I made the transition effortless, because I really already had an understanding of food, and just having to substitute ingredients was not a big deal to me at all. My initial response was, I’m in corporate America, this is my background, I can’t really do things like this. And he basically cut me a check and said, this is what I’m willing to pay for that. I stroked my invisible beard, I’m like, mmm, this is comparable to what I make in corporate America.

So I tried to both for a little while. My body was not happy with me taking on too much, because part of Eat Play Crush and what I identify as paleo is not just what’s on the plate, but what you do with your time and how much self care you have, so I had to ultimately make a choice. And I feel far more pulled and passionate about improving people’s lives through food. It’s a big part of my culture, so I chose that. And within a few months of going all in, I became known as Mary the Paleo Chef. I’ve worked with some incredible individuals, both who are very well known and famous, as well as individuals who are teenagers that I know are going to be change makers in the future, and I’m just honored to have been a part of that so early on in their lives.

I’m coming up on my 3-year anniversary of leaving corporate America in September, and I’m not homeless yet, so it’s working out.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} Happy anniversary! That’s a big one.

Mary Shenouda: Yeah, thank you. I think Gary Vaynerchuk says most people quit within the first 2 years, and after the first 2 years is when it really starts to get exciting, and it’s true. Gary’s not a liar. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: {laughs} I adore Gary Vaynerchuk, as well. He’s another source of no-nonsense advice.

Mary Shenouda: Yes, yes. He’s so authentic too.

Cassy Joy: He is. I enjoy him. That’s awesome. I actually didn’t know your entire story, Mary.

Mary Shenouda: Oh.

Cassy Joy: I’m really glad you shared it. And I also really love paleou.

Mary Shenouda: I do too. I hate the word paleo. I’m the Paleo Chef, and I want to punch the word paleo in the face.

Cassy Joy: {laughing} Yep, it’s so true. You and I have talked about this a little bit in the past, but it’s almost like the word becomes a barrier, both to keep people in and to keep people out.

Mary Shenouda: Yes. I have a problem with all types of labels like that. I find them to be very exclusive, and life isn’t meant to be exclusive, it’s meant to be inclusive.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: And I take a personal reasonability to open up the doors of what paleo could mean. Because if we’d stop being so dogmatic about it, we could help a lot of people. And I’m not just talking about health and food, but what really drives it is the concept of sustainability for me, and again, not just food, but sustainability as a community. I don’t find the word paleo any different than being dogmatic about the word vegan. I mean, we’re all on the same team. There are enough boxes in this world that I really don’t want paleo to be another one, and so since I’m the Paleo Chef, I’m going to make as big a noise as possible to make it paleou.

Cassy Joy: {laughing} I love that. I think that’s great. I came in, and I snuck in the back door I feel like, of paleo. That’s exactly how I turned my life around, was by following that template.

Mary Shenouda: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: But when I decided to start my blog about 5 years ago, and it was definitely a hobby at that point, I had not taken the plunge, like you were referring to. {laughs} At that point in time, but I decided to call it Fed and Fit because I decided, paleo may have been the door that I walked through, but anybody could arrive on that plateau of feeling amazing.

Mary Shenouda: Yeah.

2. How to find your power [11:28]

Cassy Joy: Through a bunch of different avenues. So I identify. That’s great. You know, you have provided me with some of the best business coaching I’ve ever received, and it started because I posted, probably a little whiney, post on Facebook.

Mary Shenouda: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Like, how do I do this, I just don’t even know! On my personal page, and I remember you were like, if you’re serious, we can talk. We can set up a call. And you spent about an hour on the phone with me, and I walked away from that ready to really put some things into action. And something that I thought was really significant about your coaching method and your mindset was, yes I can see what you want to do with your business, but let’s make sure this lines up with who you are and your personality and what really feels right to you.

Mary Shenouda: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: And that was kind of a scary thing for me to face at that point in time, because I had set my heart, you know, my business heart, on doing these things and accomplishing these goals that I had set for myself, and I hadn’t really reflected back on what it was that I really need to be doing. You know, what’s right by me.

Mary Shenouda: Right.

Cassy Joy: And so I got a lot out of that and I really kind of realigned some things, and only launched what I really believed in whole heartedly. So, with that as kind of the stage of this next question, I want to kind of turn it around, because our listeners can’t ask just yet. They may be able to comment later when the show is live, but a question that I get a lot from my nutrition clients and members of the project is, how do you become so successful in a food change? Because a lot of people come to paleo looking at it as a diet.

Mary Shenouda: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: And they have these first goals, but what they really want, and what everyone’s heart really wants I think is that long-term lifestyle change that, joining that sustainable community and that mindset like you referred to. How are you so successful, and how would you coach somebody who’s looking from the outside, feeling like they’re on the outside looking in, through that very first stage?

Mary Shenouda: Are you referring just to the diet changes, or the overall encompassing?

Cassy Joy: Yeah. I really want to touch on the overall encompassing part of it.

Mary Shenouda: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: The diet changes, there are a lot of resources out there and people are going to find what fits them best.

Mary Shenouda: Right.

Cassy Joy: But kind of the overall mindset.

Mary Shenouda: So to talk about the advice I gave you, I always tell people, there are a million different ways for people to be successful, you just have to pick the one that’s going to make you the most happy. The one that’s going to be the most fun.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: Because you don’t want to be successful at something you hate. There are plenty of people who have done that, and they’ve got this nice shiny filtered lifestyle they put out in front of you, but they’re pretty miserable at home. So that’s why it’s really important that when you go down the path of “success”, it’s really defining what does success mean to you and is it something you enjoy.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: When it comes to someone who is coming to me for coaching or coming to me for a lifestyle change, yeah, they come to paleo because it’s a diet change and they immediately say, you know, I want to lose weight. And I’m like, ok cool. That’s awesome. Well get to that later. What do you really want? And usually they’re thrown off by that. But everyone is seeking change for something different, something much deeper, whether it’s avoiding something or seeking something. And it takes a little digging to get there.

So as far as where I start, it really depends on the individual. Sometimes it is motivated by physical health needs; they are in a lot of pain and we’ll go with the food first, and the mindset around chilling out first.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: Some people will come because they don’t understand the concept of self love, or have been told to play small, and we’ll start there with what I touched on in my eBook, the 5 phases of power and self mastery, which can be labeled anything. There are so many books out there, and they could be called anything, but it really is about getting comfortable with this concept of power and not power over someone else, but power over yourself. And being able to have an intention and align your actions with those intentions, and being able to be proud and deliberate in your success.

I know it sounds ambiguous, but it can be simplified. And depending on what the means to each individual, would have where I start varied, because everyone is different. We all have different motivations and fears, but I think at the core level, we are all looking to have self compassion, self love, and being able to balance between holding on to something and letting go, and not being afraid of pain and being able to really appreciate pleasure. I think I just got really poetic on your podcast, I’m sorry {laughs}.

Cassy Joy: Oh my gosh, it was beautiful. And I tried to write down what you just said, but I was too wrapped in when you were saying {laughing}.

Mary Shenouda: {laughing} Well, good think for playback.

Cassy Joy: Thank goodness this is being recorded. {laughs}

Mary Shenouda: And I think at the core of whatever someone tries to do from an tangible standpoint, it’s that emotional stuff that really drives it. These are the questions that my 8-figure earning clients want to discuss over dinner.

Cassy Joy: Mmm.

Mary Shenouda: They don’t want to talk about how many downloads did you have, they want to talk about, how do I feel grateful, and appreciative, and how do I connect, and how do I make sure I don’t take anything for granted in my life? And yeah, making food choices, making meditation choices, working out, praying, those are all actions that display someone who is in their power.

3. Client success stories [17:32]

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm. What have been some of your favorite clients that you have coached. What have been some of those success stories? I would love to know. We all have our own personal story, but who are some people that you’ve worked with? I’m springing this question on you. You don’t have to give names, or anything.

Mary Shenouda: Right.

Cassy Joy: But I’d love to hear the circumstances.

Mary Shenouda: Let me think, I’ll tell some interesting success stories. I’ve had a client, he said he would never get married. Ever. Ever, ever, ever, ever. Ever. And then 6 months of coaching, he’s engaged. {laughs} And the coaching we did was around relationship, and gratitude, and understanding a partner. It was related to food, we definitely started with food because I get to build trust that way, when you feed someone.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: Along those same lines, I had a female client who hadn’t dated anyone in 10 years, and she’s now a year into a very meaningful relationship. I had another client lose 100 pounds, which is pretty incredible. That’s definitely a health change, for sure.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Mary Shenouda: I’ve had clients, it’s just really about stepping into their power. I don’t want to get too specific, because I suck at telling stories without accidentally saying names {laughs}.

Cassy Joy: That’s ok. {laughs}

Mary Shenouda: But I find the most entertaining to me to be my clients who are massively successful, and because they gained so much material success, they may have sacrificed some emotional success. They had to shelve it; it doesn’t mean it’s not there. And then being able to go in there and not really give a flying hoot who they are and speak to them as if they’re an adult and hold them accountable, and I think they find that rawness real and withstanding, and they take my advice, and they implement it, and they open up and they become these really beautiful creatures who now have both sides at their disposal. They get to have material success, and they get to feel alive. I think most people just tell them yes, and tell them how great they are, and I’m over there like, you suck.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Mary Shenouda: And these are the reasons why you suck. Or, I think you hired me to help you so could you just stop talking for just 10 minutes. {laughs} And being able to get in there. That’s fun, for sure. I do a lot of work with at risk youth, and that’s forever going to be rewarding emotionally, because I did a lot of at risk youth counseling, on the other side, hospice counseling, when I was still a teenager. So that part really helps me feel like I’m truly paying something forward when I’m a tenant on this earth.

Cassy Joy: That’s great. You know, I identify with that on two levels come to mind. Stepping into your power, I get asked this a lot and I’m just going to use myself as an example because it’s the easiest one. But I get asked a lot, oh my goodness, you’ve got so much going on, how do you do it all? And how are you happy? I think people are convinced because it seems like I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, people are convinced I’m secretly unhappy on the inside because I’ve got so much going on.

Mary Shenouda: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: but the truth be told, I have never felt more happy or fully alive than I do now, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I did take control of my health, and my life, and my emotions, and then eventually my profession, which happened to align with those realizations that I had, by creating this business. And it is, you feel it. You step into this incredible amount of power, and you can take that spiritually.

I feel like I’m put on this earth to do these things, and you tap into this source that is very rewarding and very affirming. I know I’m doing the right thing because it feels so right. So, I definitely get that, and I think that has a lot to do with realizing where I am in life, and these things that I’m creating. It’s not just these hollow pursuits, it has my whole heart behind it. And it’s just as much rewarding.

The other thing I identify with, you know you want to give back, speaking of the at risk youth. I struggled the most when I was in college, and I really wish that somebody had come to me and given me some perspectives on, maybe the reasons why you don’t feel good all the time, and maybe the reasons why you’re a little bit blue, and maybe the reasons why you’re having a hard time focusing in the classroom, and things like that, maybe it has something to do with food.

Mary Shenouda: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: I had no idea that that was the case at the time. I didn’t realize it until I was 25 and gone from college. So, going back and speaking to colleges and universities is something that I’ve picked up, and it’s something that I do pro bono because it’s just where my heart is at, and it’s where I feel like I definitely get the most feel-good karma points out of it, because it is giving back to a time when I really identified with that need.

I share all this because I know there are a lot of listeners here who, whether you’re starting off on kind of this new healthy transition into a different kind of lifestyle, if you’re looking for inspiration there, I think this applies. But also, for those of you who have kind of pursued that and you’re kind of trying to figure out what to do next. I think there’s a lot to it. Follow your passion, and figure out where you feel the most powerful, like Mary was saying. I think that there’s a lot of potential there.

4. Struggling with optimism [23:23]

Mary Shenouda: And to touch on, just the flip side of it. You’re a wonderful optimist, and I’m prone to having very dark, low days. I feel very manic half the time. And it’s when I let something distract me from what I feel is the most powerful within me, or just the fact that I have a lot of life things happening. There is a lot of death and sickness in my life, and I’m constantly having to balance connecting and letting go of people I care about, as well as keeping one foot in front of the other.

I get the thing where people assume that everything is perfect, and “it’s so easy for you”, because you live in California and you’re so blessed. I’ve got to let people know that power and self love is forged.

Cassy Joy: Mmm.

Mary Shenouda: You’re not just born with it. You know, oh everything’s great. You’ve got to work at it. Optimism is hard work. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: It is! It’s a battle. It’s an everyday battle. I totally identify with that. You know, I do wake up every day with that being a goal, but I do not wake up like, {singing} laaa! Today’s a beautiful day!

Mary Shenouda: Yeah, like Cinderella singing with the birds around you.

Cassy Joy: There are no birds putting my robe on in the morning. Sweet Austin, my fiancé, comes into the bedroom kind of like tiptoes his way in, and he very carefully sets a cup of coffee on the nightstand next to me {laughs} and it’s such a sweet gesture, but there are some things that I figured out the dominos I need to push over to make that work, but it is work.

Mary Shenouda: Mm-hmm. And there is a hashtag that went viral after a young woman took her life recently, its called life unfiltered. I will use that hashtag once every few weeks so I can have the opportunity to go through some additional details of what’s actually going on in my life, so nobody thinks this is easy, or thinks that they can’t actually strive to chose optimism, and chose themselves, and chose self love. Because part of being happy and being successful is not denying dark days or denying pain.

David Whyte says, a too well felt pain can be just as generous as a too well felt joy. I really want people to understand that happiness and success is a full spectrum of emotions and living. Because if you’re going to make the transition, especially in the beginning, it can be difficult. And it’s supposed to be difficult. I don’t want people to give up or think that it’s supposed to be easy. Good things take time and attention.

Cassy Joy: Beautifully said again.

Mary Shenouda: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: We’re going to get this podcast transcribed, and I’m just going to read it on a regular basis. {laughs}

Mary Shenouda: {laughing}

Cassy Joy: Oh that’s beautiful. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Mary. I didn’t know where today’s episode was going to go. I told her before the call, I was like, you know, I kind of have some questions, but I really just want to talk. {laughs}

Mary Shenouda: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: And I’m really glad we did. This was beautiful. I hope you guys. Actually, I know you guys got a lot out of it. I just feel it in my gut. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Mary Shenouda: Of course, my pleasure.

Cassy Joy: Remember, everybody. You can find Mary at https://paleochef.com/. Go ahead and order some of that Phat fudge. She’s got the recipe on there, too, but if you want her to make it for you {laughs}

Mary Shenouda: {laughs} And it’s actually paleochef.com, just so nobody gets sent somewhere wrong.

Cassy Joy: Oh, I’m sorry.

Mary Shenouda: No worries.

Cassy Joy: So check it out. Check out her 5-day guide, Eat Play Crush. It’s already been an amazing resource for a lot of people. So yeah, that’s wonderful. Thank you again for coming on, and I will link up everything in the show notes. So if you’re listening in your car, or while you're grocery shopping, go to https://fedandfit.com/ to find all these handy links. And I think that’s it. Thanks Mary!

Mary Shenouda: Thank you.


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