The Results are in: 28-Day Transformation Challenge Recap

February 21, 2013

At the beginning of January, I started a 28-Day Transformation Challenge that has truly been a life-changing experience for me. The challenge consisted of 3 key commitments I pledged to make from January 7 through February 3, 2013:

  1. Eat a paleo diet (no grains/gluten, no beans, no sugar, no alcohol, no preservatives).
  2. Exercise for at least 10 minutes a day.
  3. Take fish oil supplements (minimum 2,000 mg) daily.

My goal for the challenge was to achieve a perfect score. Not because I was trying to lose weight. Not because I wanted to win (ok, ok, I wanted to win). But to see what I was capable of. To remain completely committed to and disciplined about something that I knew would be hard for me. Really, really hard for me.

I’m proud to report that I achieved a perfect score. I never deviated from the paleo diet food plan. I took my fish oils religiously. And I exercised for at least 10 minutes every day (a heck of a lot more than that on most days). During the challenge, I ate a plate of broccoli at a friend’s house while everyone else chowed down on lasagna and bread *gasp!* I drank water and ate carrots dipped in guacamole during a NFL playoff game while everyone else had beer and chips. I did what I said I was going to do. And for that, I am proud. For that, I am stronger.

Before the challenge, I can safely say I was addicted to and dependent on sugar and bread. I never went a day without eating a sandwich at lunch or a side of grains with dinner. And I always had a “healthy” sweet treat for dessert. Thinking about embarking on 28 days with very few of the things I was accustomed to eating every day scared me. I thought it was going to be incredibly hard. I remember scoffing at the idea of giving up whole food groups in the past. However, I quickly found myself looking at my perception of what is and isn’t healthy very differently.

So did it pay off? Yes. I didn’t lose any weight, but that wasn’t the goal. Here were some results that amazed me:

  • I reduced my body fat percentage by 1.2%, dropping from 19.4% to 18.2%.
  • I lost an inch at my waist and more than an inch at my chest.
  • I have seen some positive changes in my body definition, particularly in my arms and abs.
  • We did 100 burpees for time before and after the challenge. I improved my time by 10.5%, reducing my time from 8 minutes and 2 seconds to 7 minutes and 16 seconds.
  • I had more energy. I was not as tired during the day as I’d been feeling prior to the challenge, and even after tiring days I was still wide awake (and I don’t drink caffeine).
  • I’ve noticed that my speed work and long runs have been stronger and faster. I’m also seeing positive results during my strength training sessions as well.
  • I discovered some amazing new recipes that I love and now cook often. You can check them out on my clean eating paleo pinterest board here.

Going into the challenge, I expected to feel crazy. To feel completely deprived and yearning for grains and sugar. Instead, I found myself feeling the opposite. Instead of feeling crazy, for the first time I felt completely in control of my food choices and practiced some insane will power. Doing this together with Mr. rUnladylike was also a nice chance for us to have something to focus on and do together, often tag teaming on dinner and motivating one another on the days where all we wanted was some Mellow Mushroom pizza.

In terms of overall challenges, I think I encountered 3 big issues:

  1. Being in social settings was hard. Going out to dinner and finding something that fits within the parameters of the challenge and paleo diet is very difficult. Everything seems to be cooked in butter or canola oil, and there are often so many added ingredients or preservatives in everything. Going to parties at friends’ houses was even more challenging, because I had the extra layer of guilt that I couldn’t eat much of what they cooked. Mr. rUnladylike and I found ourselves avoiding social events during the challenge because it just made things harder. And that isn’t a realistic way to live.
  2. Adjusting to the paleo diet takes a lot more of your time. Extra time and planning are critical to making this diet a success. Cooking chicken breasts, boiling eggs, cutting up lettuce and more on Sundays for the week and spending extra time cooking breakfast rather than grabbing a cup of Greek yogurt on the way out the door was definitely an adjustment.
  3. I found myself binging on dried fruit to overcompensate on some of the snacks and foods I missed. I ate way too many raisins during the challenge. Way. Too. Many. I also discovered medjool dates and started a love affair with them. I may have possibly eaten my body weight in those delicious morsels. I must exercise more will power when it comes to that moving forward.

Will I keep following the paleo diet now that the 28-Day Transformation Challenge is over?
Yes, I will. However, I will allow myself some cheat days. I figure if 90 percent of the time I follow the paleo diet and 10 percent of the time I let real life in – dinner parties at friends’ houses, enjoying a meal at a favorite restaurant, a dessert to celebrate something special – then I think I’ll be doing pretty well. I will also build Honey Stinger Gels back into my training regimen to use as fuel during long runs (I used raisins during the challenge), as well as Nuun tablets to aid hydration and electrolyte replacement.

I am looking at food in a completely different way than I did at the beginning of the year. Sometimes I feel like I have a secret that so many people around me haven’t figured out yet. It’s such an interesting and empowering feeling to know I am eating real food. That I am not letting fake, processed, addictive ingredients get the better of me (ok, most of the time). That is change in action.


Have you ever tried the paleo diet? What did you enjoy the most? What were your greatest challenges? If you made a New Year’s resolution this year, are you still sticking to it or have you fallen off the wagon? How will you stay motivated to keep your health commitments you made in January?



I’ve never tried paleo (I eat mostly vegan) but I do know how hard it is to give up the things you did for this month. CONGRATS to you! That is huge. When my boyfriend and I did P90X in 2011 we both followed the diet to a T for the first month (with one cheat meal) and it was SO hard, especially at social situations (once we awkwardly just drank water when we went to a birthday party which was a champagne brunch buffet…). After the first month we switched to a more balanced plan but still had great results. I definitely believe in the 90/10 thing when it comes to food!

I’m actually on day 3 now of no sugar, alcohol or caffeine for 1 month and then I will go back to a more balanced diet but I want to finally kick my sugar addiction! I’ve done no caffeine and alcohol for 1 month (during P90X) but NEVER sweets.


Great job! I’m semi paleo as I still eat rice and beans but no gluten and mosty vegetables and fruits and meat proteins. I feel a TON better! It’s easier for me to not call it a type of diet 😉


Congrats! And I love that you are now 90/10 Paleo! That’s my philosophy too 😉

beka @ rebecca roams

I think I follow a partially paleo diet as well. I can’t give up yogurt, and some grains/beans are permanent fixtures in my diet. But during the week – especially lunches- are primarily paleo.
I’m trying to cut back on the sugar. I have a mad sweet tooth, but fruit smoothies have become my go to!

The Runner Dad

I’m impressed…and inspired. I tried to go gluten free for a while…it lasted maybe 4 days before I broke. It takes a lot of will power to make those changes. Good for you!

Shannon Colavecchio

I have been Paleo since August and just did Whole30 in January! Leaner, stronger and a faster runner than ever! This is a lifetime eating plan for me:) So glad you gave it a whirl!


I am impressed and inspired! I have been wanting to jump on the bandwagon with the paleo diet but just haven’t. I don’t eat a lot of carbs anyway, just rice and potatoes every once a while. You do have to really watch what is in your food with grains, added ingredients, etc. I do have a sweet tooth though. I am also a runner and I know it will help with my training. I am thinking I will take the challenge in March and see how it goes! Thanks for inspiration.


I’m 8 days (but who’s counting?!) into my whole life challenge. Doing a modified diet, but giving up sugar, bread and processed foods has felt better than I thought. Contrary to what you would think, in many ways feels less restrictive instead of more. Knowing you survived – and thrived – will keep me going!!


Thank you all so much for all your kind words, encouragement and support! And congrats to all of you who are eating healthy and challenging yourselves to focus on real food. You guys inspire me!!! Good luck everyone!


This is incredibly inspiring, Jesica! Congrats on achieving your goal. My husband and I have done pretty well with our common goal of exercising more this year. Next up — revamping our diet. You’ve inspired me to learn more about Paleo!

Leanne Rowntree

Thanks for the inspiration and good comments about the Paleo diet! After a lifetime of healthy eating and exercise I decided to take a new challenge also. After 2 months Paleo I’m down 7 pounds, don’t miss dairy or gluten at all and feel great! There are lots of negative people out there who like to criticize people’s eating habits and personal challenges, while they do nothing to improve their health.

Jacob Gourd

Im just starting to eat paleo after being inspired by an instructor at my Gym. Hopefully Ill be as positive as you after a few weeks!


I have been Paleo since Mother’s Day, 2013… so a little over a month. The first four days, I felt like I had the flu. I felt really rough!! But after the initial withdrawal was over I started noticing more energy, I slept better and had a better attitude. I’ve lost around 12 lbs (most of it in the very beginning…).. but the weight loss is different… I’ve noticed an incredible change in my skin and how lean my body is starting to look. My mother says that I have found the nutrition secrets for my body… because the way I am eating, is working!! My skin, hair, joints, back… everything just feels better!!! I try to run & walk through the week with a goal of 12 – 15 miles, nothing crazy!!! I haven’t tried Insanity or P-90x yet, but I will eventually. And I agree with your 90/10 plan… just making sure my indulgences are in moderation. Thank you for sharing!!!


Can someone explain to me why you can’t eat legumes on a paleo diet?
I agree with most of its principles but I just can’t understand the reason for not allowing beans. Most of the explanations I read so far are lame,to say the least.
I just can’t imagine Grok telling to the tribe “Sorry folks, we can’t eat beans because of their phytates and lectins!!”


Hi Luis! If you figure that out, please let me know 🙂 They are from the Earth! I have read and heard from people who believe strongly in Paleo that they are foods that can contribute to inflamation and aren’t as nutritious as other options, but I don’t think that means they are bad. I am no longer doing Paleo since I did this challenge, so I eat beans regularly.

The Paleo Diet Results | Paleo Recipes

[…] The results are in: I survived 28 days on the paleo diet – Thanks for the inspiration and good comments about the Paleo diet! After a lifetime of healthy eating and exercise I decided to take a new challenge also. […]


Changing to a Paleo diet has been a welcome change, a breath of fresh air. I managed to loose 3 pounds in the first week. Probably just water weight, but I do feel healthier and more energetic!


Awesome job! I too was once addicted to sugar, but my biggest vice was fast food. I just shared my before and after photos on my blog. It’s not a before and after post though. Rather, my goal was to show people that anyone can change their diet. I had crazy bad eating habits before I got sick enough to want to change.

If you need encouragement or you don’t think you can go paleo, check out my article here where I admit to 5 embarrassing habits I had pre-paleo.