By Judith Forman
Whole30 Certified Coach
If there was ever a summer to look forward to, it’s the summer of 2021. After everything we’ve been through in the past 16 months, I think everyone is hoping to have the “best” summer ever this year.
But, what does that mean for your eating? Is this the summer of “eat, drink, and be merry” – where all rules are off? How do you balance wanting to enjoy a return to restaurants, friends, and socializing with keeping yourself feeling great through everything you’ve learned from Whole30?
Or do you take on a round of Whole30 so you have some structure in this summer of transition back to a more “normal” world?
The answer is…there is no right answer to step into this summer! But, as a Whole30 Certified Coach, I’m here to guide you as you make a game plan for the next few months.
What I am going to suggest is something that many people struggle with – living in a mindful Food Freedom. I know firsthand that this is DEFINITELY easier said than done. I started quarantine in March 2020 with a 100-day round of Whole30, but after so many months of Covid-related restrictions/remote work/remote schooling/overall stress, I felt (and sometimes still feel) that I “deserve” lots of treats for making it through the pandemic. I may be a Whole30 Coach but I am a human first – and there have been several occasions where I’ve soothed myself with chocolate and baked goods. Sometimes I actually truly wanted those things but there were times that I ate on auto pilot to push down feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and general malaise.
It took me a few months (and some sleepless nights due to the sugar consumption!) but I eventually “came to myself” and realized what I was doing. I didn’t beat myself up or feel guilty or shameful. I dug into my Food Freedom “toolbox” and all of my experience with Whole30 -- and simply acknowledged my actions. That was the first step. Then I told myself I didn’t “need” a treat every single night after dinner. I didn’t outright restrict them but instead thought about how I could eat more mindfully. I decided to check in with myself each day to see if dessert feels “worth it” instead of automatically reaching for it. I’m happy to report it’s going well – I know the sweets are there and I can have them if I want after I pause and assess the situation and my feelings.
If you haven’t read Melissa Urban’s Food Freedom Forever (or need a refresher), it makes for quick summer reading and can help you refocus so you can enjoy the summer without guilt or stress.
I plan to lean into this process to take me through the summer. I don’t want to be on a full Whole30 right now – I want to have some flexibility and freedom to enjoy an outdoor meal with friends or S’mores with my daughter. I do, however, have a solid base of Whole30 eating and layer treats on top of that. Whether I’m on a round or not, I always eat lots of vegetables, eggs, healthy fats, staple proteins including salmon, ground beef, and chicken thighs, and of course, meals from Cooked, which I order regularly. I also add food that is close to Whole30 but not quite – like Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi (which are not compatible because they’re considered recreated pasta) and TJ’s shrimp burgers, which include rice starch but are otherwise compatible.
I am also going to focus on the bounty of summer and enjoy as much seasonal produce as possible. I just signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) half share and I can’t wait to get cooking with the best of local vegetables. I plan to take my daughter strawberry picking with friends this year and enjoy as many fresh delicious cherries and blueberries as I can from local farmer’s markets. It’s all about enjoying what you CAN have. Check out these recipes from Whole30 for ways to spotlight summer produce in your cooking.
And I always move my body. For me, that’s a given, something that’s been consistently part of my life since I was in college. I don’t exercise to “earn” food. I exercise because it feels good and I love it. Summer is my favorite season and to me, there’s nothing better than running or walking outside. This is part of my personal recipe for feeling great – regardless of whether or not I’m on a round of Whole30.
If you start on the Food Freedom path but still feel like you are struggling, I suggest a mini Whole30 reset. You can do a Whole30 for a shorter number of days to help squash the Sugar Dragon or to get you through a particularly busy week or stressful event. For some people, following the rules of Whole30 – even for a few days – is just what they need to slide back into Food Freedom with ease, and refocus on choosing foods that serve them best.
However you choose to enjoy the summer, it’s important to remember to give yourself grace. We’ve lived through a pandemic – and we’ve had to adjust and shift in ways we’ve never had to before. It’s not about forcing yourself to be “perfect” with your eating. It’s about living in a way that makes you happy – which is something we’ve all learned this year is not a guarantee.
There is nothing wrong with focusing on some overall health goals and wanting to feel great this summer. I am right there with you. But, I also want to live and enjoy – and some of that involves experiences with food that’s not compatible with Whole30. I want to feel peace with my choices and with my body. And that is what Food Freedom is all about!
I checked in with some of my Whole30 Certified Coach friends for their best advice on how to approach the summer of 2021. Read on for their thoughts:
“I always remind my clients that food isn’t good or bad, and it’s important to make choices that work for you without feelings of guilt. Feeling our best is more than just about what we eat; it’s about focusing on people and the experiences that mean the most to you. Balance what you need to feed your mind, body, and your soul. Continue to be kind and gentle to yourself! In the end, what’s most important is to enjoy a full life, to remember that you are strong and amazing, to know you have the ability to make food choices that can be free of guilt and shame, and that you have the knowledge and skills to navigate food in a way that doesn’t have to control or limit you.”
“My top tip is ‘eat before you eat.’ Before going to a social occasion have a Whole30 compatible snack before leaving the house or take something with you to eat on the way. If you’re on a Whole30 having already eaten something compatible, it's easier to choose something from a limited menu. If you're living your Food Freedom the answer to the Is this worth it? question won't be influenced by hunger!
“My best tip to my clients (and myself!) is to create a flexible meal plan: Buy ingredients that sound good, chop and prep them – but don't make full meals. If you have all your veggies and meats prepped and what you have on your meal plan doesn't sound good... ADJUST. You can create lots of different meals with the same ingredients so don't burn yourself out on meals that don’t excite you. To allow for flexibility, leave one day open in your plan so that you can eat out at your favorite local spot or at a friend's house.”
“My top trick for summertime outings is to bring large veggie platter with a bowl of sunshine sauce in the middle. It’s great for snacking on when everyone else’s hands are in the chip bowl. I always bring this as a dish. I also cut up veggies and store them in large Ziploc bags in my fridge – along with a quart size mason jar full of sunshine sauce – so they’re ready to go for snacks or impromptu gatherings.”
“We're coming out of a global pandemic, while still navigating uncertainty and stress. This summer, my Food Freedom will include focusing on the experiences and connections I've missed and have been craving over the past year and a half – reunions with friends and family, postponed celebrations, family dinners, and opportunities to grieve with others. Food may or may not be a central part of those moments, but being mindful of what my values and goals are (those interpersonal connections) will help me be flexible when needed and make food decisions that enhance, not constrict, the enjoyment of these in-person social events.”
Judith Forman is a Whole30 Certified Coach. For more Whole30 inspiration, connect with her on Instagram @jujuswhole30 or check out her blog at www.everydaywhole.com