Newport Beach native and Model Meals founder Danika Brysha struggled with her relationship with food before trying the Whole30 diet when she moved to New York for plus-size modeling in 2014. Among the many health benefits she experienced from eliminating inflammatory foods, Brysha also lost a significant amount of weight, effectively putting her out of work. She started cooking and selling Whole30 meals out of her studio apartment to make money, but the expenses put her further in debt. Brysha moved back to O.C. and into her parents’ garage in 2015 to create a Whole30 meal delivery service. Four years later, Model Meals has expanded across the country, and Brysha is modeling again for companies that include Talbots and Old Navy.
What major differences did you feel after you first tried Whole30?
I took Adderall after college to help me focus. I realized I was losing a lot of creativity and my personality with prescription drugs, so when I did Whole30, I got off them and I was able to focus better with food and sobriety. At the end of those 30 days, my mind was blown and everything became clear.
Why did you decide to make Model Meals nonsubscription-based?
We’re not a subscription because busy people who are ordering our meals don’t want to think about food. I don’t want you to have to worry about canceling a subscription. You can get four or 40 meals, and it’s a la carte so you can get whatever you need and it’s not like you’re locked into this thing for an endless amount of time. But we do have a subscription option if people email us for it.
How many meals are delivered each week?
Our menu changes weekly; we deliver anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 meals. We’re delivering to about 10 more states this year. Our Santa Ana kitchen is going to serve Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Whole30 focuses on eliminating foods that cause inflammation. Why is it important to avoid these types of foods?
Inflammation is what feeds disease in our body. Our gut is called our second brain because it impacts so much of how we feel. If we’re eating food that’s inflaming our body, we’ll run into all sorts of issues. The best thing you can do for yourself is to tune in to your body and notice how you feel when you eat something. It’s all about mindfulness.
How do you find balance with this plan?
I’m not always the perfect eater. I had fries today with my lunch because I wanted them. It took me a long time to give myself that permission. This whole wellness thing can go in the opposite direction and can make people feel shameful and like if they’re not doing it perfectly then they shouldn’t do it at all. But that shouldn’t be the case. I really like the phrase “progress not perfection.”