Not-So-Starving Warriors Feat. Mel Cabey

As you know, exercise is only half of the battle when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. The media has filled our minds with diets, cleanses, fasting patterns, and more that are supposed to help us achieve that "perfect" body. At Weighting For Warriors, we have no pretensions of making our clients "perfect" by unrealistic standards. We strive to provide you with the information that will help you become the best version of yourself possible. With that in mind, we wanted to get the scoop on nutrition.

Enter Melissa (Mel) Cabey, founder of The Not-So-Starving Artist Nutrition! (If you haven't, follow her on Insta!) Mel is a professional theater performer who was seen as Val in the international tour of A Chorus Line prior to COVID. When COVID hit, she received her nutrition and wellness license through AFPA and started her own business.

Ashlyn and Mel attended Coastal Carolina University together, and Ashlyn had the opportunity to virtually interview Mel about spinach, stereotypes, and grocery stores.

Ashlyn: What made you decide to create a nutrition company?

Mel: Diet culture is HUGE in the theater world, especially for dancers. I found myself constantly researching what was right/wrong about nutrition. My research was triggered by constantly being surrounded by people who were trying new fads/following certain diets like keto or intermittent fasting. I always wanted to try to tell my fellow dancers that what they were doing to their bodies wasn’t smart or the best choice -- but who was I to tell them that?? I decided that getting a certification would actually hold some power to what I was saying, and thus my business was born!

Ashlyn: As a dancer in theater, I’m sure you are aware of the pressures placed on body image in the industry. What is a piece of well-intentioned advice you were given that you wish you could have spared your younger self from receiving? How would you give that piece of advice in a healthier way?

Mel: All of my professors in college loved to bring up my body. They would constantly talk about how my body was “sexy” and “great” and that enhanced my dancing and overall stage presence. I wish as a young person they never told me that, although it seemed like a compliment. I then began putting too much stock into what I looked like as opposed to feeling confident in my actual talents. I still struggle to this day with the idea that if I don’t “keep up my body” then I won’t book work.

Ashlyn: That's incredibly interesting, especially because so much of the theater world is so obsessed with how performers look. It's like, focus on my ability not my presentation. I think a lot of theater people are worried that they're "too _____" to get cast.

Mel: Exactly!

Ashlyn: Okay, let's talk about food. What’s the most overrated “healthy” food and what’s the most underrated?

Mel: Overrated are chickpeas. People think they have so much protein and are so wonderful and really they have a lame protein count and don’t do much. You can get more protein from cheese! Underrated is spinach. You can put spinach in EVERYTHING! It’s an awesome green that can sneakily be added into many meals to provide iron and other valuable nutrients.

Ashlyn: So spinach is essentially the vodka of vegetables?

Mel: Omg, yes. I'm stealing that.

Ashlyn: You touched on these a bit earlier, but I have to ask. Are diet trends like keto and paleo worth the hype?

Mel: HECK NO. They were created to make money. These diets tend to cause people to lose weight fast. However, they are very restrictive and difficult to maintain long term. If you can’t maintain that forever, you are just going to gain the weight back. Yo-yoing with weight like this is not healthy and can actually do long term damage on the body. Plus, I'm pretty sure keto was initially crafted for people with epilepsy, so it should really only be done for a medical reason.

Ashlyn: What’s the one diet trend you wish you could banish from existence?

Mel: Whole 30! It was initially created for people to discover what foods they were sensitive to with the help of a doctor. Now, people do it as a sort of “cleanse” or “reset”. Your body does that by itself (as long as your kidneys and liver are working properly). Whole 30 is a lot of times a gateway diet into disordered eating. It is dangerous.

Ashlyn: Oh god, I remember Whole 30 was all the rage in college. I lasted about two weeks on it.

Mel: It's unsustainable because it was never meant to be permanent. When a doctor has you do Whole 30, they introduce foods back into your diet afterwards to see if you have certain intolerances. Your body needs carbs and other nutrients that Whole 30 takes away.

Ashlyn: Other than dance class, what’s your preferred way to exercise? Do you lift, run, do yoga?

Mel: I love to jumprope and lift weights! I try to jump rope for about ten minutes a day.

Ashlyn: Straight?!

Mel: Oh no, with breaks.

Ashlyn: Still that's impressive. Post-COVID you'll be ready for Legally Blonde.

Mel: Hell yes! Brooke Wyndham is a dream role. I've also recently gotten more into HIIT workouts since they're shorter but get the whole body.

Ashlyn: We love HIIT workouts here! Or at least Samantha tells us we do. What’s one exercise you wish you could banish from existence?

Mel: Running. I have never been able to run and I am so jealous of people that love it.

Ashlyn: It's burpees for me. (Sorry, Samantha.)

Ashlyn: Back to food! Do you prefer meal prep or day-to-day cooking?

Mel: I usually do day to day cooking because I like to follow what my body intuitively tells me to eat. However, when my life is super busy like when I'm doing a show, meal prepping helps me save time and money. I try to shop for a variety of things so I can satisfy any craving I get through the week.

Ashlyn: What is your favorite grocery store? Which has the best selection of fresh products? Which gives you the most bang for your buck?

Mel: Literally Trader Joes for all of those. I love them so much!!!!

Ashlyn: I totally go out of my way just to shop there, so agreed. Okay last question! What’s the best piece of advice you can give someone who is trying to lead a healthier lifestyle?

Mel: I would tell them to not make any changes that they can’t maintain long term. Think of small things you can do every day to make healthier choices, but continue to eat the foods you like. Everything can be enjoyed in moderation!! You don’t have to be miserable in order to be healthy. Like if you love a certain kind of chips, have them. Have a small bag once a week. So many people jump into restrictive diets and end up bingeing later. I'm a big fan of intuitive eating.

Ashlyn: I think a lot of people will really appreciate hearing that, so thank you so much.

Mel: Of course!

Ashlyn: Just so our readers get to know you better, let's play a quick round of this or that!

Coffee or tea?

Mel: Coffee!

Ashlyn: Sweet or savory?

Mel: Savory!

Ashlyn: Cardio or weight training?

Mel: Weights!

Ashlyn: Tap or jazz?

Mel: Jazz!

Ashlyn: Ballet or modern?

Mel: Ballet!

Ashlyn: Yoga or HIIT?

Mel: HIIT!

Ashlyn: Fruit or veggies?

Mel: Fruit!

Ashlyn: Hiking or swimming?

Mel: Swimming!

Ashlyn: Mel, I can't thank you enough for your time!! It was so great to see you!

Mel: You too!

If you have more questions, feel free to reach out to us or Not-So-Starving Artist! Mel is hosting a virtual diet debunking seminar THIS SUNDAY that you can attend for $12! Details and more are on her website!

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