Happy New Year! Paleo Challenge Time…

New Years Paleo Challenge 2015 - www.ThePrimalDesire.com

Are you ready for 2015?  Ready or not, it's here.  And I'm excited!  I'm hoping for big changes this year and have no idea what this year will bring.

As you know, I have challenged Holley and you to a month-long 100% paleo challenge to start this year off with better health.  This will be my 3rd year in a row and the first two were amazing experiences.  You can read about how I was first introduced to the paleo lifestyle (by my amazing sister) here.  I want to tell you about my first 30-day paleo challenge experience…

My First Paleo Challenge – Day 1

January 1st, 2013 – I had finally agreed to give this “paleo thing” a shot after multiple suggestions by my sister.  I'd even recruited 3 friends to join me in the 30-day challenge.  We had set up the rules:

  1. 30 days of no refined sugar or dairy, no legumes or potatoes, no grains- oh!  And no booze.
  2. Start time: upon waking up New Year's Day (that way you could continue to drink or have that drunken hot dog or pizza-by-the-slice that you crave before passing out after celebrating).

We hadn't done any research or preparations for today, Day 1, but it seemed straightforward enough.  I had driven down to Vancouver with a friend the day before to attend and fancy NYE party.  And now I was suddenly in it.  Who's idea was this?  What I need right now is some McD's greasy breakfast sandwiches and hashbrowns for this hangover.

I had done the smart thing and chugged half a liter of water as well as a oral rehydration mix before going to bed and was actually feeling not too bad, and ready for the 4.5 hour drive home.  We picked up another guy after many wrong turns and extreme detours (thanks Google maps…), and the 3 of us decided that Subway was my best chance at finding a paleo lunch (minus the bun, obviously).

I'd never had a Subway salad before, and let me tell you: I never will again.  That was the most disgusting $9 salad I've ever eaten.  This was the beginning of my gastro-experience for the year?!

Things didn't get much better at dinner.  I got home a little past 6.  I live in a small town and the potential restaurants were closed.  As I drove around I realized that I also had missed getting into a grocery store before they closed for the day as well.  Holidays!  Damn!

Thankfully I had some eggs in the fridge, but no other ingredients or sauces that were OK.  I was tired, hungover, frustrated, and had no food or company to comfort myself with.  I was miserable.

But I'd survived Day 1.

My First Paleo Challenge – Figuring It Out

I was up early and off to the grocery store first thing the next morning.  Loading up on vegetables and quality meats, almond milk, coconut milk, and almond flour, I explored the store while on the phone with my guide: my sister.  Coconut oil, she said.  Dark chocolate, she exclaimed.  Real maple syrup, ghee, canned coconut milk.  Looking at sauces I ask, “So anything with corn, wheat, or soy is out?  You know that's everything in the store, right?”

I was using a fantastic cookbook, Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen by Julie and Charles Mayfield to learn how to cook paleo (it's full of recipes that taste like you'd feel guilty eating lots of, but they're totally guilt-free deliciousness).  My friends and I would text each other questions: “Is chewing gum OK?”, “Heinz ketchup's not OK?!”, “What should I use with this chicken?”, “Man, you need a lot of eggs when baking with coconut flour, eh?”

I'd get random food photos on my phone of the meals that my friends and sister were making, and I had to respond with my own.  It was motivating.  And almost a fun competition.  Who could make each other the most jealous.

We'd get together for a weekly family-style meal.  These were some of the best meals I'd even been apart of making with a group, and a lot of fun to get together to do.  I looked forward to these each week.  Doing this challenge as a group was  actually a ton of fun!

The month flew by.  We decided to do another month after taking the weekend off to drink beer and eat pub food while watching the Super Bowl (now I'd recommend Paleo Game-Day Recipes).  After returning to the “normal” Western diet for the day, we felt like crap.  Bloated, lethargic, unhealthy.

My First Paleo Challenge – Results

I wasn't expecting to see the physical changes that I did.  I wasn't even going to the gym that first month, but I lost visceral fat (the unhealthy fat around my organs – the stuff associated with increased risk of many chronic diseases) and abdominal inflammation drastically fast.  I actually lost too much weight (I wasn't eating enough because I didn't have the cravings and hunger pangs that I was used to experiencing), so I returned to the gym and made it a point to eat more.

I was so shocked by the changes and improved energy that I was experiencing that I needed to learn more about what was happening and why.  So I read The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf which changed everything.  Robb explains how the physiological pathways are used differently, how that affects hormones, and what that means for your body.  This section really spoke to me because of my healthcare training and because I like to understand how things work.  Having this understanding then made it easy for me to make good decisions and giving into cravings (which were fewer and farther between than they used to be – I used to crave cheese every day from dinner-time til bedtime).

My Second Paleo Challenge – The Difference

Last year (2nd January):  I challenged Holley.  This was a very different experience, and I think one of the reasons was that she did a bunch of paleo-friendly baking which utilized lots of natural sugars like honey and maple syrup and she loves to cook for people so ate lots.  Though these are unrefined and paleo-OK, it was still a lot more sugar than I usually have in my diet.  I didn't see the same extreme results as the year before, and I noticed that my cravings were more than the past year.  Probably due to insulin spikes.  I still felt great though.

I've since cut back on over-indulging in the baked goods, and I eat “lacto-paleo” (or “primal”) the majority of the time.  It works well for me because I don't have any problems with dairy (which mostly limit to cheese- because life is better with cheese).  BUT, I have been cheating more and more, and could use an improvement in my health.

2015 30-Day Paleo Challenge – With You

That brings us to today, and my 2015 100% Paleo Challenge.  Join us.  Let's not call it a New Year's Resolution, just a challenge.  It'll be fun, and potentially life-changing.  There's no sign-up required.  No fee.  But we would like you to make the commitment.  Let's support each other, share in successes, ask each other for advice, and have some fun.  Connect with us in the comments, share your food porn on our social media, and tell us your stories.  I think Holley even committed to sharing measurements.  And photos!

Holley said that I should share how I'm preparing for this challenge.  The truth is that I haven't prepared.  My kitchen is stocked full of paleo ingredients, so when I'm there it's not bad at all, but what will make this time difficult is that I will be away from home for a good portion of the month.  I've let some of the people that I will be staying with know that I will be eating this way while I'm there, and thankfully I'm starting this off at my sister's place (she and her husband are on board as well).  I'll be in Vancouver for part of it, so I'll be sure to have some coconut aminos to enjoy with some great salmon sashimi there.  Other than that, I will be winging it.  But while I'm here at my sister's house I will be working on some paleo snacks, slow cooker recipes and maybe some freezer meals which should help when time is short.

Let's start the New Year off right!  Together!




About the Author:

I’m trained as a pharmacist, but my passion lies in changing people’s mental and physical health through amazing food… and laughter. I’ll laugh at my own jokes even if you don’t. I love food. Lust may be a more appropriate word. Prepare to get your Paleo-induced drool-on!


  1. Raj January 1, 2015 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    This is so embarrassing that I have to share it.

    I woke up late today and before grabbing breakfast I made a gingerbread house with my nephews. I was putting the frosting on, trying to put the thing together and the boys were playing with the candy. I asked the older one if he could put the Lego candy to the side for me.

    My sister is giving me this look like “what the hell are you doing?!?!” and I snap into my consciousness realizing “oh yeah! The challenge started today!” Hahahaha. That woulda been one hilarious start fail!

  2. Pam January 1, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Wow, I can’t believe it’s been two years since those epic family meals…crazy how time flies! Those meals were insane! Since you shared your experience I thought I’d share mine too 🙂
    I had a few friends that had been mostly paleo for a while and every time I talked to them about the lifestyle it seemed incredible but impossible. One friend even gave me Robb Wolf’s “The Paleo Solution” for my birthday to inspire me but the awesome book stayed on my shelf unread until Raj finally dusted it off.
    When Raj asked me to join him in that first challenge I somehow gathered my strength and decided that 30 days was doable as a test run, so without further ado I jumped on board. Man, the first few days were hard!! I remember on day 3 almost cracking due my sugar withdrawal but instead of scarfing down the left over Christmas goodies in my freezer I texted my friends for support and they helped me stay on track. That first 30 days ended up being life changing, I felt so good that I was ready to shift right into a Paleo lifestyle. The 2nd year we did the challenge I found it to be so much easier since my kitchen had been fully paleoized over the previous year and I didn’t have the withdrawal like before. We didn’t do our big family meals like the year before but Raj kept me on track by cooking for me often and sharing some of Holley’s amazing baking with me as well. Over this past year I’ve learnt even more about my health and was even more dedicated to “the switch” giving me even better results then the year before.
    Thank you Raj for that first challenge and for everything else you’ve done to make the last 2 years of Paleo life so much easier for me, but I should send you the bill for my new (smaller) wardrobe I’ve had to purchase because of it! 😉

    • Raj January 1, 2015 at 3:09 pm


      Thanks for sharing that story! And for accepting that initial challenge!

  3. Ruth Parsad January 2, 2015 at 5:39 am - Reply

    Great write up, Raj. Pam, your entry is inspirational, too. You may have to do a second challenge of the year after your trip!

    • Pam January 2, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Thanks Ruth! I’m sure my guts will be going through the ringer during the next 6 months so I will DEFINITELY be doing a 30 day (or longer) challenge after I get back!

    • Raj January 2, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      That’s not necessary Pam. As you know, I’ve never felt better than when I was in Thailand. I’m sure there will be some countries that are worse than others. Man. Envy.

  4. Pam January 2, 2015 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    That true, you did feel amazing. I’m not worried about the Asian diet, I know I’ll do great there, more concerned on what they’re gonna feed me while on the African tour and I remember a lot of white bread in Chile so I hope I find some better options this time around while I’m in Central/South America. But hey, I can’t complain, I’m more excited to try and experience everything in these other cultures then I am worried about my dietary concerns!

  5. Aimee December 20, 2015 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Hey -will you be hosting a 2016 challenge?

    • Holley December 21, 2015 at 6:16 pm

      Hi Aimee, we would love to do another challenge in 2016, but both Raj and I will be without internet access for a few weeks in January and can’t be available to support our tribe. Would you be interested in a February challenge?

    • Aimee December 24, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      Heck yeah, I’m in!

    • Raj December 24, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      We’ll get all those people who either didn’t make it through January or who are going strong and into their second month!
      Which will you be Aimee?

    • Aimee December 25, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      Lol – I will try to be the one going strong into month two, but most likely be the one doing the “do over” cause I could not finish strong in January. I will let you know in Feb!

    • Raj December 25, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      Haha Aimee,
      Where’s the positive attitude and confidence? 2016 is going to be a phenomenal year for all of The Primal Desire tribe!

    • Aimee December 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      Haha, Challenge accepted 😉

    • Raj December 30, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Yeah Girl!!!

      Good luck with January. We’ll try and give you that bump in motivation in February to keep 2016 going strong!

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