I was 11 years old when I went on my first diet.
Since then I’ve tried just about every restrictive food fad under the sun. When the industry promoted a low-fat and high-carb diet, I crunched my way through the cracker diet. And once I got bored, I sipped my way to skinny on the lemonade diet. I’ve tried every diet craze in between. Going out to dinner with friends, family, and colleagues became a chore. I felt like my life was on pause. When everyone else started digging into their appetizers, I was still inspecting the menu for something that would fit my diet. When my willpower became exhausted—which it did quite often—you could find me elbow deep into a vat of ice cream. Bouncing between extremes, I suppose you can say I was chasing perfection—the perfect body and the perfect life (whatever that means).
Can you relate?
It was 16 years ago that I walked into my first yoga class not realizing it would change my whole outlook on food and life.
Finding Your Midline
At first, I was that person in the room who couldn’t even touch her toes. I remember looking around at others who were so pretzel-y and thinking, “I want to do that!” I was eager to nail arm balances and handstands, but that stuff wouldn’t come until I understood and mastered the basics.
Through years of practice, I came to understand the core principles of the body and how strength is the key component in flexibility. We must be strong in order to bend.
On my yoga mat, the fun really began once I developed that strong foundation. Once I knew what it felt like to be in proper alignment, I could veer out of alignment and easily flow right back to my center. This is called the midline, and that sense of grounding led me to reexamine how I operated in the kitchen.
Don’t Diet. Eat Flexibly.
Rather than restrictive fad diets that don’t work in the long run, I knew I needed to figure out my midline. How many desserts could I eat without falling into a constant state of binging? How much gluten-free pasta could I tolerate before I was left feeling bloated, sluggish, and too stuffed?
Since I know I don’t do so well with gluten or grains, you will never find those foods on my plate. Again, we must be strong in order to bend. And while I’ve learned that I can’t handle nearly as many desserts at my husband can, I do let myself indulge in sweet treats about 10 percent of the time.
I’ve also turned my kitchen into a laboratory, spending hours transforming classic dishes into healthified versions. Munching on cauliflower pizza, chicken lettuce wraps, and gluten-free cookies mean I never feel denied. But if I do have a night where I veer slightly off course, I’m able to pull myself right back to my middle the next morning without beating myself up over it.
This more flexible approach to food has brought more fulfillment and ease into my life. I’ve come to realize that the food I eat needs to fit in with the life I want – not the other way around.
So what’s your midline? How can you take a good look at your diet and, more importantly, your relationship with food to find a healthy place?