I’ve seen (and experienced) first-hand how stressful the Whole30 can be, but I also know how wonderful it is, which is why I have completed six more full Whole30s since my first one. Over the last two years I’ve learned some tricks that help me remain stress-free during Whole30.
1. Don’t underestimate the power of planning and prepping
I really don’t like meal planning. I know some people that do it and love it and that’s great, but it’s kind of a chore for me. You don’t have to plan out every single meal for your Whole30 in advance, although that would probably be amazing if you wanted to do that. What you do need to do though, is make sure you’re prepared.
You’re probably wondering, okay, so how do I prepare? Unfortunately there’s not one right answer to that question. What works for me might not work for you, so you’ll need to find your own balance, but I can help you get started!
For you, preparing might mean going to the store on Sunday, meal prepping for the entire week, and labeling every single meal in your fridge for easy access. I find this works really well if you have a busy schedule.
If you’re like me, and you like a little more freedom, you might go to the store multiple times each week, shopping for a few meals at a time, capturing inspiration when you can, and storing ideas for future reference. I keep a running list of meal and recipe ideas in a notes application on my phone.
The main goal is to not use up your mental energy making small decisions about what to eat, how to eat it, or where you’ll get it. Having the right food in your fridge is the first step, knowing what to do with it is the second step, and then finally, getting it into your belly is the last step.
If any of those steps uses up too much of your mental energy, you’re going to get stressed out, trust me. If you like getting creative in the kitchen, figuring out what to eat and how to eat it might not be very stressful; but, if you’re very busy and don’t have have the mental resources to be spontaneously creative, you’ll do yourself a favor by prepping some meals in advance and coming up with a weekly meal plan.
2. Don’t give yourself an out
When I’m doing a Whole30, “cheating” or “messing up” just aren’t options for me. On the first day of my Whole30, it’s like I flip a switch in my head. I’m “on” Whole30. Period. I don’t have to make any more tough decisions about food for the rest of the month.
What I mean is this: There are no exceptions during a Whole30, so in one moment, I have eliminated the need to make hundreds of decisions for the rest of the month. I don’t have to decide to not eat that cookie at the coffee shop. I don’t have to decide to eat the “healthy” option at a restaurant. I don’t have to decide to not drink that beer. All of those decisions have already been made on that first day!
You may think, but I already know that, Paula. I’ve read It Starts With Food and I know that there’s no cheating allowed on Whole30. Great! You’ve made the first step. However, just knowing that isn’t enough. You have to actually make a conscious decision. If you truly make the decision to commit at the beginning of your Whole30, it will be so much easier.
3. Keep your freezer stocked
Keeping your freezer stocked with frozen meals is an excellent way to reduce stress during your Whole30. Having a particularly busy day? Don’t stress about dinner, there’s an entire meal all ready in your freezer that you don’t even have to think about!
At any given time, the following (give or take a few items) can be found in my freezer:
Breakfast sausage patties
Ground meat (uncooked)
Turkey patties (easily cooked straight from the freezer)
Having your freezer stocked means having a backup plan for those days when you’re struggling.
4. Be prepared for eating out
Going out can be extremely stressful when you’re on a Whole30. Personally, I don’t like to draw attention to myself if I’m in a group of friends by making a fuss over my food. My advice is to prepare yourself mentally for these occasions.
Researching the menu of a restaurant in advance is always a good idea. Most restaurants list their menus online, so it’s fairly easy. I have even called restaurants many times to ask about specific ingredients and dishes so I won’t have to ask when I get there.
Pick something that you won’t have to worry about. Grilled meat is usually a good option, but you have to be mindful of marinades. For example, fajitas seem like a really good option for eating at a Mexican restaurant, but almost all of the places I’ve been to marinate their meat in soybean oil. Agh!
For me, a hamburger is usually the safest, easiest, and most delicious option. A big juicy hamburger (served without a bun, of course) with a side of avocado or guacamole on top of some mixed greens is so satisfying and won’t get you too many weird looks. 🙂
5. Avoid getting into diet debates
This is a big one for me, because I am not a fan of confrontation. Food and diet are such a sore spot for so many people, and people tend to have very strong opinions about what’s healthy and what’s not. So how do you avoid getting into heated discussions about your eating choices?
For starters, I don’t go around announcing I’m on Whole30. That’s been a little bit more difficult now that I have a blog and essentially everyone I know knows that I “do” Whole30. If someone wants to ask me about Whole30, I’m more than happy to talk to them about it, but I don’t ever bring it up just for the sake of discussion.
Sometimes though, people will pick at you. I’ve had many people notice when I order something “odd” at a restaurant, decline an alcoholic beverage, or bring a veggie platter to a party. Sometimes I receive compliments or benign comments about how “good” I am for being able to make healthy choices. The weird thing is, people also sometimes get offended by the way I’m eating.
Those who are more passive aggressive may roll their eyes or make indirect rude comments, while those slightly more bold individuals may badger me about the science behind Whole30 or ask for proof that bread is bad. My favorite way to handle these folks is to offer to let them borrow my book (It Starts With Food), tell them that I enjoy the way I feel when I’m doing a Whole30, and remind them that everyone’s body is different.
I’ve rarely had anyone pursue further debate after defusing the situation in this way. And who knows, maybe they will borrow your book, and maybe they’ll have to eat crow later on (I suppose that would be Whole30 compliant) after they complete their own Whole30.
What are your tips for managing stress during a Whole30?