Really, we hope by this point in your Paleo challenge (or whatever challenge you’re doing) that you’ve gotten your cravings under control and that you’re slowly but surely turning over a new leaf when it comes to the way you think about food. In fact, we hope you’re a tad bit weary of re-entering the non-challenge world and that you will continue to participate in challenges with us and overall lead a healthy and more satisfying lifestyle.
For some people, this home stretch will fly by. For others, the days will tick on without end, with chicken nuggets and a Diet Coke juuuuust out of reach. Either way, we’ve got a few tips for staying your course for the next week and two days and beyond that.
1. Make More Than What You Need
Hopefully by now you’ve figured out that at least 50 percent of meal prepping is essentially making massive amounts of leftovers.
Although we all have the best intentions when it comes to making 21 homemade meals a week, it just isn’t realistic for most people to cook. every. single. thing. they. eat. before. they. eat. it. By making more than what you need, you can stretch your ingredients (and money) from one meal to several meals and ensure that you’re never caught without good food on hand.
2. Plan for the Unexpected
Monday afternoon, I found myself in the emergency room with a friend. Everyone knows how quickly E.R. departments usually work (ha!) so after several hours of waiting to see a doctor, I found myself in quite the bind. I was hungry, and by hungry I mean HANGRY and the closest form of sustenance was an Arby’s across the street.
Now, if this was a year ago, I might have been in some real trouble. Sure, I could have trudged over to Arby’s in the freezing cold and spent 20 minutes arguing with the teenage cashier about how to ring up JUST roast beef — I don’t want the bread, dang it — but luckily, I’ve learned a lot since then. As soon as I found out I was going somewhere where I didn’t have a defined time table of when I would be back home, I grabbed an apple, some almonds and a LaCroix to stick in my car.
This is a good policy to follow pretty much always. Stick something in your car or in your gym bag to carry just in case. You never know when you may be stuck in traffic or find yourself running behind with no time to grab food. Avoid using sweet treats like fruit or protein bars as you may find yourself munching on those in a moment of weakness to satisfy a sugar craving. Speaking from experience over here guys — yes, that was me crying and stuffing my face with dried apricots at the red light because I had a bad day.
3. Have Some Fast Food Options
This might sound totally unproductive since one of the main thrusts of eating Paleo is to avoid eating out and eat most of your meals at home with good, quality ingredients. However, life is life and sometimes you’re going to have to go out to eat.
Whether it’s a social occasion or you’re simply exhausted and cannot fathom putting together a weeknight dinner, have a couple of clean meal ideas on hand to turn to. It’s much better to grab some grilled chicken from Chick-fil-A or a nice salad from Subway than to find yourself splurging on a Big Mac because you were hungry and made a bad decision. Make provisions so that even when you aren’t in a great headspace for decision making (I just DON’T WANNA COOK DINNER, UGH!) you don’t have any excuses for falling off the wagon. Again, speaking from experience here.
Remember, we’re striving to Be a Better You, not a perfect you.
If you find yourself in a social-type setting where you’re expected to go out to eat for mom/best friend’s/neighbor’s cousin’s friend’s birthday, stick to simplicity. You can order a steak and a baked potato or a plain salad sans dressing at almost any restaurant in America. If you have a choice in the matter, steer your family or friends towards seafood or a Hispanic restaurant where there are lots of meat and veggie options. And have your emergency food (see number 2) stashed in your car just in case!
Note: If you are on Whole30, you will need to be much more careful when ordering out. It’s up to you to make sure the things you’re eating are compliant!
4. Try Something New
I bet the first week of the challenge, you were PUMPED. I know I was — I went to the grocery store and bought all these fun ingredients and had bunches of scrumptious meals planned out.
Three weeks later, the enthusiasm has dimmed a little, to say the least. At this point, you’re so tired of eating chicken you could cry and even sweet potatoes have lost a little of their grandeur.
Don’t let food boredom set in! It’s completely normal to feel this way, but you have to fight it. Jump on Pinterest and find some new recipes to try or head over to our Food section for some new fun ways to cook the same ole’ same ole’. Check out our Weird Food Wednesday or try to cook using an ingredient you’ve never used before.
The secret to success when it comes to healthy eating is to have fun. You’re not doing this to make yourself miserable — you’re doing it because you want to improve yourself and you should do everything you can to make it a positive process because hey, you deserve it!
5. Start Making Plans for the After Life
I start getting a little nervous when I get to the end of a challenge because I feel so good and I don’t want to mess that up. I love the results I’m getting — weight loss, new PRs in the gym, lots of energy and my skin looks awesome!
But what if I eat all the things? How am I even going to decide what to eat when I finish? What if I fall off the wagon and never, ever get back on?
These are all perfectly normal fears because unfortunately, for a lot of people that’s reality. They started this challenge as a New Year’s resolution or because they wanted to lose a little weight and now that they’ve tried it or reached their goal weight, they’ll start the vicious cycle all over again.
Don’t be that person. Plan for your after life. For me, the after life will look something like this: a cheat meal on completion of the challenge (I’ve got donuts on the brain in case you can’t tell) and then I’m right back at it with one exception: I’ll allow myself one cheat meal each weekend.
What do you want your after life to look like? Start thinking now so you aren’t caught unaware on Feb. 1. And of course if you do get off track or if you want to ensure you stay on the right path, you can always sign up for another challenge with us on Feb. 1.
What valuable tips have you learned during your challenge? Please share with us and our readers!
Interested in signing up for our February challenge? Click here for more information on how to sign up or here for more tips on how to smash a nutrition challenge.