In this 221st Episode of the Small Scale Life Podcast, I am  going to look back at our experiences with the Whole30 Challenge in 2019, 2020 and 2024.  I will discuss some of the lessons learned and “non-scale wins,” and I will finish by talking about Next Steps including a new Whole30 Challenge on April 1, 2024!


Our First Whole30 Challenge 

Sunset in Paradise: Kona, HI - January 2020

Where did this all begin?  How did we learn about the Whole30 Challenge?

Julie and I “discovered” the Whole30 way back in September 2019 before we embarked on our 25th Anniversary Trip to Hawaii.  At that time, Julie did the Whole30 Challenge, while I tried a doctor-supervised liquid-only diet called Optifast.  While I lost close to 25 pounds on the liquid-only diet, Julie lost about 10 pounds.  The differences in our diets were pretty stark:

  • I was drinking soups and eating bars for meals, and I was not allowed to eat any solid food off the plan.  That meant no protein, carbs, veggies or fruit, and I was limited to expensive soup packets and bars purchased from the hospital nutritionist.  I was always hungry and started to cheat towards the end of my participation on the diet. In addition, the soup and bars had a lot of soy in them, and it didn’t sit well with my stomach. By the way, soy is a legume, and that is something that I need to remember in the Reintroduction Phase of the Whole30 Challenge.  More on that later!
  • Julie, on the other hand, was eating nourishing and delicious food, fruits and vegetables and thriving.  

At the end of the day, we both lost weight, but the side effects of both were a lot different.  I reacted poorly to the soy-based soups and bars (note to self for my own reintroduction process), but I won’t go into details about my bathroom visits.  At the same time, I was constantly hungry, and I did not learn anything about what triggered or inflammed my body.  It was a “follow these rules and drink this” type prescription.

Julie, on the other hand, did well once she got through the paleo/keto/Whole30 flu (yes, that is a thing).  She was able to eat as much nourishing and delicious food as long as it followed the Whole30 rules.

My Optifast liquid diet and her Whole30 ended right before our 25th Anniversary Trip to the Big Island in Hawaii.


Trying the Whole30 in 2020

Tom and Greg Burns, Whole30 Challenge Results

When we got back from Hawaii, I wanted to continue with my weight loss journey, but we felt that the Optifast experiment had come to an end.  I decided to try Whole30 and documented it here on Small Scale Life and the Small Scale Life YouTube Channels here:

At the end of this Whole30 in 2020, I had the following results (as summarized in the Whole30 Challenge Results and Thoughts episode and blog post:

  • My overall weight loss  = 13 pounds
  • I do not have the cravings I used to have before the Whole30 Challenge
  • My mind is clear and not foggy
  • I am walking better (smoother gait and further distances) even with my arthritic knees
  • Clothes are fitting better
  • I have more energy
  • I am looking better (more thin)

I did a second round of Whole30 in March 2020, but I did not take very good notes about it and didn’t record an episode for the Small Scale Life Podcast.  That is unfortunate!  I don’t remember what the results were from this Whole30 Challenge.

Life was a series of disasters and moves from 2020 to 2023, and it finally calmed down in January 2024.


Fast Forward to 2024

Tom, Cold Plunge, A new cycle begins, New Richmond

I had stuffed a lot of emotion down deep after Danny passed away, and it was not good for my health. Coming out of a year and a half of stress eating and grief eating and drinking, I had packed on a lot of weight.  Physically, my knees and back were always sore, and I would get tired really easily.  I needed to take frequent breaks during tasks, and I just didn’t have the energy to get big projects done quickly. 

I needed to reset my mind, body and soul. I needed to change and stick to it, otherwise my health could have made a serious turn for the worse (pre-diabetes, heart issues, etc).  In early January 2024, I got together with a therapist and started working on me.  I also visited the doctor and talked a lot about the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet.  I needed to make changes. The first change happened at the end of January and start of February 2024.


Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

Yoga Retreat; Yoga Practice, Willow River Yoga; Whole30 Challenge; Wellness, Health;

Julie and I decided to go on a Yoga Retreat in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.  It was a retreat through Inspiring Actions, a yoga studio in Hudson and River Falls, Wisconsin.  Julie teaches classes at the Hudson location, and we have had the owner over to our house for dinner a few times.  We tied this yoga retreat to our 30th Anniversary (an early trip and gift to both of us).  It was a great way to get away from the normal and mundane grind of life.

Julie and I had a serious talk before we went to Costa Rica. My doctor had prescribed Wygovie to manage my weight. If you haven’t heard about Wygovie, it is a “miracle” drug used to manage weight for people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30.  People taking Wygovie can lose significant amounts of their body weight (up to 10 percent of their body weight or more). 

Sounds like a magic pill doesn’t it?  

I met with and talked to the pharmacist about the drug, and apparently the problem is that once you start taking Wygovie, you are on it for a long time.  Your body needs that drug, and if you stop taking it, you will most likely gain the weight back.  One of the reasons you will gain weight back is that you have not learned about how your body reacts to certain foods, and chances are you still have those old habits that got you to this point in the first place.  At the same time, there are other side effects (as there are with most drugs out there), and no one knows what the long term effects of drugs like Wygovie truly are since it is a new drug.

The drug was on backorder, and that gave me time to think about it.  The drug finally came in from backorder, and I had to make a decision: take Wygovie or try something else.  

Julie and I had a long talk before we left for Costa Rica.  Rather than going on a pharmaceutical route, we decided that the best course of action was to focus, get intentional, fix our relationship with food and get more movement.  We would start by conducting a Whole30 Challenge once we got back from our trip. It was a process we knew and could use to jump start a healthy lifestyle and learn about food that would trigger our bodies. We would figure out next steps after we got through this first Whole30 Challenge.  

In late January and early February 2024, Julie and I went on a Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica.  It was a magical trip, and I was doing Yoga practices two times a day.  While it was hard at the first part of the week, movement got a lot better towards the end.  It was working, and I was able to keep up (even though it was not easy).

One thing about Costa Rica is that it was a good jumpstart on a reset.  We had private chefs making breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It was homemade food using fresh ingredients, and it was fantastic!  We had:

  • Rice or rice and beans at every meal
  • Fresh fruit
  • Homemade tortillas
  • Eggs and meat for protein
  • Salad 
  • Fresh mozzarella slices (this one will be important to note later during reintroduction)

Coming back from Costa Rica, Julie and I agreed that we needed to reset.  It was WAY too easy to start eating stuff that was all too common in American diets: sugar and heavily processed foods.  It was impacting us, especially me, after coming back home.

Our 2024 Whole30 Challenge

Whole30 Challenge; Wellness, Health; Whole Food

After vacation, Julie and I got moving on the Whole30.  I listened to Melissa Urban’s book “It Starts with Food” on Audible, and I began to pull resources to help us stock our refrigerator and pantry with Whole30 approved foods.  We planned our menu for the week, and on February 12, 2024, Julie and I started our Whole30 Challenge.  

Over the past 30 days, we have stayed on target and on plan for most of the Challenge.  Sure, there were a couple times when sugar got into the mix (who knew Craisens had sugar on them…seriously) or when we had some meat and balsamic dressing from restaurants. Fortunately we didn’t struggle with the Whole30 Flu and had some great new meals along the way. 

As we approach the end of the Whole30 Challenge, I feel pretty good about the experience. Here are some overall thoughts about the experience and some “non-scale wins”:

  • Clothes, particularly shirts, fit better
  • I am looking better; my face isn’t as puffy
  • I kicked my Diet Dew habit again
  • I am not drinking coffee creamer with my morning coffee (replaced with Nut Pods and/or coconut milk)
  • My knees feel better and it’s easier to walk
  • My lower back feels better
  • We are eating whole, nourishing foods and have not felt like we “were missing” or lacking with our meals
  • We are planning our menus and prepping meals in advance
  • We are trying some new delicious dishes and “spicing up” our normal diets


I have to emphasize that the Whole30 Challenge is not a weight loss diet.  It is not a diet at all.  It is a challenge because you are eliminating certain foods that can cause inflammation, and you are reintroducing them after 30 days to see how your body reacts.  

While I did experience some weight loss by doing this challenge, it was not the primary goal of this challenge. Yes, I know how much I lost (it is Day 31 after all), but I will save that for a future show with Jules.  You’ll have to wait to hear about my weight loss!

Next Steps


Now that it is Day 31 and the Whole30 Challenge portion is at an end, Julie and I worked out our Reintroduction Plan.  This is a critical step where you test different foods that have been eliminated by reintroducing them. 

Believe it or not, we have never intentionally done the Reintroduction portion of the Whole30 Challenge before, so this will be an experience.  For this next phase, we are going to slowly introduce those eliminated foods over the next 20 days or so.That is much slower than what is suggested in “It Starts with Food,” but we figured that it would be good to take it slow and really conduct the experiment on our bodies.

For me, I already know one of the eliminated foods that triggers me these days.  That food is dairy, and that is really unfortunate for a guy living in Wisconsin, the Dairy State. In the past few years, I realize I don’t do well with ice cream, pizza, cheese and other dairy products. Larger “doses” of dairy products make my stomach churn, and it isn’t pleasant.  I am curious if other foods will trigger me as well.  

Armed with the results of this Reintroduction Phase, we can develop a solid plan going forward for potentially the rest of our lives.  Some foods might be fine; some foods might be eaten occasionally; and some foods might be off limits.  We will finish this portion of the Reintroduction Phase of the Whole30 Challenge right before April 1, 2024.   


April 1, 2024, is an important date!  


We are planning to lead another Whole30 Challenge on April 1, 2024.  If you want to join us, let us know by emailing or use the contact us page at



In Closing….

Small Scale Life Podcast; Julie and Tom, Costa Rica Sunset; Tamarindo

As we close this episode of the Small Scale Life Podcast, remember to keep going.  It might seem like an impossible thing to achieve your goals (like starting a small business,  losing stubborn weight, tackling your debt or becoming that person you always wanted to become), but it is achievable.  

You can do it!  

You need to put one step in front of the other, but you have to begin that journey by making a decision and taking that step forward.  

So….Start. Take that step. You can do it!  We are here to help.

This is Tom from the Small Scale Life Podcast reminding you to learn, do, grow and be a little better everyday.  We’ll be back real soon; take care, everybody!


Please see the following links to other shows about the Whole30 Challenge:

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Whole30 Challenge; Wellness, Health; Whole Food

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Special Thanks

For Small Scale Life Podcasts, I would like to thank Sean at Osi and the Jupiter for the intro song "Harvest."  Sean wrote this specifically for us, and I really enjoy all of his work.  You can find more Osi and the Jupiter at their Bandcamp site:

I would also like to thank Austin Quinn at Vlog Vibes for the intro and outro music. For more information abut Austin and Vlog Vibes, please see the Vlog Vibes YouTube Channel:



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