Sex With Your Pants On

Since the creation of our Whole30 program in April 2009, we’ve cautioned against the Paleo-ification of desserts and “junk food.”  In fact, this concept has been one of the cornerstones of the program, specifically requiring the elimination of Paleo brownies, pizza and pancakes for the duration of your Whole30.

On occasion, our position that Paleo-ified junk food is still junk food has made us unpopular.  However, we know from experience that one of the fastest ways to negate the potential benefits of your Whole30 experience is to try to shove your old, unhealthy diet into a shiny new Paleo mold.  And when it comes to the psychological hold certain foods have over us, the whole (pancake) is far more than just the sum of the parts (ingredients).

Today, we’ll share our thoughts on why Paleo pancakes, pizza, cookies and ice cream are not everyday food, and why you shouldn’t try to recreate junk food with “approved” ingredients during your Whole30.   (If you’ve attended one of our Foundations of Nutrition workshops in the last year and a half, you’ve already heard this particular pitch.)  It really comes down to just one thing – sex.

Pizza Porn

Let’s take Paleo pizza as one example.  Generally made with an almond flour crust and lacking any sort of cheese, this is one way bread and dairy-avoiding folk can enjoy the concept without the bellyache.  But here’s the issue.  Have you had Paleo pizza?  Yeah, that’s what we thought. Some recipes are pretty good, but it doesn’t exactly taste like the pizza you knew and loved.  Case in point…

We want you to think about the best pizza you’ve ever had in your whole life.  Picture the crust, light and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  Imagine heaps of cheese, just waiting to be stretched and gathered in as you take your first bite. Imagine the smell of it, the feel of a warm slice in your hand, that first. Amazing. Bite.

Now, compare the two.

That Paleo pizza may be pretty good, but be honest – it in no way compares to the best pizza you’ve ever had.  And herein lies the problem.  To use an analogy we can all (probably) understand, the Paleo-ification of poor food choices is a little bit like having sex with your pants on.


See, given the constructs of your Whole30 program, you’re stuck with Paleo pizza.  There’s no gluten-laden crust, there’s no sugary tomato sauce, and there’s certainly no fresh mozzarella.  And during your Whole30, eating Paleo pizza is just like having sex with your pants on.  It’s good… but it’s not that good.  You can tell yourself it’s okay, it’s still pretty good, you’re totally satisfied… but that’s kind of a lie.  Because you know exactly how good pants-less sex feels.

And if you continue your Whole30 program eating Paleo pizza, Paleo ice cream and Paleo pancakes, well… all it makes you think about is how less-than-stellar this version is, and how delicious the other version would be.  Just like… well, you know.

The problem is, if you continue to have sex with your pants on, it’s inevitable that at some point you’re gonna want to take your pants offAnd during your Whole30, that spells trouble.

Create A New You

Do you really want to spend the entirety of your Whole30 obsessed with all the stuff you can’t have, and eating the same foods you’ve been eating all along?  We sure don’t!  If you come out of your program with the same habits, patterns and food choices you had when you started, what are your chances for long-term, life-changing success?  After all, those very same habits, patterns and food choices are what got you into trouble in the first place!

Now, does this mean you can’t substitute a poor food choice with a healthier option?  Of course not.  To help you critically evaluate whether you’re attempting to engage in SWYPO, ask yourself this question.  Am I trying to exactly duplicate or recreate the poor food choice with “approved” ingredients, or am I merely looking for a healthier, more nutritious substitution for that food?

In the case of Paleo desserts, it’s a straight swap – you’re desperately trying to duplicate the sweet treats you know and love in a way that’s still technically Paleo.  But if you’re looking for a sandwich substitute, and you decide to use a lettuce leaf or a coconut Pure Wrap, well, that’s a different story. Spaghetti squash for pasta, a portobello mushroom cap for a burger bun or egg and spinach “muffins” for traditional muffins are all examples of perfectly healthy and appropriate substitutions during your Whole30.  (Another tip:  If you’re subbing something unhealthy with vegetables or high-quality meat, that’s almost certainly a thumbs-up.)

In addition, context matters.  For example, the amazing fried chicken in Paleo Comfort Foods is a perfectly appropriate (and delicious) dinner choice while on your Whole30. However, if you’re coming off a wicked addiction to KFC, perhaps Jules & Charles’ creation isn’t the best choice for you during your program.  Make sense?  So think critically about whether the food choices you are making during your Whoel30 fit the spirit and intention of the program, not just the technicality of the rules.

Abstinence.  It’s Only 30 Days.

So… no sex with your pants on during the Whole30.  Learn what to serve the kids on Friday night instead of Paleo pizza.  Boost your nutrition by eating a fresh veggie scramble with eggs for breakfast instead of Paleo pancakes.  And during your Whole30, don’t fool yourself into thinking that those Paleo brownies are holistically healthier for you than the Duncan Hines brownies you used to eat.

Use the Whole30 to change your habits, change your patterns, break unhealthy cravings and create a new, healthy relationship with food.  You won’t be sorry, as those new habits and patterns will stay with you for the rest of your life.  And when your Whole30 is over and you feel like kicking your heels up, use our Guide to Nutritional Off-Roading to help you decide when to choose a Paleo-ified option, and when to eat the real deal.  Because at that point in the game, pants are optional.


  1. says

    Makes sense! When I was getting ready for the July Whole30, I was a little confused about substitutions- I was thinking “why can’t I have paleo pancakes, but I can have paleo fried cauli-rice?” Eventually I figured out that almond flour is less bad than regular flour, but I’m not reaping any benefits from it. Great post!

  2. sheila says

    Perfect timing as I just started the Whole 30 for October and didn’t really understand the reasoning behind this. Thanks for clarifying it.

  3. Risa says

    Excellent post. I think some times people transitioning into a Paleo lifestyle use the Paleo treats as a sort harm-reduction approach. However, if they never wean off of them, they will never completely reap the benefits.

    I am an extremely hard loser. I have been doing the full Whole 30 for about 5 weeks now and lost about 13 pounds. However, the weekend of my daughter’s b-day I made an exception when I made Paleo Mama’s brownies (which really are better than the real thing) and despite only eating a small amount I gained back 1 pound.

    Having gone without the treats now and no chocolate or any sweetners, I find that I have absolutely NO interest in those foods (a revolutionizing change for me).

    Thanks for all your advice Melissa and Dallas!!

  4. Tom says

    Can we also Just Say No to pleated pants? :D

    A choral conductor I used to sing for always used the phrase “kissing your sister”. I guess he liked the added angle of incest but eating things like Paleo Pizza and Paleo Pancakes are what I imagine kissing your sister to be like: unsatisfying and just plain weird.

  5. kathleen says

    Thanks for this post. I really think that the mental part of food is a MUCH bigger issue than losing a few pounds/inches. I don’t want to hear about anymore Paleo brownies (“but they’re Paleo, therefore good for you”). In my mind it’s a tease , always a tease. Abstaining from “trigger-like” foods until you regain full control goes a long way in avoiding the yo-yo effect (whether it be inflammatory issues or weight issues)

  6. says

    I just started my first Whole 30 today so this was a very timely post!

    I’m hoping for some clarification in a few areas…
    I’ve been gluten, soy and refined sugar-free for just over 5 years now and grain-free since August 2010 when I came across The Primal Blueprint. I am 5′ 4, 17% BF, 118 lbs so weight loss is not an issue for me but I do still have some digestive issues that I’m pretty sure is from dairy which is the reason I’ve started the Whole 30…getting rid of the dairy and just fine tuning my diet a bit.

    I am a flight attendant so I travel about 15 days a month and I’ve gotten pretty good at traveling with my food, the hardest thing for me will be eliminating greek yogurt…it travels very well! But, I do travel regularly with Banana Date Muffins (only sweetened with bananas and dates), Paleo Bread (Elana’s Pantry recipe minus the honey) and homemade sesame crackers…again these are all foods that travel well…I eat them along with hard boiled eggs, deli meat, guacamole, olives…so I think the food matrix is covered for me.

    So, what I’m wondering is… are these things off limits? I understand the SWYPO theory for people that are making the switch to a cleaner lifestyle swapping for “paleo” style foods but I haven’t had “real” pizza, pancakes, brownies or bread in more than 5 years so these things don’t really represent a healthier version of something I’m going to binge on day 31…they are not an option in my life…ever.

    I’m totally committed to the program so I understand…No means No… Just wondering and really wouldn’t have questioned it except for the fact that the fried chicken in PCF is acceptable on the Whole 30 program…which really excites me by the way!

    Any thoughts are appreciated!

  7. Marcia says

    Paleo-ized recipes might stand on their own as tasty dishes, but as soon as the comparison is made to the unhealthy (and very tasty) counterpart, my interest wanes. Paleo spaghetti? Spaghetti by definition is wheat, not squash. But squash with a tasty sauce is pretty tempting.

  8. says

    I heart you guys, I think that you’re making huge changes in the way people look at food and I could never not appreciate that. But I just don’t agree here, when you’re referencing anything outside the Whole30 framework.

    What I love about an evolutionary food based approach is that it’s a framework built on how your body wants to function. Overall, you’re creating personal health if you’re eating foods within the framework – no matter if they look like a brownie or pizza in the end.

    Going cold turkey can help a lot of people heal their guts, change their taste-buds and find personal health. But most kids would find such an approach to be punishment by deprivation – their brains don’t understand the concept. Fortunately, they’re willing to try and love new versions of old foods – which still let their bodies still heal.

    To each their own, but an on-ramp worked for us. We never went back to real brownies or pizza. In fact, it allowed us to eventually no longer have any desire to go get “real” ones. I think the assumption that paleo “cheats” would lead all people to stray outside paleo isn’t entirely valid.

    SWYPO might lead to actual indulgence, yes. Which is why I like the education and free condom approach more than abstinence only when it comes to paleo(ish) treats (my birth control of choice, so to speak).

  9. tarek says

    can i just say i love THIS analogy (.. and you guys)!

    lazycaveman – PLS stay covered at least to the knees =)

  10. says

    @Julia: Admittedly, this rule is a little squishy around the edges. “No sugar” is pretty clear, but this one requires some critical self-evaluation and big-picture thinking. You’re right – replacing white flour with almond flour adds little in terms of nutrition, but replacing white rice with cauliflower adds a whole lot. Great way to think about it!

    @Risa: Many folks do reincorporate some treats (whether Paleo-ified or “real deal” after their Whole30 is done, but if you don’t miss them, and realize they always have a negative impact on your health (and mental state), then you are better off without them! Perhaps with time, this will change – reincorporating treats tends to get easier to manage the more practice we have.

    @Lazy: Pants-less is A-OK with us. Especially Dallas. He’s a big fan.

    @Tom: That’s an equally disturbing analogy. Scratch that, even more disturbing. Ha!

    @Jude: Thanks for your support!

    @Kathleen: You’ve nailed it here. We’ve never said you need to abstain forever. This is JUST about your Whole30 – and if you decide to take it past that point,, that’s entirely up to you. For many, the mental trigger of Paleo brownies is just not worth the struggle.

    @Andrea: The rules are the rules, whether you think you have any sugar demons or not. Experientially, we’d be surprised if you don’t learn something from the experience of abstaining from your breads and muffins for 30 days. If you decide to return to them after your Whole30 is done, that’s completely your choice! Best of luck to you.

    @Stacey: (And I’m responding to a few of your comments here – the stuff on Twitter and the comment you left on SmartSexyPaleo too)… Respectfully, have you missed the 17,243 posts we’ve written about how to incorporate treats like brownies, cookies and cake (Paleo-ified or otherwise) into your post-Whole30 life? We’ve even created a Guide to Off-Roading, to help people make smart decisions about their less-than-perfect food choices!

    You’ve chosen to read far too much into our SWYPO post. Throughout the post, we must use the phrase “Whole30″ at least a dozen times – in our experience (and we’ve got a lot on this subject), this concept is critical DURING your Whole30 program. But it’s completely unfair for you to suggest we “demonize” the occasional poor food choice, when the body of our work clearly demonstrates otherwise. Show me one instance in which we’ve recommended “banning” Paleo-ified food treats outside of the constructs of our 30 day program?

    As for your approach to the Whole30 with your kids, we certainly aren’t going to criticize. We’re not going door-to-door to ensure folks are following the rules, and many have found varying degrees of success with a modified Whole30. But in our experience, the exceptions don’t make the rules, and the vast majority of people NEED a “no SWYPO” rule to succeed.

    Our Whole30 program is designed to give people a standardized protocol to follow in the short-term, so that they can then have a solid platform from which to make their own life-long decisions about food. If your family has found a sustainable plan that works for you, we’re thrilled – and don’t really care whether that plan includes brownies, cookies, pasta or bread. If it’s working for you, and you’re all feeling optimally happy AND healthy, then you’ve succeeded, and our Whole30 has done its job. It’s as simple as that.


    Supporting posts: Hypocritical or Human (

    The Whole9 Guide to Nutritional Off-Roading (

    And the entire SECTION of our Resources page designated to “eating dirty” and cheating smart (

  11. says

    Thanks Melissa! It will make my traveling a bit more challenging but I am an avid rules follower so I’m all in on the no “paleofying” foods!
    What is your stance on Intermittent Fasting during Whole 30 or otherwise? I’m sure there is already a post somewhere so if you could direct me to it I’d appreciate it!


  12. says

    When it comes to IF, context matters. (Read this post for more information:

    If you’ve got the rest of your stuff in line – food quality is perfect, sleep is a regular 9 hours a night, stress is minimal, exercise and recovery are well balanced – the stress of IF can be a good adaptive process. But in your case, as a flight attendant, I’m betting some of those factors (sleep, especially) isn’t quite where it needs to be – in which case, IF may prove more stressful than helpful.

    In general, we don’t recommend it, because we don’t know many folks with all of their ducks in a row – and we’ve seen the damage IF can do if it’s not taken on in the right context.


  13. Sarah Muzopappa says

    Hi! I read this earlier in the week when the post first came out. I thought it was a great analogy for the context of the Whole30. I’ve been wanting to do one, but I have an issue with saying no to wine for a whole month. For me, paleofying pancakes is a horrible idea! I mean, what’s pancakes without yummy maple syrup on top?

    But I digress…the point I want to make is that I have been kicking this around in my head all week! For however weird the idea of SWYPO is, it’s an analogy that really makes sense and something that I can apply to my eating. Not that my goal is to do a Whole30 for the rest of my life, but, in trying to break my habit of something junky or sweet after dinner, I end up with something paleofied and (honestly) not that satisfying. What I need to do is get over that habit of eating in the evening. And saying no to SWYPO is the key for me to break my bad food habits, I think. Thank you so much!

  14. says


    We’re glad the analogy resonates with you! We’ve been using it at all of our nutrition workshops for the last year or so, and it resonates with our audiences too – and gets a giant laugh, which always helps folks to remember the basic points we were trying to make.


  15. Casey says

    I was vegetarian for a number of years out of ethical concerns (I had to quit because it was trashing my health and I could no longer ignore that). As a vegetarian, I refused to eat fake meat because I didn’t want to emulate meat – it made no sense to do that. Instead, I found creative uses for the foods I was ok with eating. And, yes, sometimes the end result resembled a hamburger but NOT because I was trying to make a hamburger. The point is, even if the food looked like I was trying to create fake meat, I was not at all interested in revisiting this food I was quitting.
    I’ve been cooking every meal of the day for many, many years and I think I can say I’m a pretty inventive cook. To me, to make a paleo lasagna – which in fact I did a couple of days ago – is not to make a lasagna because I miss the noodles or something. It is to experiment with a familiar format of layering meat and veggies, and creating an original tomato sauce. Likewise, to make a paleo pumpkin “pie” with no sugar (literally pumpkin, spice, coconut milk and egg with a few pecans and coconut flakes on top) is not to create a desert that I missed, but to make a simple, warming snack.
    So, while I get the point here: it’s stupid to make a paleo cookie because I miss a cookie and that is missing the point. I don’t see what is wrong with mixing a few healthy ingredients into a heap that I can use as a snack on the go, even if it resembles a cookie.
    I guess when I quit a food, I either do it because I want it out of my life or I just don’t quit it. I don’t have this drive to try to “quench a thirst” for said food by making a pretend version of it.

  16. says


    We’ve never suggested there is anything wrong with eating the way you are describing. At all. It sounds pretty healthy, balanced and satisfying to us.

    Making Paleo versions of unhealthy foods to satisfy your unhealthy cravings and then justifying them to yourself by saying they are healthy choices because they use “healthy” ingredients, well… that’s what we take issue with. And I think that point was made pretty clearly in our article.

    Although some would love to extrapolate this out to us hating on any and all desserts, treats or Paleo-ified foods, that’s simply not our position. Never has been.


  17. Brooke says

    You had me up until “but paleo fried chicken is okay.” Paleo fried chicken is replacing junky fried chicken. The idea of comfort food in general is the same negative relationship with food you say your program is aiming to squash.

  18. says


    If you don’t believe that making a different version of “fried chicken” fits in with your idea of a Whole30, then I absolutely suggest you leave it out of your Whole30 program.


  19. says

    This is the exact article I needed to read today. I’ve been on Paleo for about 2 weeks now and just now found myself googling “Paleo Pancakes” right before I landed on this article.

  20. Rachel McAlister says

    By saying this, you are assuming that all people are inconsistent and lack any sort of self control. I enjoy raw brownies as a treat every once in a while, and if someone made a nice butternut squash spaghetti with Brazil nut pesto I would not find a problem with it! However, this does not mean that I miss real brownies or spaghetti. In fact since I have been eating this way, I actually prefer the healthy version as it has real flavor. I would not advocate eating these dishes as an every day affair, because they are time consuming and (the desserts) are still calorie dense, but villifying this food seems a bit much to me. THis diet plan seems no better than weight Watchers in the way that it advises to essentially torture yourself for 30 days. The promotional indormation even refers to it as,”extreme” and,: difficult.” If people are as unsidisciplined as you are insinuating that they are, they will most likely revert back to their old habits after the 30 days is over. Also, I see no problem with eating quinoa, buckwheat, barley, groats, and beans. These foods are natural, nutrient dense, and have been sustaining people for thousands of years. In small portions they are an important aspect of one’s diet.

  21. Tim Myer says

    In response to Rachel’s comments, while I agree that having a “healthy” treat once in a while is not really a big deal. A majority of people aren’t at a place yet where they can get by on snacking once in a while. You seem to be at that place so kudos to you, but case in point is the obesity epidemic this country is facing. Most people have no self control when it comes to eating. The idea behind 30 days free of that stuff isn’t about torture but to break people’s addiction to certain types of food. I’ve personally completed two 30 day challenges and one 60 day challenge. It is rough the first couple weeks, but after that I feel better than ever. When I’m not doing it 100% I generally eat the way you describe yourself as eating however there’s something to be said for sustained abstinence from certain kinds of food that doing 90-95% “clean” just doesn’t get you. After complete abstinence from things like “quinoa, buckwheat, barley, groats, and beans” I noticed that when I do consume them, even in small quantities I swell a bit, my head feels foggy, less energy, more stomach issues and less concentration. It was only through avoiding those things altogether for a period of time and then reintroducing them into my diet that I was able to notice the negative impacts they were having on my well being.

  22. Michele says

    I understand however, my issue is that I can’t eat scrambled eggs and veggies everyday so I thought I could have the pancakes twice a week to help break it up. I need 3 or 4 go to breakfast recipes that are quick and easy for my life style. Lunch and dinner don’t seem to be an issue for me, just breakfast. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


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