My New 28-Day Health Challenge

Now that my Q1 experiment (a smashing success by the way) is behind me, I thought it would be fun to do another one for April.

I had a few glasses of Sauv Blanc this weekend to celebrate 90 days of sobriety. (Sort of weird to type that.) And I’m excited to have changed my habits around alcohol for the better. So it’s time to move onto the next thing that could improve my health.

Remember when I asked myself what one, single thing could I do to feel better and my gut answered: stop drinking? Well, it’s time to trust my gut again. And right now it’s telling me to take one sentence literally.

The other night at craft night – which is a thing I do, yes – it was actually day 90 of my booze-free experiment. My friend asked if Joel had done the challenge with me. He hadn’t, although he thinks he drank less than usual as a result of it. And it got me thinking about my next challenge, and how it might good for us to do it together (mwwwahahaa).


You know we’re all about simplifying around here, and I’ve been meaning to take this one simple sentence and really go for it. It’s really been resonating with me. So I’m curious to see what the positive effects will be. I mean the positive effects of my last challenge were awesome so….

It’s one simple sentence, with two simple “rules”, which I believe, when adhered to, just may be the solution for all of us who want to look and feel our best every day.

That one sentence is:

Eat real food and avoid sugar and processed grains.

Abel James made a concise statement similar to this in The Wild Diet, about fat loss specifically. And I just stared at it for a while. Because with so much confusion out there in the world of health and weight loss, could it really be that simple?

I’ve been studying this for forever and I’ve never seen someone say it so clearly.

I mean, I read Gary Taubes’ entire book Good Calories, Bad Calories and he never, in all of those pages, cut to the chase like that. Have you seen that book? It’s a monster.

Here’s the thing, since I graduated from Integrative Nutrition, which at the time was discussing bio-individuality and whole foods, and since reading tons and tons of books on a whole-foods, plant based diet, I’ve noticed that the research has been shifting since 2010.

Back then, research lead me to believe that overeating processed food and animal products were the root cause of our health crisis. However, I’ve come to learn that saturated fat has been exonerated for the war crimes it was once convicted of, and high-quality animal products are making a comeback too. And though I still firmly believe that processed food is the worst offender that we should avoid, it’s just that overeating it isn’t exactly how we get fat and sick. Overeating is more like a symptom.

(For the record, I still believe factory farming is bullshit.)

As I continue to learn and the science continues to progress and evolve, it’s becoming clear to me that there is a common denominator, but it’s neither overeating processed foods, nor factory-farmed animal products (although neither are good for us).

Overeating, calories in, calories out, isn’t really the issue. Nor are animal products. In fact as David Ludwig, M.D., PHD. (<– A doctor two ways!), author of Always Hungry? said in a recent NYTimes interview:

The basic premise is that overeating doesn’t make you fat. The process of getting fat makes you overeat. It may sound radical, but there’s literally a century of science to support this point. Simply cutting back on calories as we’ve been told actually makes the situation worse. When we cut back on calories, our body responds by increasing hunger and slowing metabolism. It responds in an effort to save calories. And that makes weight loss progressively more and more difficult on a standard low calorie diet. It creates a battle between mind and metabolism that we’re doomed to lose.

It’s the low fat, very high carbohydrate diet that we’ve been eating for the last 40 years, which raises levels of the hormone insulin and programs fat cells to go into calorie storage overdrive. I like to think of insulin as the ultimate fat cell fertilizer.

I mean, I don’t think anybody wants to eat stuff that causes and abundance of ‘fat cell fertilizer’ in our bodies, right?

So, the next question is obviously: what increases insulin output? And the answer is sugar. And processed grains which are metabolized just like sugar in our bodies. See where I’m going here?

And again, it’s not just that sugar makes us fat. Sugar could be way worse than that. It could be flat out toxic. It could be making us sick too.

The common denominator in all of this fatness and sickness, is sugar… and processed grains.

And like, I know this. But, there I go eating my beloved Ben & Jerry’s with a damn smile on my face every night. Aren’t we humans funny?

Optimized-Ice Cream

The combination of my research, wanting Joel to join me in a challenge, and my intuition nudging me to go sugar-free these days for a bunch of reasons, lead me to jump in and test that one sentence out.

Eat real, whole foods and avoid sugar and processed grains.

Here’s what I want to test over 28 days – and what I’ve roped Joel into doing with me:

Will following this sentence result in rapid weight loss?
How will we tell? By weighing ourselves before and after the 28 days.

Side note: I’ve lost nine pounds since January 1 by not drinking, eating healthy (except for my Ben & Jerry’s addiction) and exercising. That was the weight I gained while traveling that had me feeling less than awesome. So, I’m not really trying to lose weight necessarily. My clothes fit me again and I’m feeling good. And if lose too much, don’t worry, I know just how to gain it back, wink. But we’ll see what the actual effect is on both of our weight. Joel said he was open to “shedding the winter weight”.

Will my complexion finally be clear and glowing?
How will I tell? I’ll take a before and after photo with no makeup on. It cleared up a bunch while I was off the sauce in Q1, but the past week it broke out a bit again. So goes the struggle.

Will we feel amazing every single day?
How will we tell? I think the best way to manage this is to keep a daily journal on how we feel, which we’re both doing.

The Specifics
+ The goal is to follow that one sentence’s simple advice: Eat real food and avoid sugar and processed grains.

+ We’ve committed to 28 days which is Monday, April 4th through Sunday, May 1st.

+ We’ve agreed to one meal per week where we can eat bread or pasta (Joel’s one stipulation for joining me)

+ We’ll exercise per usual, no changes there.

+ We can have an occasional beer or glass of dry wine, but no sugary cocktails and no getting tanked/shit-canned (referencing I Quit Sugar for that go-ahead). We’re both not really feeling booze these days anyway.

+ We’re not going to follow any specific diet plan or specific rules of say, Whole30, like not eating mayonaise, or the Wild Diet, eating only grass-fed beef or pastured eggs, etc. I don’t want to go overboard and drive myself crazy (or Joel for that matter).

I want to keep it as simple as possible and just test the hypothesis that eating real food and avoiding sugar and processed grains will result in weight loss, and have us feeling awesome.

I’ll be creating meal plans for myself and Joel each week. I told him that if he agreed to it, I would cook more and try to make it as easy as possible for him. Which is why, when he told me he grabbed a $1 bagel on the way to the office today, and it made me feel like a shitty wife. I really don’t want him getting into the habit of eating $1 dollar bagels on the way to the office. And since he’s the one with the long commute, and I have more free time than him, I can help him with eating healthier.

So, we shall see how all of this goes!

You psyched!? I’m psyched, Joel’s psyched, Jacko’s… well, Jacko’s just laying on the couch not really giving a shit. Here’s how excited he is for us:


And if you’re interested in rebooting your own wellness plan, a good place to start is The Simple Cleanse. It’s totally free! Sign up right here:

I also want to give some credit where credit is due and give you some resources if you want them. And a better understanding of where I am coming from with this.

Like I said, I can’t pinpoint exactly what made me put this little plan together. It incorporates a ton of info from other plans but follows none specifically, I don’t think…

Below is a list of resources and further info and inspo. (I’ve only included books that I’ve personally read.)

Why We Get Fat – Gary Taubes
Good Calories, Bad Calories – Gary Taubes
The Wild Diet – Abel James
The 4-Hour Body – Tim Ferriss
In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan
CLEAN – Alejandro Junger, M.D.
CLEAN GUT – Alejandro Junger, M. D.
Grain Brain – David Perlmutter, M.D.
The Belly Fat Effect – Mike Mutzel, MS(c)
I Quit Sugar – Sarah Wilson
The Bulletproof Diet – Dave Asprey
It Starts with Food – Dallas & Melissa Hartwig
Whole30 – Dallas & Melissa Hartwig
The Paleo Solution Diet – Robb Wolf

Also published on Medium.



  1. Dana and Bridget, You may want to add another book to your resource list- Mindset by Carol Dweck. I’ve found that this book reinforces any healthy eating plan and certainly discusses why Mindset is important regardless of which healthy eating plan we try. At 50+, all the rules change and what always worked doesn’t do so in the same manner. t’ve actually been trying my own personal nutritional “experiment” for about 3 weeks and it is almost identical to what you are discussing- so you gals are right on track! (Ask Bridget, changing the wine habit is tough in our family. It’s very hard to go to Pop-Pops house and avoid the white wine without getting suspicious glances though…but I’ve been staying strong!). Good luck to you both, I love this blog!
    Sara Tarca (Bridget’s Aunt)

    • Thanks, Aunt Sara! We’ll have to add this book to our list, I haven’t read it. I also look forward to chatting about your nutrition plan! The drinking is definitely a challenge, perhaps the biggest and especially in this family, yes. 😉 Hope you continue to stay strong, can’t wait to hear more. And thanks so much for reading!

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