Jean Dailey teaches whole food living

by Jordan Green

After their workouts the exercisers stroll through the plush corridors of Pyramids Wellness Center, Dr. Don Linder’s Mediterranean-style monument to healthy living on Oak Branch Drive. Jean Dailey, a dietician of independent inclination, is a familiar presence to many of them.

‘“Want some hummus?’” she calls out to one man, a hale-looking boomer who appears to be slightly winded and damp with sweat on this late Tuesday afternoon.

‘“Cooking something?’” he asks good-naturedly.

Dailey asks him if he’d like to sign up for a drawing to win a free cooking class. He shrugs, and she mentions that she already has his e-mail address, so she’ll go ahead and enter him in the contest.

He smiles in agreement.

Set upon the table is a cutting board holding a round loaf of asiago-peppercorn bread provided by Greensboro’s Simple Kneads bakery and a bowl of supple and smeary hummus made by Dailey. It’s a conversation opener and a gesture of hospitality.

Let her get started and the 51-year-old Dailey will preach her message of passion for food and healthy dietary balance, a discipline that involves an exquisite knowledge of such things as metabolism, blood sugar and saturated fats. For the uninitiated, the sequencing and combination can be overwhelming.

Dailey teaches cooking classes in both individual and group sessions, depending on the intensity of the customer’s desire to learn, at her house in Lindley Park. She has created a trademarked diet that consists of a set of teachings that go with recipes published in a cookbook written by her mentor, Christina Pirello.

‘“I love to eat,’” Dailey says. ‘“I’m eating all the time.’”

Her trim figure and intensely engaging demeanor would seem to testify to the efficacy of her diet, which eschews dairy and stresses organic and unprocessed ingredients.

Dailey’s own education about diet has been a series of incremental steps. She started out promoting a 21-day diet, but soon realized that life changes on the 22nd and subsequent days would be needed for her customers to stay thin.

‘“I did this 21-day detox, and it was kind of discouraging to find out it wasn’t weight loss,’” Dailey says. ‘“They put it back on after the 21 days were up.’”

She added a second phase, which is more customized to the customer’s inclinations.

‘“It’s accelerated weight loss in the first 21 days,’” she says. ‘“The second phase is more of a slow weight loss. It’s really up to the customer how fast they want to do it. Most of my customers tell me they’re never hungry. It’s not about denial.’”

She comes back time and again to Pirello’s cookbook, Christina Cooks: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Whole Foods But Were Afraid to Ask, as a guide to successful weight maintenance. She took a class with Pirello, a chef who contends that eating whole foods helped her survive leukemia. Dailey received permission from Pirello to use her recipes in her own diet plan.

Food has literally been a life-and-death matter for Dailey as well.

‘“I had a friend with an eating disorder during my senior year in high school,’” Dailey says. ‘“I would be with her when she overate, but I didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes ‘—’ her purging and drug use. She ended up dying.

‘“I gained ten pounds that summer,’” she adds. ‘“It took me a while to get my eating back into balance.’”

Later, in her adult life, Dailey would manage a natural health store called Herbal Health. In her zeal to promote natural herbal remedies at Herbal Health she ended up overlooking the most basic medicine: food itself.

‘“My diet was just terrible,’” she says. ‘“Here I was eating these nutrition bars and going out to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken a lot.

‘“I was looking through this journal and I saw this ad,’” she continues. ‘“It had an eye that was bloodshot. It looked like my eye. I called this guy up and said, ‘That’s my eye.’ He said, ‘You need to stop eating fried foods.’ He was really into raw foods.’”

Her contact’s dietary counseling was an epiphany for her, but when winter came around and fresh produce went out of season she had to make some adjustments. That’s when she discovered Pirello, her whole foods mentor.

Dailey’s thirst for knowledge and her literal appetite are dynamic, and it seems she will continue to refine her understanding. What she declares her most amazing food experience ‘—’ dining on fresh bread and French-press coffee in a Parisian hotel during a trip to Europe back in the days of rock-bottom airline tickets after Sept. 11, 2001 ‘— looks to be the inspiration for her next phase of study ‘— French cooking.

‘“I’m going to be taking a class,’” she says. ‘“Their appetite is geared towards being discriminating about the simplest of tastes.’”

Of course the French are renowned for their mastery of cheeses and fruits.

‘“In Christina’s cooking there’s no dairy so that’s gonna be a problem when I get to France,’” Dailey says.

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