Melissa Joulwan

I’m on a mission to be a superfit, well-fed, dressed-to-kill, glossy-haired, rock-n-roll, tart-tongued detective.  Here is my story.

I have excellent habits 95% of the time.

I CrossFit and run and lift heavy stuff. I eat clean. I make music. I read. I write. I cook.

And sometimes, I’m a slug who indulges in corn-based chip products, buttered popcorn, and an icy-cold glass of Prosecco. I might also occasionally sip on a glass of Ouzo and eat whipped cream. (And yes, that 95% number is accurate; I did the math because I’m THAT dorky.)

I didn’t always have great habits.

From grade school to the day I graduated from college, I was a chubby nerd and an easy target.

My parents were both exceptionally good cooks — my dad owned a restaurant and my mom won almost every cooking contest she entered. I was a big kid because I really liked food. And after broken ankles and playground taunts — at a bus stop, I was once unfavorably compared to a whale by one of the neighbor kids — I stuck with reading and practicing the piano and roller skating to the library. I don’t know how many gym classes I missed because I was “sick” or “forgot” my gym clothes. I do know that my P.E. attendance put my otherwise stellar grade point average in jeopardy.

Even though I avoided sports, I secretly admired the athletic kids. They walked taller than the rest of us. When I was in 10th grade, my dad took me to Annapolis to see the Navy band play a concert, and for about three weeks, I was determined to get in shape so I could apply to the Naval Academy. I abandoned that dream because I was incapable of doing pushups and situps — and I was too embarrassed and overwhelmed to ask for help.

I’m a retired Rollergirl.

I moved to Austin in 2001, and my former nerdy roller skating days paid off. I met a bunch of like-minded women and with them, I helped form the Texas Rollergirls, the original Flat Track Roller Derby that started here in Austin and spread around the world. I appeared on the Today Show and Good Morning America — and Simon & Schuster even published the book I wrote about my Roller Derby days… Rollergirl: Totally True Tales From the Track.

I’m no longer afraid of my body or food.

Until I started with working with Melissa Urban (whom I like to call the Moxy-Boss) in 2009, I was still haunted by a deep desire to be different than I was. To be thin. To break the cycle of thinking of food — and my behavior — as “good” and “bad.” It was still my habit to celebrate and to grieve and to stress out and to relax with food.

Although I worked out regularly, I didn’t FEEL strong, inside or out. I had insomnia and allergies and stomach aches. My body didn’t feel like it belonged to me.

Thanks to the Moxy-Boss and Dallas, I dumped grains and dairy, did a series of Whole30 cleanups, started getting eight hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT, and eventually, made friends with food and my body.

Now I know when and how often I can indulge, and I enjoy those once-in-a-while foods like never before. The food tastes a lot better when it’s savored and not followed by self-recrimination. I finally know how to truly celebrate on occasion and live clean and healthy the rest of the time. I finally feel “normal.”

I still want to be stronger, faster, leaner, and more bad-ass.

But now I know I have the tools to do that. I no longer feel like there’s something different about the way my body works – that it’s a big mystery. I understand what I need to do to thrive, and I’m confident that I’ll reach whatever goals I set for myself.

The sillier the workout, the happier I am.

When I graduated from college, I started an exercise program and adopted a “healthy” diet (the old-fashioned healthy: low-fat, high-carb). I became a certified aerobics instructor and was bitten by the triathlon bug. I did the Danskin and an Olympic distance race, and in 1999, I finished the Wildflower Triathlon. I was the very last person to cross the finish line; I’d missed the cut-off for the run, but was too stubborn to give up. My total time was somewhere in the neighborhood of 9-and-a-half hours. When I stopped, the race clock had been off for hours.

After Roller Derby, I found CrossFit and fell in love with barbell training and man-makers and sprints and (failed) handstands and callouses on my hands and sweat angels on the floor. Pushing hard in a workout and really facing myself – fear, hesitation, bravado, even silliness – in a WOD just feels like freedom.

Cabbage is my favorite vegetable.

Cumin is my favorite spice. Prague is my favorite city. Social Distortion is my favorite band. And these are five other favorite things that make life better: my husband Dave, sports movies, lousy truck stop coffee, bear crawl, and Jane Eyre.

My blog is called The Clothes Make the Girl.

I know that, really, it’s what inside that counts, but dang it! I’m a sucker for the perfect little black dress and stompy black boots. I love telling stories and eating, so my blog is packed with tales of my triumphs and failures in the gym, in the kitchen, in life. Plus, sometimes I talk about my outfits… because my desire to be as fit and healthy as possible is matched by my desire to look as good as possible.

You really should read…

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde because it’s a cautionary tale about how ‘getting away with stuff’ is really just cheating oneself.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte because underneath the romance and the gothic spookiness, it’s a story of fortitude in the face of seemingly insurmountable and heartbreaking challenges.
  • Any issue of Cook’s Illustrated because it luxuriates in the art and science of cooking. The recipes are not Whole30-approved AT ALL, but the technique descriptions are wildly valuable and the joy of preparing then eating a meal is infectious.
  • Things We Forget Blog ( because it provides a daily dose of obvious but powerful advice for being the best version of ourselves.
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Ray Cruz because despite our best attempts, some days just cannot be salvaged and we must accept that some days are just like that.
  • Crossfit Lisbeth ( because her “Words of the Day” are often written about being in the gym but are applicable to all of life.

And please, do yourself a favor, once in a while, listen to Social Distortion and/or The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana very loudly.

Melissa Joulwan

The Clothes Make the Girl

Austin, TX