So you’ve successfully made it through your short-term diet plan. You deserve a huge pat on the back (even for those times you had a couple of slip-ups). But here’s the thing—we want this new way of eating to become your way of life. With tons of people living happily on a Whole30, vegan, low-sugar, or Paleo plan, it’s totally possible to turn your 30-day program and into a lifestyle.
Transitioning Out of Your Diet
Let’s be real for a second. There are no quick fixes to weight loss. As a matter of fact, it’s a hell of a lot harder than just watching what you eat.
There is a not-so-glamorous term that many health professionals use to define what really works for losing weight and keeping it off, and it’s called “behavior modification.” In research with obese individuals, scientists have found that just changing eating patterns or exercise habits is not enough to create lasting change.
Instead, it’s imperative to address the social and psychological cues associated with overeating. Quite simply, following food rules for the rest of your life is not sustainable, so it’s important to dig deeper to determine why you are either going for junk food all of the time and/or eating too much (easier said than done, right?).
Research has found that these behavioral modifications should focus on psychological interventions. And new research points to the fact that cognitive behavioral therapy is the gold standard for treating obesity. In the case of the Greatist Reset (or any diet you choose), this may mean assessing why you chose the diet you did and whether it’s right for you. Did the low-sugar lifestyle give you more energy? Did you feel healthier eating more plants on the vegan plan? Once you recognize the reasoning behind those behaviors, it’s easier to make long-lasting changes.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of handling your post-diet mentality, here are some tips to really help you stick with the respective diet plan (or at least some aspects of it).
Phew—you may it through a month without sugar, alcohol, and bread. Now what? The founders have laid out ground rules for continuing a Whole30-ish eating plan for life.
- Eat Whole30-ish.
You’re probably dying for a piece of chocolate or glass of wine, and that’s totally OK. But the nice thing about doing the Whole30 for an entire month is that you’ve now learned how to eat plenty of whole foods without the junk (and proven to yourself that there are plenty of delicious recipes out there that are seriously good for you). Continue to do so and add in those indulgences on special occasions. Moderation is key to eating healthy and feeling good in the long run.
- Evaluate what’s worth it. If your birthday is coming up and you look forward to your favorite cupcake every year, by all means, indulge in the damn cupcake. But if you’re snacking on store-bought chocolate chip cookies while watching The Bachelor, ask yourself if it’s worth it. Food that brings you joy and is a once-in-a-while treat is worth the indulgence, while foods that you mindlessly eat are not. Do you really need that glass of wine after a long day as you sit on the sofa by yourself? Probably not. Save it (and a couple more) for a fun night out with friends come Friday.
- Be mindful of your food choices. When you do opt for something that’s not so healthy, savor it. Eat consciously, enjoy every bite, and do your best not to overeat.
- Don’t linger on the guilt. If you fall off the Whole30 bandwagon completely and can’t get out of the processed foods trap, don’t harp on your mistake. You’ve proven to yourself that you can do it, so pick yourself up and get back on. This afternoon, this evening, or tomorrow morning are all chances to start fresh.
If eating like a caveman is your thing, here are some tips to keep up with your new Stone Age habits.
- Don’t force it. If you love bread or are a marathon runner, don’t compel yourself to adapt to a lifestyle 100 percent if that doesn’t suit your needs. You did it for a month and you’re feeling really cut, but it’s time to evaluate if this is something that works for you in the long run. Maybe it is, because the beauty of Paleo is that you can still enjoy a slice of bread, muffins, pancakes, and cookies as long as they are made with Paleo-approved ingredients like almond and coconut flours, pure maple syrup, and coconut oil.
- Move outside of your meat comfort zone. Yup, you basically get to eat as much meat as you want on the Paleo diet. Pass the (compliant) bacon, please. But don’t forget about the nutrient-rich veggies that should fill up half your plate. You can also experiment with different types of meats so you don’t fall into the chicken/pork/fish rut. Visit a local butcher and learn about the hundreds of different beef cuts on offer.
- Graze a little less on grass-fed ghee. We know that Bulletproof coffee is oh-so-creamy, but when your diet is 70 percent butter or ghee (slight exaggeration) it can turn into an unhealthy habit. Stick to a small amount each day—maybe a teaspoon or two to cook your eggs and one to blend into your coffee, or to lend some taste to your steamed broccoli. Do your best not to go overboard.
Maybe you decided to embrace the veggie life. But if you spent the last month eating tofu and veggies, it’s time to venture out of your comfort zone. Here are some tips for making the vegan lifestyle last.
- Start with education. By now, you know that you can eat soy and veggies on a vegan diet, but there are plenty of other protein options, like seitan, tempeh, hemp, and quinoa that will give you a much-needed break from Tofurkey. Spend some time reading about various sources of vegan protein and make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats, B12, iron, and calcium.
- Don’t fall into the processed-food rut. There are tons of vegan-approved packaged foods out there, but just because you can have them doesn’t mean you always should. Keep these vegan snacks on hand so you’re stocked with the goods. But do your best to cook as much as you can at home because the beauty of vegan meals is that they can be whipped up pretty quickly. The longest you’ll have to wait is for vegetables to roast in the oven. And this is where the next tip fits in…
- Learn to cook. If you want to go plant-based, you’ve got to cook for yourself. Vegan options at restaurants are getting easier but can still be limited, so even grabbing a quick lunch might be difficult (the salad dressing has milk in it?!). Buy a vegan cookbook and spend a Saturday in the kitchen. Experiment with different proteins and dishes and get on board with meal-prepping so you know exactly what goes into your breakfast, lunch, and dinners.
- Make vegan friends but don’t get rid of old ones. Veganism is more than an eating pattern—it’s a way of life. Those who follow it are super passionate and are happy to teach you their ways. Go on Meetup.com and find a vegan potluck in your area. Make some vegan friends who know about the best vegan restaurants in the area. It’s much easier to continue a diet plan when you’ve got the support of your friends. On the flip side, don’t ditch your meat-eating friends just because they aren’t down with your diet choices. Make them a vegan dinner and get them involved, and they will come around to the fact that you’re ordering a veggie burger instead of beef.
If you’re feeling super energized after your month without added sugar, then it’s worth continuing this way of eating. But to do so, here are some things you need to remember.
- Read the labels on everything. Unfortunately, sugar lurks in tons of processed foods. Sriracha, salsa, soups, breads, crackers. You name it—it’s probably got some sugar in it. While it’s totally fine to eat some added sugar every day (the dietary guidelines range from no more than 25-50 grams), it can quickly sneak its way into your diet. Watch out for words like corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, malt syrup, sucrose, raw sugar, confectioners sugar, anhydrous dextrose, agave, and maple syrup in ingredient lists.
- Find low-sugar snacks. There are some processed snacks that do a good job of keeping sugar to a minimum. For instance, roasted chickpeas and kale chips are great salty (and crunchy) snacks to satisfy midday hunger. Of course, fruit and Medjool dates (have you ever added almond butter to a date?!) are always a great sweet snack without added sugar. Or if you’re dying for some ice cream, try making your own out of frozen bananas and turn it into an epic sundae that keeps your sugar in check.
- Keep sugar out of the house. Seriously, don’t keep an emergency bag of chocolate chip cookies hidden in a top cabinet. That’s a recipe for disaster. Make yourself go out and get those sweet treats if you really want them. Instead, leave a fresh fruit bowl on your counter or stock your cupboard with nuts.
No matter how you spent your 30 days, any healthy eating tips you can pick up along the way to make long-term changes is a win. You don’t have to be perfect (no one loves being a chronic dieter), but just aim to keep practicing the habits that resonated with you the most. If you need bread in your life, then you should eat it, and if you can’t live without cheese, then you should eat it. But being conscious of the food you enjoy on a daily basis can help you feel good, happy, and energized. And ain’t that what life is all about?