Meet Nealy Fischer, a wellness expert, yoga teacher, mom of four and recovering perfectionist. Fischer, who felt herself succumbing to societal pressure to “do it all” with aplomb decided to combat her Type-A tendencies and develop a healthier life plan. The result is a lifestyle she describes in her blog The Flexible Chef and companion book “Food You Want for the Life You Crave” (Da Capo Lifelong Books, April 2019).
Although Fischer focuses on cooking in her blog and book, she preaches general wellness principles, including the seven tenets below. Read on to discover how to ditch the rigidity and embrace a lifestyle based on happiness, nourishment and achieving your larger goals.
- Align your diet and movement with your goals.
“What do you crave?” is the first line in Fischer’s book. By crave, she is not referring to what she calls “temporary” pleasures, such as gelato and pizza. Instead, she means larger goals, such as—in her words—“a feeling of being powerful in my body” and “happiness, abundance and silence.” Since Fischer now focuses on the long game, she yearns and reaches for foods that align with these more profound aims. She also follows a workout regimen that combines high-intensity interval training with hypercardio, such as burpees and jumping jacks.
- Tune into yourself.
Simultaneously, we’re bombarded by temptations from the food industry and pressuring messages from the media, Fischer says. Confused, we often give in to our cravings to satisfy ourselves emotionally, whether it’s via drugs, alcohol or junk food. To shut out the noise and silence the siren call of the ice cream carton, take the time to “listen to your body,” Fischer advises. In her book, she invites readers to pinpoint their deepest inspiration so they can begin to “live with purpose.” Knowing why you get out of bed each morning will “act as a pillar when the road gets bumpy. Plus, knowing what you want makes getting what you want possible,” she says.
- Build healthy habits a little at a time.
It takes time to develop a new habit—and the initial work of beginning a behavior can be quite challenging. That’s why Fischer often advises being extremely careful during those first days—until, eventually, you integrate the habit into your daily life. “Running was very painful and required a ton of discipline at the beginning,” she recalls of introducing the workout to her routine. “I had to get over that threshold so I could eventually start to get those endorphins pumping and actually enjoy myself.”
When choosing goals, Fischer suggests making them bite-size. “If you take on too much and it’s overwhelming and you don’t succeed, it’s really not encouraging,” she says. As an example, Fischer mentions nighttime snacks. If you usually reach for chips, try switching to dried cranberries and almonds, then later on, only drink a cup of hot water with lemon. Eventually, you might no longer feel a craving at all. As for fitting in fitness, Fischer suggests adding sessions to your schedule, entering them as recurring events in your calendar. “You can change your life in a moment if you decide to, as long as you have the right strategy,” she says.
- Make time for yourself.
Meditation, yoga, Pilates and barre classes can help us tune into our bodies, Fischer says. “[They] connect you to your core and allow you to feel your pelvic floor and your breath.” She also recommends massage and other self-nourishing endeavors. Just don’t go down the guilt path, she counsels. “We think that if we nourish ourselves, we’re being selfish,” Fischer says. Yet wellness requires self-care.
- Take the middle ground.
For most of her life, Fischer reveals, she either massively restricted her food choices or binged. She tried detoxes, plus the lemonade, grapefruit, cracker and carrot diets (which, she claims, turned her palms yellow). Instead of vacillating between extremes, though, Fischer advises pursuing the middle ground. For instance, if she eats too much one day, she’ll immediately jump back into her healthy lifestyle the next. “I think that a lot of people bounce between extreme eating and deprivation,” she says. “Yet as we get healthier, we understand how to narrow the gap [between those two poles] so we don’t ever get so crazy that we then need to lose 20 pounds.”
- Embrace failures.
“Real satisfaction lies in turning failure, disappointment, mistakes and loss into outrageous success,” Fischer writes in her book. “Flops are expected along the journey, but we know that our flops are also the key to a masterful life.” As an example, she reveals how some of her top recipes resulted from attempts to salvage a tasteless muffin or botched-up brownie. “Save the overbaked bread and make garlicky croutons,” she suggests.
- Adapt to find what works for you.
Part of tuning into yourself involves adapting workouts or recipes to work for your lifestyle. “We need to feel empowered to alter workouts, work schedules, sleep habits and relationships to make them our own,” Fischer says. “To not necessarily follow but to do things the way that feels right for us.”
Armed with these wellness principles, you’ll cultivate a healthful, nourishing life—both in and out of the kitchen. Instead of focusing on perfection, you’ll develop insight into your true self and live in a way consistent with your most authentic, resonant priorities.