Hello, lovelies!

I've talked in passing about the Whole30 here before, but today I want to talk about what doing a Whole30 looks like in practice when you're a person who works 50-60 hours a week and rarely has time to properly cook before crashing into bed after being on your feet for 13 hours. This is the kind of eating that I have found works best for me when I want to look, feel, and perform my best, and making it work for my lifestyle has been absolutely vital to maintaining my weight loss.

Whole30 eating is basically a super strict Paleo diet, rich in veggies, nuts, fruits, healthy fats, and animal proteins. It excludes dairy, all grains, all legumes (beans and peanuts), all sweeteners (even agave and honey, which are allowed by paleo standards), and white potatoes (again, allowed by most paleo standards). Whole30 eating focuses on having filling, nutritionally sound meals with minimal snacking in between. Here's why Whole30 eating works for me: it requires virtually no critical thinking or will-power. There's never that moment where you are having "only" a sliver of cake at a friend's birthday or trying to have only one slice of bread with your pasta for dinner. It's not on plan, so you can't have it, period. You can have anything that is on plan until you are full, and nothing that is off plan. While the first few weeks are a struggle, it eventually breaks you of your addiction to and cravings for foods that are primarily emotionally satisfying while bearing little nutritional value. For a person who has a physically demanding job and does high intensity work outs, being allowed to eat when I am hungry and to eat until I am full dramatically improves my quality of life and my mental health. Whole30 eating has been the first type of "diet" that I have been able to sustain long term without it becoming an all-consuming, anxiety-inducing endeavor.

So how do I go about making it work for my busy lifestyle? Enter Melissa Joulwan, blogger and author of the incredible cookbooks Well Fed and Well Fed 2. In Well Fed, Melissa goes in depth about what works for them regarding prep, grocery shopping, and eating on a weekly basis, covering basics such as how much protein to buy for people of different sizes and dietary needs, complemetary flavors and food pairings, and how to prep different types of foods for storage up to a week. Her fundamentals include "steam sautéing" veggies partially so that you can finish them off in minutes in a pan, make-ahead sauces that bring a delicious pop of flavor to any dish, and proteins that bulk up and fill out your meals. Being insanely neurotic, I have organized my fridge accordingly; sauces and condiments on the top shelf, cooked proteins in the middle shelf, and ready-to-go veggie bases on the bottom shelf. Anything in a container with corners must be combined with something from the other two shelves to make a meal, anything that is in a round container is a grab-and-go meal. This system is so fool-proof that even my rice-loving, take-out-gobbling, largely kitchen-hopeless partner has it figured out and will take beautiful paleo meals to work with him, skipping out on the empty calories so beloved by his trading firm compadres.

So what about when life completely gets away from me and we can't eat through our prep for the week before it goes off? When I first started making paleo meals, I accepted waste as a part of it. And, to an extent, it still is. The lost dollars in the things you throw away is still less than what you would spent to eat out for those meals (living in a big city makes laziness soooo easy...). But I have, over time, figured out how to account for that for the most part. Freezing has become my great ally. I make big batches of sauces on a day off and then freeze them in ice cube trays. Once they've set, I crack them out into zip-lock bags and store them in the freezer. No more throwing away sauces that didn't get consumed before they went off or eating the same two sauces alllllllll week to minimize waste. Want a different sauce every meal? Cool. You've got seven to choose from in the freezer. Throw two cubes in a container with veggies and proteins and they'll be saucy and ready to go by the time lunch rolls around. I put par cooked veggies on a baking sheet in the freezer two days before they hit their expiration and bag them up once they're frozen through, and do the same with proteins. Then, when that week rolls around when I don't have time to cook at all, I have things ready that I can throw together on my way out the door. If you freeze things thoroughly on a baking sheet, separated from their little friends, before you bag them up, you don't end up with a two pound block-o-cabbage that you must defrost in its entirety to use; you can throw a variety of frozen veggies, proteins, and sauces in a container and voíla, homemade frozen meals. Anything I don't intend to cook during my weekly cook up I tend to buy frozen (Trader Joe's is great for this!) so that I'm not throwing away beautiful proteins that I forgot to cook before they expired.

As with any change in such a fundamental part of your life as eating, you have to figure out a way to make it work within the existing framework of your lifestyle. For me, that meant it had to be economical (I'm willing to spend on grass-fed meats and organic produce, but I'm not willing to throw it away), time-efficient, idiot-proof (I love my partner, I really, really do!), nutritionally sound, and tasty. What do you do to make your diet practical for your lifestyle? I wanna hear all about it! (: