How Yoga Changed My Relationship With Food
I was 11 years old when my mom, with the best of intentions, took me to a nutritionist and put me on a calorie-counting diet. And so began a decade-long struggle with my weight and an unhealthy relationship with food.
I followed every diet in the book. In my teens, I was on a crackers-only diet, a soup diet, a grapefruit diet, and probably half a dozen others. I did this until my willpower grew exhausted, and I indulged in a tub of ice cream at midnight. Turns out, so many women I talk to have struggled with these same feelings and battled with their bodies and their image of themselves. But there was a turning point for me.
How yoga changed my perspective on food
18 years ago, pregnant with my first baby, I walked into my first yoga class. I went for the movement, to help promote a healthy pregnancy, not realizing it would gradually change my whole outlook on life.
After my baby was born, I stuck with it. I started taking regular Ashtanga classes as a way to regain my strength and confidence. During my first few classes as a new mom, I remember rolling my eyes under closed lids when I had to sit quietly with myself during meditation. And I was that person who couldn't even touch my toes, wishing I were more flexible. I persisted because the challenge motivated me, and I knew my hard work would eventually pay off.
It showed me the importance of being grounded yet flexible.
Several years into my regular yoga practice, I started teaching. I taught my students to open up to the possibility that their bodies and their lives can unfold in amazing ways. I taught them to find their midline—that place where they feel grounded, strong, and centered but also wild and free.
And the more I taught, the more I learned. I learned that eating healthfully and achieving optimal weight is about finding your midline in the kitchen, just as much as it is finding your midline on your mat. I understood, through experimenting, that restrictive fad diets don't work in the long run because they aren’t meant to last. Eating well is a balance between a strong foundation and an ability to bend your own food rules enough to enjoy life.
It helped me enjoy the present.
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. We are so bombarded these days with expectations, advice and the idea that we have to be perfect. Find some quiet space. Take a deep breath. Allow yourself to just “be”. Consider all the blessings in your life and what you are grateful for. Exercise and stretch because it brings you joy, not because you have to fix yourself.
It taught me to be intuitive.
I encourage you to ask yourself: What foods make your body feel the best? What foods leave you energized and which make you feel bloated and lethargic? How many treats can you have without falling into pizza and ice cream forever-land? Being flexible with food means being able to indulge without guilt one night and get back to your healthy habits the next day. It’s about taking a good look at your diet and your relationship with food, and figuring out how to get both to a healthier place you can live with.
Over time, and with patience, my muscles lengthened, my perspective widened, and I discovered how to be kind and loving toward myself again. The quiet space on my mat became a sanctuary where insights and reflections were possible. And as my body became strong and flexible, so did my outlook on my life.
Nealy Fischer is the founder of The Flexible Chef and author of the book, Food You Want For The Life You Crave. As a mother of four, home chef, yoga teacher, world traveler, and wellness entrepreneur, Nealy’s mission is to inspire people around the world to live their most vibrant and crave-worthy lives.
The Flexible Chef is a global food and lifestyle brand with a large social media presence, consisting of blog shares, inspirational photos, and step-by-step YouTube videos where Nealy teaches her healthy yet flexible approach to cooking and eating to her tens of thousands of fans. Her book, Food You Want For The Life You Crave (April 2019, Da Capo Lifelong Books), features over 100 fresh, gluten-free and flexible recipes that create craveable and energizing dishes—all while saving time and banishing meal prep stress. Nealy's adaptable cooking system gives readers a simpler recipe for success, both in and out of the kitchen.
In between Nealy’s entrepreneurial adventures, she grocery shops and cooks dinner every night for her husband, four children, puppy, and often a handful of surprise guests. The Fischer’s currently divide their time between Hong Kong, Israel, and their ranch in Montana.