30-Day Challenge – Are You Ready To Get Healthy?

30-Day Challenge – Are You Ready To Get Healthy?

What if bad fat isn’t so bad?” This is the title of an article I came across recently from MSNBC and the subtitle stated: “No one’s ever proved that saturated fat clogs arteries, causes heart disease“. That sounds like health blasphemy, right? But I am living proof that it’s not. Why? Because I quit eating sugar and greatly increased fat in my diet and the results are completely the opposite of what we’re told will happen if you eat a diet that’s high in fat, including saturated fats. After years of trying to eat a low-fat diet and struggling to lower my cholesterol, the results were that I was always hungry, which caused me to eat more food, my weight steadily climbed higher every year, and my cholesterol continued to rise, regardless of how healthy I tried to eat. The truth is, since adopting a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet (think Atkins Diet)–which is exactly the opposite of the “low-fat, healthy whole-grains” diet that most doctors, public health officials, and health-regulating government bodies promote–my weight dropped over 20 pounds and I have not struggled to keep it off. Also, I’m not always hungry, as I was on a low-fat diet. My cholesterol levels have improved dramatically. And finally, I feel great.

The Truth About Low-Fat Diets

One good thing about eating a low-fat diet is that you reduce your intake of sugar which helps with weight loss, but otherwise, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. But how did the unhealthy low-fat diet ever get accepted as the healthiest diet on the planet? In short, in the 1950s, Ancel Keys, an American scientist and researcher, conducted what has become known as the Seven Countries Study where he compared fat consumption to the amount of heart disease in a given population throughout seven countries and found a stunning correlation. He found that the higher the fat consumption, the more deaths there were caused from heart disease and the greater the number of people struggling with high cholesterol and heart disease in each country. To make a long story short, this study was eventually a foundation for public health policy in the United States. The problem is, the study was flawed. Keys actually tracked fat consumption and heart disease in twenty-two countries but only found this correlation among seven of the twenty-two countries. When he reported his findings, only data from the seven countries was used, leaving the other fifteen countries out. But when all countries are compared, this correlation wasn’t found.

Sugars, Fats, and Bad Stuff

Our bodies need fuel in order to run properly. The two primary sources of fuel that our bodies use are carbohydrates (sugars), and fats. When you reduce fat in your diet, you have to compensate by adding more carbs–in other words, by adding sugar–otherwise you won’t have enough fuel to keep your body going. It doesn’t take a nutritionist to know that over-consuming  refined sugar comes with some nasty price tags: obesity and diabetes, for example. But it also causes or contributes to high cholesterol, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, malnutrition, reduced or damaged metabolic functioning, and has been linked to many forms of cancer, and more.

What To Do About It

If all of this is news to you, you’re probably a bit shocked by it. That’s okay. If you give it enough time, you’ll either kick the bucket from eating poorly, or you’ll live to see the day when more and more health professionals start going public with this information. Fat is not bad, and refined sugar (especially fructose) is like a poison. So what can you do about this? You don’t want to die early. And you definitely don’t want your kids to adopt an unhealthy lifestyle…and if they’re already headed in that direction, you can still save them. Starting with a little challenge for the whole family. I don’t expect you to radically change anything overnight because that would honestly be unsustainable, unless you’re well-prepared. The changes that stick are the ones that you make a little at a time so you can get used to them before making more changes. You need time to adapt to changes or new habits before introducing new ones. That’s what this challenge is all about. I’d like to raise your awareness about some health issues, and also challenge you to try making a few small changes for 30 days. Consider this a test drive of a new healthier mindset and lifestyle. The 30-Day Challenge For this challenge, you’re going to give up some sugar from your diet and you’re going to get a little regular exercise. I’m not asking you to quit sugar and start eating more fat. This is not going to be radical, but it will still be a challenge. This is a chance for you to try quitting sugar but just a little bit. Think of it as a trial run. Here’s an overview:

For 30 Days you will:

  • Quit eating bread
    • sliced bread
    • dinner-type rolls
    • biscuits
    • croissants
    • anything bread-like
    • When in doubt, leave it out!
  • Quit drinking sugary drinks
    • full-sugar sodas
    • fruit juices
    • energy/sport drinks
    • basically, any drinks that have more than a couple grams of calories from sugar/carbs
  • Exercise every day
    • Week one:  2 minutes per day
    • Week two:  4 minutes per day
    • Week three:  6 minutes per day
    • Week four:  8 minutes per day

Keep in mind that you’re only making these changes for 30 days. During this challenge, you can still eat however you normally eat, with the exception of bread and sugary drinks. If you want a double-chocolate-chip fudge brownie with chocolate syrup on top, knock yourself out. I want this to be challenging, not impossible….that comes later. For now, you’re just making a few small changes. And  to make sure there’s no confusion, I’ll cover some more details. Bread – The goal here is to reduce your intake of starchy foods. Starches convert to sugar in the body. Bread is a form of starch, but it’s not as obvious as a source of sugar. Every time you eat a couple slices of bread, your blood sugar levels spike as high as drinking a soda or eating a candy bar. But because people don’t think of bread as being “bad” for you (which it is), they eat way too much of it, and can even develop what Dr. William Davis calls a Wheat Belly. If you’re not sure if you can eat something because you don’t know if it counts as bread, don’t eat it if eating it will make you feel guilty. You’re not giving up all things made from wheat and flour, only bread and anything that resembles bread and rolls….the puffy, squishy stuff. Sugary Drinks – Anything with refined sugar and fructose (a.k.a. high-fructose corn syrup, corn sweeteners, among others) are very dangerous to your health. You can drink diet soft drinks or any sweet liquids that are very low or no calories because they’ll be sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Yes, artificial sweeteners may also be unhealthy, but that’s not the point of this challenge. I still use artificial sweeteners, though I may eventually give them up. But for this challenge, it will be tough enough to stop drinking your favorite, full-sugar soft drink, let alone giving up sugar, altogether. A lot of people don’t realize how bad fruit juices are. Because of this, they drink a tall glass of orange juice every day and give their kids gallons of juice boxes every week. Fruit juice drinks have all the fiber and good stuff removed, leaving mainly sugar and fruit flavors. Fiber helps to slow down absorption of the sugar that’s found in fruit. That’s why eating fruit is always a better choice than drinking it. So even fruit juices are off limits for 30 days. Exercise – You’ve probably wanted to start getting more exercise, but you’ve been too busy or had too many other excuses (or reasons). But how can you excuse-away only two minutes per day? By the second week, you’re already developing a routine, so only adding two more minutes won’t be a big deal. As for the kind of exercise, that’s not so important. Anything that gets you moving, like walking, jumping jacks, swimming laps, skipping rope, a casual or vigorous bike ride…anything will do. The exercise doesn’t have to be high-impact, which is why walking is so great. But you have to set aside two minute, apart from everything else, and exercise with the intention that you are doing your 30-day challenge. The fact that you walk a lot at work doesn’t count. If you are a treadmill tester for some safety advocacy group and you spend a lot of time walking on the job, you still have to work in your two minutes, separate from walking at work.

What Happens When It’s Over?

This is entirely up to you. This challenge will give you an easy way to get started in a new direction. So you may decide you want to keep your walking routine, since you’re already forming a habit. But perhaps giving up bread, long-term, isn’t for you, but you don’t mind switching to diet drinks and water. That’s excellent! The net result is that you’re now making healthier choices. Once you get used to those new habits, look for ways to adopt new ones and continue to make changes so that by the end of the next year, you’ll look back and be satisfied at the improvements you’ve made in your diet and getting more exercise. Also, you may want to read more about why we get fat, and what to do about it, or how wheat is bad for you. But please, no matter what you read, always keep an open mind and know that there’s two sides to every coin. Your responsibility is to learn to think for yourself and make up your own mind about everything. This is the best way to take your health (and your family’s health) into your own hands. In case you’re wondering, my wife and I will be doing a 30-day challenge starting on July 1st. But since we eat almost no sugar and wheat, our focus will be on intense exercise. So your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to spend 30 days getting healthier. And armed with the right data, and the power of your own conviction and desire to finally start eating better and exercising, you can do this!

Additional Resources:

  • If you would like to read more about this challenge, check out my other blog, Behavior and Motivation, and read: 30-Day Challenge: Get Healthy. The focus, there, is more on the behavior side of making positive changes.
  • Also, I recommend that you read, Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It, by Gary Taubes
  • Also read, Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis.
  • For a quick and entertaining overview of the science and facts related to everything in this article, watch the movie, Fathead. It’s funny while being informative and a bit shocking. It’s a must-watch movie!
  • If you want some good exercises to do with easy-to-follow videos, check out Rocofit Health & Fitness and Ben Greenfield Fitness.
  • Click on my Facebook link to join the wonderful community of people who have quit sugar or are interested in quitting sugar and/or improving their health. It’s one of the best communities on the Internet.

It’s great to have the support of family and friends, so share this article and do the challenge together. If you try this 30-day challenge (not just in July, but at any time), please leave a comment and share your experience.

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Author: Scott Milford

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