Doing Whole30 is kind of like studying abroad: once you do it, do you ever really stop talking about it?
A few months ago, I completed the notorious elimination diet and have been throwing it into conversation and writing about it every chance I get—it was hell, and I deserve it. And yes, I have written about how I never want to do it again, and I still stand by that most days. But time does heal all wounds, and I’ve learned that it makes you occasionally look back on the month you stopped eating everything you love with fondness too.
In all seriousness, doing Whole30 again is not on my radar at this point in time. Like skydiving or going on a Disney cruise, it’s something you only need to do once unless you’re insane. But unlike skydiving or going on a Disney cruise, I learned something from my experience, and those lessons are things I keep with me in my day-to-day life.
As much as I bash it, Whole30 taught me a lot about my body and how it responds to eating different things, and it taught me how quickly you can adapt to new eating habits. Especially while being in self-isolation, I’ve been trying to eat in a way that makes me feel my absolute best—which isn’t always easy. These are the Whole30 hacks that help me do it:
1. Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep
If there is one thing Whole30 taught me, it is the value of a good meal prep. When you have a million dietary restrictions, you need to prep literally everything you’re going to consume during the day ahead of time. I’ve been looking forward to cooking dinner every day lately (hey, I have nothing else to do!), but I’ve found that I don’t like using my lunch breaks to actually cook lunch. Instead, I meal prep a couple of lunch options for the week ahead of time so I know I’m not going to convince myself to order Jimmy John’s at noon every day because it will stimulate the economy.
2. Prep sides—not meals
I used to associate meal prepping with a dozen containers full of ready-to-go meals, but these days it looks a whole lot different to me.
Instead of prepping whole meals together, I prep sides and pick and choose which ones I want each day. For example, instead of prepping burrito bowls, I’ll put my chicken, rice, beans, etc. into different containers, and then can choose what I want every day. With different ingredients and sauces each day, it tricks me into feeling like I’m not actually eating the same meal four times in one week.
3. Plan your snacks ahead of time
I’ll shout it from the rooftops: I’m a snacker! If it were up to me, I’d graze all day long, every day. This is a habit I only broke briefly, and it was during Whole30.
During Whole30, like my meals, I had to be ready with snacks in case of emergency. Having things that I have already ready to go to eat between meals—fruit with nut butter, plain nuts, etc.—makes me reach for that instead of the Skinny Pop that I actually want. This has been even more useful to me now since working from home makes it easier than ever to snack all day.
4. Substitute your condiments
Whole30 makes eating condiments and dressings difficult; either you need to make them yourself, or find approved versions. Luckily, they aren’t difficult to find these days (Primal Kitchen makes a Whole30-approved line that you can get on Amazon or at Whole Foods!).
This is something I don’t think I’ll ever give up: instead of buying the regular ranch or mayo that I ordinarily would, I use Whole30-approved versions—even now. You truly cannot tell the difference taste-wise, and it makes my meals just a little bit healthier without any extra effort.
5. Make sure you’re actually eating meals
When you’re home for two months straight and the days and hours blur together, it can be easy to make popcorn for dinner or skip out on breakfast—and while it’s a rite of passage to do occasionally, making sure you’re eating full meals during this time is vital for keeping your head on straight and preventing any hangriness that might occur.
Whether it be pizza or fried chicken or a salad, make sure you’re eating a real meal. Even though it can be easy to eat little foods all day, they probably never actually equal out to the nutrients or calories your body needs. During Whole30, it was easy to forget that I needed to pause and eat a meal (mostly because I was looking forward to them less), and I feel that same way now. If need be, set specific time into your schedule where you’ll eat a solid meal every day.
6. Don’t worry about perfection
During Whole30, it’s easy to get obsessed with what you’re putting in your body—reading labels, checking nutrition, the works. During this high-anxiety time, I’d say the same is possible. If you’re someone who’s taking isolation to eat healthy and be productive, great, but don’t beat yourself up about it when that isn’t the case. We all need pizza and chocolate and late-night comfort foods right now, and at the end of the day, that should be the least of your worries.