Renegade Health Radio: The Secrets of the 30 Day Challenge

Monday Aug 11 | BY |
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In this podcast:

  • Why most things are never really permanent, including specific dietary practices and programs. 2:20
  • Can coffee and caffeine actually cause heart palpitations in sensitive individuals? Hear a personal story. 9:55
  • The inside scoop on “cleanses” and how they relate to everyday lifestyles. 13:30
  • How to get started on a 30-day program, like giving up alcohol, caffeine, or salt. 15:00
  • One secret to kicking almost any bad habit: it’s as simple as a swap! 16:30
  • All about quitting “cold turkey.” How this method isn’t always the easiest, but possibly the most powerful. 18:50
  • Generate some 30-day challenge ideas that can transform your health. 22:00

Click the play button to start the podcast:


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Kevin: Renegade Health Radio. This is Kevin Gianni with Frederick Patenaude. Today we’re going to talk about quitting. What do you think about quitting, Fred?

Fredric: Quitting, yeah. I think it’s a great idea. People think about quitting all kinds of things. They’re going to quit drinking. They’re going to quit smoking. They’re going to quit caffeine and stuff like that. Or incorporate a new habit for 30 days or something. So for me, it’s really…the insight for today is sort of, what kind of 30 day challenge can you create for yourself? And what kind of results is it going to have?

So I find it interesting to run these little experiments. You know, going 30 days with regular exercise, going 30 days without caffeine, going 30 days without salt, although that one is a tough one. But going 30 days without oil is the one that we talked about. Going 30 days on raw foods only without cooked food. You know there are all kinds of these things you can try to see what impact it’s going to have on your health.

Kevin: I think when you kind of get into health or you’re in health or you’ve been here for ages, there’s always that like one thing that you’re doing that you’re just like, “You know what, I don’t know if I should be doing this. I really don’t feel it’s that healthy for me, or maybe it is, but I just don’t feel comfortable doing it,” or whatever. And the scale range is from, you know, someone who’s into like crazy raw food and they’re just like, “I need to stop eating bananas,” or someone’s who’s not into health at all, and they’re just like, “Man, I need to quit smoking cigarettes.” And the emotion and the energy is the same, but the question is, how do you get to it? How do you actually create that behavior that you want to do?

And whether you’re right or wrong about the health benefits of it or not, I think the Jedi kind of like, mind thing that you can master, is the art of quitting. And the art of quitting involves a couple of things, and during this podcast we’ll tell you some stories about our own experiences. But the art of quitting for me always stems and always starts from the fact that nothing is permanent. So that’s always for me like the start of it, because I always look at…when you’re going to quit something, say it’s like chocolate or caffeine or one of those things that has this emotional hold on you. The last thing you want to hear is that you can never have that thing again, because that’s going to stop you from quitting right off the bat. Do you agree with me Fred?

Fredric: Oh yeah. I mean, unless someone has a real problem with a substance like…you know, real problem with alcohol, then they might actually want to think about going for the rest of their lives without it, because otherwise they can open the door to always going back. You know, a true drug problem or something. But otherwise, I totally agree. If you think this is like, you know, something you’re going to do for the rest of your life. Like when I became a raw foodist, I thought, “I’m going to stop eating cooked foods for the rest of my life.” And of course, I was young, so it sounded like a great idea, but over time I realized this is not something I want to do for the rest of my life. So yeah, I agree.

Kevin: Yeah. So when I think about quitting, I think about some of the things that I’ve quit in the past. And definitely I would say cigarette smoking is one of them for me. And in that instance, it was an experience where there was enough pain…I had gone…I was in college and I had gone down to a spring break party in New Orleans with a couple of friends, and by the time I came back I was so sick. Like, I had smoked so many cigarettes, I had drank so much beer, that by the time I came back, my entire throat was…I didn’t even know, but I know now if I had looked at it, it would have been inflamed and just, I don’t even know, just disgusting if I had looked at it in the mirror. And that to me was just, there was enough pain where I could barely even swallow my food, because I physically sick too, like you know, fever. I just said, you know what? I can’t do this anymore, and that’s when I quit.

So obviously pain is one of those factors when it comes to quitting, but so is that fear of if you continue to do it, what’s going to happen? Let me ask you this, Fred. When you were coming from raw food to eating cooked foods again—something you thought you were going to be doing for the rest of your life—what was it like on the other side quitting raw foods? Was there some angst or some trauma?

Fredric: Oh yeah. It was a big emotional kind of a dilemma, because once you convince yourself you’re never going to do something for the rest of your life, and especially when you build an identity around it and a belief system around it, then once you revert back to whatever you were doing before, it’s just very confusing. And for me it was very strange. I had a lot of guilt. I had to deal with a lot of that for many years, just the transition, because I didn’t feel at ease in the new environment of eating, being able to eat cooked foods. But I didn’t want to go back to eating raw foods. So I was kind of in a no-man’s land of I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do. I didn’t feel I could be normal, but at the same time I didn’t feel like I wanted to be a raw foodist, like it was working for me. So it was a big transition period to find that balance or that in-between, which you know, eventually and now if I think of it, and now it’s simple. You know, my healthy eating and so on it’s not a source of stress anymore. But it was because of that attachment and that idea.

So quitting philosophy is difficult when you used to think it was going to work for the rest of your life and it was going to be the answer, and then you realize, “Oh my gosh, maybe I’m not immortal. Maybe I’m not immune to every disease known to man.” And so you feel like, you’ve lost kind of your super human powers so you thought you had, which in fact you didn’t really have, but you thought you had it.

Kevin: [laughs] You’re not immortal, Fred.

Fredric: No, no I’m not. On a raw food diet I thought I was pretty close, close to that, at first.

Kevin: Known to cause delusions of grandeur. One of the reasons why this came up guys, which probably you are wondering is because I am kind of at a crossroads right now in my own personal life about quitting something. Shall I tell them what it is, Fred?

Fredric: Yeah.

Kevin: All right. So what it comes down to is I quit coffee a long time ago. I quit coffee maybe ten years ago. And then maybe two years ago, I started to do an experiment. And it was kind of a loosely controlled experiment, and I kind of wanted it to go on my favor, meaning that I would be able to drink coffee on a regular basis. And only after about two months, the experiment kind of went bad. So my hands would get clammy. I’d feel all these adrenal symptoms that I felt before. My adrenals were in bad shape. It was more difficult to get out of bed. I felt very strongly addicted to it again, so I would need more than one cup or two cups in the morning and then in the afternoon. And so for me that was a sign. I was like, “I’m done. I’ve got to stop drinking coffee.” And this was, you know, organic, fair trade, all that good stuff. This wasn’t the Dunkin’ Donuts I used to drink one when I was in grad school.

So what happened was I replaced it with green tea. And everything was good until I would say, about two months ago, 2-1/2 or a month and a half ago when I started drinking more green tea. So I started drinking more, because I’m writing this book and almost synchronistically, I’m writing this chapter on coffee as I’m starting to…coffee and caffeine as I’m starting to drink more green tea. And what I’m learning is that there are certain genes that allow you to be…that can tell if you’re either sensitive to coffee or not—which I happen to have the gene expression that does make me sensitive to coffee—and there’s also genes that allow you to be fast or slow metabolizers of caffeine. And I also am a slow metabolizer of caffeine.

So looking at this, clearly caffeine is not in my wheelhouse, or not at least drinking a lot of it or ingesting a lot of caffeine, whether it’s from coffee or green tea or chocolate or any other source. Also within those genes—I don’t remember if it’s in the same ones or if it’s another one—but there’s also a gene or an expression of a gene that actually shows, the people who have this particular phenotype, they actually are more susceptible to heart palpitations. And I remember talking to a friend maybe about 11 or 12 years ago about her decision to stop drinking coffee because of heart palpitations. And she said that she would get them and then when she stopped drinking coffee she wouldn’t, then she’d go back and she’d get them again. And I was like, “Oh that’s interesting,” and I started to feel these heart palpitations right after I had done that research for the coffee chapter. And I instantly linked it together, because I thought about her, I thought about my susceptibility to caffeine.

And so for the last, I would say even for the last like two weeks, I’ve been getting these palpitations, still not wanting to give up green tea, but now I’m at the point where I have to. I just feel that, you know, I have to do an experiment. And again, this is not permanent sort of thing. But I feel like I have to do one of these 30-day experiments that Fred was talking about to see if after 30 days, or 40 days or 50 days, if I stop getting these palpitations. And then determine where I’m going to go from there. So just an interesting kind of round-about experience that led me to this decision now that I have to cut back on my green tea or quit, which is kind of disappointing, because we’re in the middle of writing a book—which I still am now—it’s not really the…you know, my caffeine-fueled writing bursts, I don’t know what I’m going to do without them.

Fredric: Well, I think caffeine is this thing that…I mean, we’ve talked about it many times, even though we did an episode on tea and so on, and the dangers of coffee, and then possibly replacing that with tea. And some people being, you know, different kinds of teas possibly having some benefits, but definitely, I mean, the substance caffeine is a drug. I mean, it’s a stimulant It does some stuff on the body, and I don’t think anybody needs it. Like, I don’t think anybody needs caffeine like you need food. It’s something we kind of get used to, and we consume, and I mean, I also drink green tea these days, and I would like to see what it would be like not to drink it at all, like, not to drink any caffeine, any source of caffeine whatsoever for like, a year or something, or six months. I mean. that’s an experiment I’d like to do.

But like you said, you’ve got to go with the priorities. And right now you are feeling that you need to quit this for a while to see what happens. And for me, I mean, I recently, I completed 30 days of like exercising every day. And that was a great experiment. And then I’m through like over 30 days without any alcohol at all, and I like that. I realize yeah, I actually like not having any alcohol most of the time. Like, I feel better. But I’m not at the point of saying I’m not going to have any green tea, also. But I might get to that point at some point. And I’ll run a 30-day experiment and see what happens.

Kevin: And never look back.

Fredric: Yeah. I don’t know if I’m never going to look back, but something like that.

Kevin: Yeah. Well that’s I think the benefit of that “nothing is permanent” sort of philosophy. It’s like, “Hey, I’m just going to try this for a couple of days.” Even a couple of days! And I think that’s the benefit of maybe even the weekend cleanse or kind of this evolved cleansing mindset. You know, I think a lot of people think, “Oh I got to do this cleanse for seven days, and then at the end of seven days I can take breath.” And cleansing to me is more of a lifestyle than it is this like seven-day think and then you go back and you eat whatever the heck you want. Most people won’t do that. But it’s not this sort of thing where you have to stick to this rigid human constraint of seven days for cleansing. I mean, you can very easily cleanse in four days. You can easily even cleanse from some things in a day or two. But that rigid seven days where you start to battle yourself—say it’s a juice fast or it’s a water fast or it’s a smoothie fast or whatever—you battle yourself for those seven days and then at the end, you’re done, but it was really painful.

Cleansing for me, like I like to start…actually, I started yesterday just for the heck of it, and I had a couple of smoothies and then I had dinner. You know, in a normal cleansing program, like you might not have that. But today I had a smoothie and I had a green juice. And so then we’ll see where that takes me. I don’t know where I’m going to go tonight. I might have a salad or I might have another smoothie, but to think that like the baseline is either water, smoothie or juice is a better way I think in a more lifestyle-based way to cleanse than a full-on 7-, 21-, or you know, even 60- or 40-day kind of things. Though I think there’s a place for those for people who really feel like they need to have that structure, I think the evolution of that is moving towards something where you already know you can have the structure. You already know that you’re well cleansed and you can maintain on a different way.

Fredric: And how do you do like a 30-day program? Let’s say if people would like to try a 30-day program of something. How do you do that? Because I think, I mean, I think if you try something like having a green smoothie every day—something easy—it’s not that much of a challenge. But when you’re giving up something like alcohol or caffeine or even salt, something where your body requires a little bit of adaptation, I think you have to be aware that you’re going to go through a period where you’re going to feel like shit.

Like let’s say caffeine. Or you’re not going to…and especially if you drink coffee, that you’re going to go through a period of not being functional. You could transition and slowly reduce the amount until you give it up. And with salt, you’re going to go through a period where nothing tastes good until your taste buds adjust to salt, and so on. So if you used a substance that’s like that, it requires an adaptation. So what’s the best way to go through like…what do you think, Kevin? To go through a 30-day program.

Kevin: Well I think again, it starts with that “nothing is permanent” mentality. And the second thing that I think—it’s always worked for me—is to replace that habit with something else. So it’s not necessarily replacing it food for food or drink for drink or whatever, but it’s just replacing that habit with something else.

So for instance, with green tea, when I finally quit—again, I haven’t had green tea today, but I had it yesterday, so it’s a really new 30-day challenge for myself. But I’ll replace that with holy basil. And I will replace it with holy basil tea, non caffeinated. It’s a really good adaptogen and something that I really like and I enjoy. And I’m hoping that just the replacement of that is enough for me to not have to worry about drinking green tea ever again.

Now my concern is that I write at the coffee shop and they don’t have anything, so what am I going to do? I’m going to either have to find a coffee shop that has holy basil, or make a deal with them where, you know, I pay for the cup so I could sit at their table, bring my own holy basil. I don’t know. But it’s funny when you’re trying to quit something, like your mind comes up with these like crazy things that, like you know, you don’t want to adjust. Why would I adjust? I’ve been doing this routine for so long, now I’m going to be lost. And so your mind starts to create these things. So beware of those, as well.

Just like quitting alcohol or something like that. It’s like, “Yeah I’ll quit alcohol, but after the holidays, because we’re going to be at grandma’s, so and so’s seven seafood party, and they have all this wine, and then we’re going to have champaign toasts at New Year’s, and we’re going to have all this sort of stuff.” You’re like…well you can’t, that’s your mind just creating the excuse to not do the thing. Believe me, you can go to all these things without alcohol, or you can go to the coffee shop without green tea. You can do all these things.

And additionally, just an example for alcohol and then I’ll get off the soapbox here, is if you do drink alcohol and you’re having trouble quitting, one great replacement is having some seltzer water—like some mineral water, some Pellegrino or something like that with lemon—and that actually is a fairly suitable thing to kind of replace. Say if you have a couple of glasses of wine in the evening, something like that. You can just replace it with a little bit of Pellegrino and some lemon. And you’d be surprised at how long that goes and how far that goes to get you out of the habit of just coming home and having alcohol. Or even if you’re at a party with friends, you can order it at a restaurant, you can get that, and then you’ll be sufficiently surprised. It will be a nice transition for you.

Fredric: And I think there’s also like a power in like, quitting something cold turkey. You know, because let’s say you drink coffee regularly or alcohol, and then you quit cold turkey. That’s when you realize the impact that that substance has on you. If you kind of slowly reduce the amount, you slowly get used to the change, but if you quit like cold turkey, you realize, “Wow, that substance really was affecting me physiologically.” Because you see like immediately, like you see a difference.

Maybe you’re craving it or maybe you’re through a transition period or something, something happens. And you know, I think it’s not always easy for some things, but there is a power in doing that, because you’re confronted with the reality of your relationship with the substance or the food or whatever you’re trying to quit. You know, sugar or something like that.

Kevin: Yeah. One of the…it’s kind of like this proximity thing that I think about. And there are some people who can slowly reduce and there are some people who can’t. And for me, like I look at slowly reducing is just temptation, over and over and over again. And there will always be that time if you’re slowly reducing chocolate or something like that and you eat that piece of chocolate and you’re like, “Oh, well today I’m going to reward myself” or something like that. “Maybe I’ll have a little bit more.” And there’s always that chance for you to, I guess, relapse would be the word for it. Relapse on your own personal goals. Who’s to say that eating chocolate is an addiction or not? You know all these sort of, you know, we can discuss that maybe on another time.

But when you have that thing in front of you and you’re trying to at least give it up for 10 or 15 or 20 or 30 days, there’s no reason to put it in front of you in small doses as you’re titrating down, unless it’s like a medication or something like that. It’s something that really your body needs to physically and chemically adjust to at a really high level, which in some cases most medicines do. But it’s better not to have it in the house. It’s better not to have it in the cabinet. It’s better not to have it in the refrigerator. It’s better not to even be in contact with it.

And then slowly, almost what’s better to titrate is actually to go back to being around it again. So that’s almost something, slowly go back to being around it, is actually something that is probably more advisable, at least in terms of my personality in the way that I deal with these things. It’s like, “Well, don’t just jump back into…” say you know, if you’re eating…if you stop eating chocolate for 20 days, don’t go to like the world’s largest chocolate fest! [laughs] And you know, it’s like, go there and hope that you’re going to have enough will power to get out of it. No, you walk by the candy isle that you used to walk by all the time and you just say, “Hey, you know what? I’m not going to have any of this right now.” So you do that in small doses. And then maybe in a couple of years you can go to the world’s largest chocolate fest. I don’t know. You might still be…that still might be too much.

Fredric: So what Kevin do you think are the good 30-day challenges that people could try? Because I mean, we know about the 30-day, I don’t know, like raw food challenge? You mean try eating raw foods for 30 days. You can try eating maybe a vegan diet for 30 days. No caffeine, no alcohol, regular exercise. No salt maybe for some people. No oil—we talked about that. Maybe eating greens every day? Like a certain amount, maybe one pound. What else?

Kevin: Well…TV?

Fredric: No TV, yes.

Kevin: Yep, no TV for 30 days. It would be hard for me, but no Internet, even if it’s for seven days.

Fredric: No masturbation for guys. That’s one, too.

Kevin: Or females.

Fredric: But it’s usually more guys who want to do the challenge.

Kevin: No sex, as well.

Fredric: No sex? Well, what’s up with that?

Kevin: Or for males, no ejaculation. That’s one of those things.

Fredric: Yeah, that’s a little…that could be interesting. No food, no water. No, just kidding. [laughs]

Kevin: Those are some. I’m sure that there are plenty more. And if guys have any ideas, go ahead and post them on the blog. Any sort of 30-day challenges that we missed that you’ve experienced, let us know. Post them on the blog. And if you like this podcast, go ahead and post a comment on iTunes. Let everyone else in the world know that this is worth listening too, take care.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Chris says:

    I took a 30 challenge of not listening to health podcasts/health videos about a year ago. I nearly forgot you guys existed for like a year. Came back to find a whole knew paradigm going on over here. Interesting stuff. Another 30 day thing you guys didn’t mention was No Processed Sugar and for some even No Eating Out(Making your own food).

  2. Charles says:

    Thanks so much for sharing gents. Quite helpful to know that we do not struggle alone. I want to encourage everyone to meditate upon divine things. Embrace the Creator’s desire to elevate your thoughts and feelings. As our thoughts and feelings are cleansed, so are our characters which are predecessors of our habits. Embrace the transformation by a mind cleanse (“replacing that habit” even allowing your thoughts to be replaced with pure thoughts and your heart with pure feelings).

    No cursing for 30 days! 🙂

  3. Cindy says:

    This was a great podcast. So many things came up for me. No TV is easy because I’ve done it for the last several years. But no Internet is very hard because the more I research stuff, the more I find to research, & sometimes it’s just never ending. One of the comments posted was No Eating Out. I actually tried that this year, but that too was very hard. Last year I realized that I was eating out at least 2-3 times a week. In January, I stopped eating out & it worked out great for about 2 months. I even lost 8-10 lbs., but then I started back again, & it was worse than ever. I just recently realized that it had gotten out of hand again, so I’m back to not eating out again. So far, it’s been about 2 weeks. We’ll see how far I can go this time. It’s not that I even enjoy eating out. It’s just a habit.

    I also agree with what Fred said about quitting cold turkey being very powerful. The only thing I would add to this would be that it has to be done at the right time to really matter, & you have to have motivation, although I guess what that motivation would be is different for everyone. I’m referring to smoking cigarettes. My sister quit smoking cold turkey many years ago even though she didn’t have any health problems, & she’s never looked back. I’m sure it’s kept her in better health than had she not quit Then her mother in law, who died of brain & lung cancer, absolutely refused to give up smoking. Then my own husband, who also died of lung cancer after it spread to his spine, gave up smoking cold turkey the minute he found out he had cancer, but it was too late because he was already in Stage 4. The good that has come of this though is that my two granddaughters, who are 8 & 9 years old, have both said they will never smoke. Anyways, I know I already said it, but great podcast.

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