I used to be way too hard on myself in all aspects of life. Have you ever felt a nagging voice inside your head that urges you to be better, faster, and, well, perfect over present? Over the last few decades, I’ve adopted a more flexible approach to life that includes giving myself a break more often. I was recently interviewed by Stevie Wright, founder of Life Wright Wellness, about living a more craveable life. Check out the fun Q&A:
Q: Tell me about the whole idea behind your flexible eating philosophy.
A: I call myself a recovering perfectionist because for most of my life I followed strict diets and recipes. I was constantly saying no to certain foods in order to say yes to a better and healthier body. A big problem with being so rigid is, eventually, your willpower becomes exhausted. When I wasn’t on some crazy fad diet, I was binging on chips and struggling to get back to my center. So I know what it’s like to bounce between extremes of deprivation and excess; from self-loathing to self-loving. I’ve been there.
Since marrying my husband, birthing four children, and taking a deep dive into my yoga practice, I’ve learned to be more flexible in all aspects of my life. I’ve learned that it’s okay to indulge every once in a while, as long as you have a solid foundation, a strong sense of purpose, values, and perspective. We all have to figure out what works best for us – because we’re all different. For me, I know I don’t do so well with gluten or grains. So I don’t bend there. But digging into a healthified treat from time-to-time helps me stay sane (cauliflower steak pizza or a gluten-free cookie, anyone?). As you zig and zag between healthy eating and responsible indulging, hard work and hard play, remember to find what works best for you!
Q: How did you come across this idea? Was dieting something you struggled with personally?
A: If you can believe it, I was on my first diet at the age of 12. As a kid, I struggled with my weight and went through a period of extreme dieting. I’ve experimented with everything from the carrot diet, a lemonade and cracker only diet, and far too many others. None of them lasted, though, because they weren’t realistic. When I turned 17, I started teaching fitness classes and got a true taste of healthy. I always say that I turned my life into a laboratory and conducted my own experiments until I found the recipe for a more craveable life.
Q: How flexible are you? Do you ever say no to a craving?
A: Flexibility can only come from a strong foundation. So to maintain a solid ground, I do say no to cravings all the time. I love gluten-laden bagels and donuts, but know that one bite has the potential to pull me too far from my center. So I only flex and bend outside of my healthy “normal” as much as I know I can handle. Like I said above, that’s different for each of us. Once you find what works for your, though, you’ll start to crave the feeling of healthy more than that sugary treat.
Q: What would you tell someone who’s done tons of denial diets over the years, only to find themselves back at square one and feeling like a failure?
A: It’s always important to listen to your body, find what works for you, and stop being so hard on yourself. If you’ve fallen into a trap of potato chips, ice cream, and pizza, just take a step back. Figure out what your body is trying to tell you. If you’re craving meat, maybe your Iron level is low (I know this one from experience). If you’re craving chocolate, maybe you need to add more magnesium into your diet. I personally fill my plate with nourishing salads and lean proteins 90% of the time. Then, to keep my sweet tooth satisfied, I play around with ingredients to create better-for-you snacks and treats.
Nealy is the founder and director of The Flexible Chef. She inspires people to eat and to live well, and ultimately to crave a healthy lifestyle. Nealy has been a leader in the wellness industry for two decades and has founded projects including luxury yoga retreats, cooking programs, and women’s empowerment courses around the world.