The 10-Day Challenge

Happy Friday!  First off, I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who has taken time out of their week to read this blog.  The number of readers has gone far beyond what I expected for the first week.  And I’ve gotten lots of encouragement and a few useful criticisms, all of which I appreciate greatly.  I’ll continue to post over the weekend, so you’ll have something to do when it’s just you and your dog on Saturday night.  Otherwise you’ll have plenty to read at work to stave off your case of the Mondays.

A few people have asked for details about the 10-Day Challenge (which I just finished, by the way) that inspired me to go permanently pescetarian, so that’s the focus of this post.  I’ll even list the meals I ate during the ten days so that you can see that you don’t need to eat like a nomadic gatherer (thanks to Christine for using this phrase to describe Mom’s diet).  And you’ll see where I broke the rules a little, so you won’t feel like you need to follow every single rule to a T in order to get something out of this challenge.

For those who haven’t yet read the first post, the 10-Day Challenge is from a Tony Robbins seminar I went to a few weeks ago.  So these are his ideas, not mine.  You can get more information and order his products here, but the 10-Day Challenge doesn’t require any of his products.  All it requires is a commitment to yourself!

Essentially, the 10-Day Challenge is just a challenge to live by the health principles that Tony teaches for ten days.  Tony spends his life finding people who are getting the very best results in certain aspects of life and then learns what they are doing to get those results, so I believe he does have some credibility in this area.  The goal of this lifestyle is to maximize energy and wellness by eliminating and avoiding toxins and maintaining slight alkalinity in the bloodstream, as opposed to the acidity of blood that the normal Western diet produces.  Please note, you do not have to believe in these principles in order to enjoy this blog; this blog is about being eating a vegetarian diet or pescetarian diet while training for endurance sports; it’s not about the alkaline diet.

[Barlean's Photo]And of course, so some rand-o who stumbles across this site doesn’t sue me, get medical advice from a professional before making any changes to your diet and exercise program!

Here are the principles of the version of the 10-Day Challenge that I attempted to adopt:

  • Drink lots of water each day, half your body weight in ounces.  And add lemon juice to it (lemon juice is acidic outside the body but is somehow alkaline inside the body).
  • Make 70% of your foods water-rich.  Lettuce, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, baked fish, etc.  Things that are watery.  An easy way to get more water-rich foods is to have a big salad before lunch and dinner.
  • Get lots of omega-3’s and some omega-6’s.  See my smoothie post for more information about these. Try avocado, almonds, flax seed oil, Udo’s oil blend, krill oil, etc.
  • Eat mostly alkali-forming foods.  Green vegetables, almonds, lower-sugar fruits, and more.   Here’s a chart.  An easy way to get more is to take a “greens” supplement. I bought Barlean’s; it tastes terrible.  But tolerable in a smoothie.
  • Do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 times per week, at an intensity where you could carry on a conversation during it.
  • Don’t drink water during meals, don’t eat fruit with any other foods, don’t eat protein and carbohydrates in the same meal.  Green vegetables are ok with either protein or carbs.  These rules are aimed at lessening the demand digestion places on your body.
  • Eliminate processed fats, animal flesh (except fish in moderation), dairy products, caffeine (I love coffee so this was a big one for me), alcohol, vinegar, nicotine, and white sugar, white bread, and white rice.  For the most part these foods are highly acidic, difficult to digest, or foods of decay.
  • Take ten deep breaths, three times per day, to help your lymphatic system.
  • Take a food-based multivitamin, digestive enzymes, and acidophilus.  Any vitamin store should have these.
  • Do a full-body cleanse; I used Enzymatic Whole Body Cleanse.

You can see why it is called a challenge.  A lot of this seems ridiculous, and your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse will think you’ve been brainwashed.  One thing that I think really helped me stay with it was to go out before beginning and buy the vitamins, greens supplement, cleanse kit, soy milk and yogurt (you can get soy yogurt at a natural foods store), and ingredients for the first few meals.  I probably spent 60 dollars for the stuff, not counting groceries, and it will last me much longer than the ten days.  I know people don’t like to spend money on something until they’ve tried it, but I really think that spending that money committed me to doing it.  If I had bought all this stuff and then not followed through on the challenge, I would have felt and looked like an idiot. Reader: Insert “You already do” joke here.

Ok, here are the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, listed in that order, that I ate during the ten days.  I ate salads with olive oil and lemon juice before or with almost every lunch and dinner, and fruits, nuts, and no-butter popcorn for snacks throughout the day.

Monday:  Fruits (since I didn’t have soy smoothie ingredients yet), veggie pizza with mushrooms, sundried tomato, and red bell pepper on Boboli whole-wheat crust, with “nozzarella” cheese (not really called that, it’s rice shreds which somehow taste just like cheese), baked shrimp with fennel and feta (easy on the feta).

Tuesday:  Smoothie (made with soy yogurt), leftover baked shrimp with fennel and feta, halibut in whole-wheat batter (fried in canola oil).

Wednesday:  Smoothie, leftover halibut, broiled salmon with herb mustard glaze and asparagus.

Thursday:  Smoothie, veggie wrap, trenette with pesto, beans, and potatoes.

Friday:  Smoothie, veggie wrap, veggie pizza with mushrooms, sundried tomato, and red bell pepper on Boboli whole-wheat crust with “nozzarella.”

Saturday:  Smoothie, leftover trenette with pesto, spring vegetable ragout with whole-wheat pasta (dried pasta, not fresh as in recipe).

Sunday:  Smoothie, leftover spring vegetable ragout, whole-wheat penne with asparagus, olives, and whole-wheat breadcrumbs (no parmigiano as in recipe).

Monday (first day of blog): Smoothie, leftover penne with asparagus, salmon with spinach and shiitake.

Tuesday: Smoothie, two bean burritos on whole-wheat tortilla with “nozzarella,” pasta with roasted cauliflower and arugula.

Wednesday: Smoothie, leftover pasta with roasted cauliflower, red-cooked tofu with brown rice.  And a Guinness to celebrate the completion of the challenge.

Not so bad, is it?  If you don’t cook at all, you might have some trouble with this type of diet, so you’d better learn.  All of these recipes took less than half an hour of work, plus maybe some time in the oven.  As you can see I had a lot of fish near the beginning to ease into it, then less as I got used to this type of diet.  And I messed up a few times, having some feta on the first day, some parmigiano in the pesto (which we made a long time ago but had in the freezer), and perhaps violating the “fruit only by itself” rule with the smoothie.    And as I’ve mentioned before, a couple Guinnesses one day during the basketball games.

It really does feel great eating and living this way.  Especially after dinner, when I used to stuff myself and then drink a nice beer and get really tired.  Now I have a lot of energy in the evenings and I’ve stayed up later (working on this god-forsaken blog), feeling like I don’t need as much as sleep as before.  I’m really glad that I did this challenge because I truly believe it has permanently changed my lifestyle by letting me experience first-hand how good this feels.  If you are at all intrigued by this, then by all means give it a try (after talking to your doctor, of course); it just might be something that changes your life.  And while I think that committing to all the rules for ten days is great, if you flat-out refuse to give up coffee, alcohol, milk, or whatever other thing, don’t let that stop you from taking the challenge.  Cut that rule out, write down a revised set of rules that you can live with, and do it for ten days.  Make a commitment to yourself and stick with it.  I can guarantee there will be a few instances when it would be so much more convenient to have a burger or whatever your weakness is, but it’s in these moments that you truly have an opportunity to prove to yourself that you are not a slave to your cravings.  And on that note, I’ll stop writing before I get any more Tony Robbins on you.



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  1. I call myself a vegetarian but I DO eat shrimp. I have gotten numerous snarky remarks from people (amazingly some waiters) about how I’m ‘choosing’ which animals have value or feelings and which ones are okay to eat and not. All I can tell you is to not let things like that bother you. We all have to do what we can. If you make too big of a commitment all at once, you are more likely to backslide. Best of luck!

  2. Nick (the shitty singer) says:

    matt, great blog and awesome nutrition advice. i am looking to drop an ass-ton of weight brought on by poor lifestyle choices recently and side effects of medication. look forward to trying some of these recipes and tips out.

    take care.

  3. HEY!!!
    “….so that you can see that you don’t need to eat like a nomadic gatherer (thanks to Christine for using this phrase to describe Mom’s diet)”.

    WHAT THE??? My diet isn’t like one of a nomadic gatherer!!! (is it?) Lately, I’ve been eating a lot of pine nuts. Whew! a bag of those is the same caloric intake as 3 hot fudge sundaes! And I was also eating a lot of dried fruits. HUGE number of calories, but I didn’t throw them away for that reason. I threw the bag in the garbage, half full, after I realized the amount of sulfur dioxide that is used as a preservative. There is 16 mg of sulfur dioxide in 1 dried apricot vs 10 mg in a glass of red wine. And I was eating 10 pieces of dried fruit at one sitting.

    Ok… maybe Christine is right. I am having trouble finding good things to eat. After all, I am working in the deli with the most famous pit beef sandwiches in Ocean City.


  4. Thanks for posting this, the links and your experience. I’ve bookmarked it.

    My challenge in doing it is I’m still obliged to prepare meals for the people in my household – they don’t know how to cook, can’t afford to eat out, and don’t want to do the cleanse with me.

  5. Try this starting tomorrow. 🙂

  6. Hi,

    Great blog, I come from the France I will happy to find you blog 🙂
    Im runners for the morning lunch : I take juice of lemon, a shot of aloe, I drink 1liter of smoothie (1 day vegetables & 1 day fruits)

    But I after I don’t know take ?

    Egg, soya, quinoa ?

    Knowing I practise every morning 15 min of rebouding and I run 4 times for week (30 min 40 min max 1h depend)


    Have nice day


  7. wow very valuable information. I’m a big fan of Tony. Thanks for sharing this article! Love it!

  8. Doesn’t the smoothie contradict the guideline to eat fruit by itself? Which is more important–keep fruit solo or add the extra goodies to the drink?

  9. Thanks for this. I have just come off the Tony Robbins UPW weekend here in London. I am trying to follow the diet. Rather than hard core it strictly I am using up the left over milk and dairy products in my house first then simply not buying any more.

    The meal suggestions are the things that really appeal and I want to say thanks for – appreciate the ideas and suggestions!


    • I wanted to come back with a follow up from last year! I’ll be straight – doing a hard core cleanse like this is amazing, like really good. It does magic for your mood, however I was unable to maintain it. I don’t know what the trick is – I would love to hear anyone else talk about how to cut through the illusion we cast over ourselves to say that just doing 10 days and then stopping is going to have a lasting effect.

      Thoughts anyone?

      • David Runge says:

        I have been a whole foods plant based vegan for 9 months now. For me, it became very easy when I committed to only eating real food. I educated myself about nutrition and the baggage that comes with some some foods using trusted resources like and Hope this helps!
        David Runge

  10. Hi I just recently went to UPW in Feb and did the 10 day challenge (I did 30 days) and now continuing for my lifestyle. It’s really amazing the change it has made in my body. It didn’t feel has made my body more alkaline and just energized. I still am looking to amp up my energy, so I am doing everything to get the energy that I had at UPW. Life will truly never be the same! Life is changing!!

  11. Very interesting post and I love your website layout, very well designed. Couple of notes:
    #1: Whole wheat tortilla = carbs, beans = protein. Rule violated!!! It seems very difficult to not combine carbs and protein considering almost everything that is a “meal” in the traditional sense mixes these two.

    #2: What’s your recipe for veggie pizza? I’m not a vegetarian but that sounds tasty.

  12. Wow! This is great information for me. It must have been very tough for you to go from drinking a beer every night to drinking water. I’m going to take your advice and add lemon juice to my water. Thank you for sharing your experience!

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