Actress Busy Philipps has pretty much become the unsung hero of Instagram, thanks to her relatable (and often hilarious) takes on everything from her workouts to #momlife. So it’s no surprise her thoughts on the Whole30 diet are just as real as the rest of her posts. Philipps just wrapped up a round of the hardcore eating plan, and she shared her takeaways from the 30-day experience on Instagram stories.
“I just did it cause literally every person I’ve ever known was doing it and I thought it would be good to get myself back on track before the holidays and an interesting challenge. Which it was. Both of those things. Yay!!,” she wrote in an Instagram caption.
Challenge might be an understatement: The Whole30 program is similar to an elimination diet. The program’s rules dictate that sugar, alcohol, grains (including whole grains), legumes, dairy, and more are all out for 30 days.
It’s worth noting that many registered dietitians don’t recommend trying an eating plan as restrictive and short-lived as Whole30. “It eliminates certain categories of foods, like dairy, grains, and legumes, which we know are important for health,” says Los Angeles-based dietitian Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D. Plus, “it’s hard to stick to, and it’s black and white—if you mess up, you have to restart,” she adds.
As for Philipps, she learned a few things of her own. Number one? The first week sucks, she said. It also illuminated just how addicted she was to sugar (her go-to treat is cinnamon gummy bears, so cutting them out was rough, she said). This wasn’t all bad, though: “Because I haven’t been able to alleviate feelings through eating food, it forced me to sort of find other ways to deal,” she said, Health reports.
“I am actually proud that I made it through all 30 days cause there were a few days that were rough. (Especially when I really wanted tequila or gummy bears…),” she also wrote. But overall, she says she’d try it again.
If you’re wondering how Philipps made it to the end in one piece, she capped off her Instagram story with some helpful tidbits she picked up along the way. Here are her three biggest tips for surviving a round of Whole30, as well as registered dietitians’ advice on how to implement them in your own healthy eating objectives, whether you’re trying Whole30 or not. (Before we move on, an important disclaimer: Before cutting out any food group or trying an eating plan that radically changes your diet, you should consult with a health professional, especially if you have a history of disordered eating.)
1. Enlist an accountability buddy.
Philipps suggests getting a partner to do it with you—for her, it was her husband, screenwriter Marc Silverstein. “Having an accountability partner helps on so many levels,” says Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “You have someone to help cheer you on when you have successes and to help encourage you if you’re feeling defeated.” Knowing you’re accountable to another person also helps ensure you’ll prioritize your efforts when life gets busy, adds Bannan.
A good accountability partner should be someone whose commitment level is similar to yours, says Gorin—maybe that’s a spouse, a best friend, or even an acquaintance who is also serious about their goals. It’s also important to feel energized and motivated by your buddy, says Bannan, not drained or bummed out.
No matter what changes you’re trying to implement, the right partner can make them easier to maintain and more fun. “Even if you’re just trying to get healthier, be more active, or eat better, having a partner to help you with that is key,” says Bannan.
2. Cook at home as much as possible, and seek out inspiration when things get boring.
Cooking at home as much as possible helps you stick to the guidelines, Philipps said. But to avoid a sad rotation of blah meals, she turned to Instagram to find new recipes that kept her going. Pinterest can also be an excellent tool for hunting down new options, and there are whole blogs devoted to Whole30-friendly recipes. (Here are 11 essential ones.)
Since many condiments are off-limits in the Whole30 guidelines, Gorin also suggests mixing things up in other ways. “Keep things interesting by mixing up flavor with spices and herbs. You can add a lot of flavor with spices and herbs like garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, cinnamon, and nutmeg,” she says.
3. When you’re eating out, stick to lean protein and veggies, and get specific about preparation.
Lean protein paired with vegetables was Philipp’s go-to formula for (mostly) Whole30-friendly dinners out. She also asked for everything to be prepared without butter, she added. “Once you’re at the restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask questions about how menu items are prepared and to request changes, such as asking for your vegetables to be steamed instead of fried,” says Gorin.
And even if you’re not doing Whole30, Gorin suggests looking up the menu ahead of time. “This is my number one tip for anyone who’s dining out and trying to eat healthy,” she says. “Pick out one or two options that fit within your dietary guidelines. This way, you won’t be tempted to change your mind and order something more decadent at the last minute.”
As for Philipps, by day 31, she was ready for a cocktail (and, assumedly, some gummy bears).