I’m known for not really liking rules. It’s not that I’m rebellious; I’m more interested in creating a big, open framework with loads of freedom inside.
But as I built my business, Strala, I realized that structure can have its benefits. I started to think it could be beneficial to develop some actual — I’m going to say it — rules. Yes, I have rules.
These are some food rules that help me feel fantastic; they keep me grounded and set me free, even though I don’t necessarily follow them all the time. I’m more likely to follow them most of the time. So if you see me in NYC or around the world breaking any of these rules, feel free to call me out on it, but please cut me some slack. We can all have a little fun sometimes.
1. Stay away from soda.
Growing up, we had cases of Pepsi and Mountain Dew stacked in the basement like we were preparing for nuclear fallout. (We may have had the most jazzed-up, sugared-up basement in the Midwest!) Now, I’m not against caffeine. I like my coffee and I’m not giving that up any time soon, but the crazy syrups, sugars, and chemicals in sodas can stay in the basement.
2. Go easy on the gummies.
I lived on gummy snacks when I first moved to NYC. I easily downed three packs a day of Sour Patch Kids, my BFFs. They were perfect bursts of energy … until I realized one day my teeth hurt a bit whenever I ate them, and I was always tired shortly after eating them. When I made those connections, I kicked the gummies to the curb (for the most part). I occasionally have a brief affair with whatever gummies I find in a hotel minibar, but it’s fleeting and meaningless. For the most part, I’m gummy-free and much happier. (And more awake!)
3. No munchies right before bed.
I went through a phase years ago where I’d watch movies and eat candy, then have problems sleeping. I wonder why! Now I naturally let my body wind down when it’s time and get in bed like there’s an adventure ahead. It’s been a magical shift for the better. (Side note: another thing that worked for me was getting rid of my TV. Freedom!)
4. While flying, eat airplane food when hungry.
I’ve been logging a lot of airline miles in the past few years, and on some of the longer flights, I get served as many as four full meals — that’s a lot of food for a sedentary journey! I like to enjoy a meal when I’m hungry, politely decline when I’ve had enough, and spend the rest of the time allowing my mind and body to rest and recover.
This sometimes shocks the flight attendants, but we quickly bond and they show me where they keep the stash in case I wake up hungry. This system has worked super well for me. I’m rarely jet lagged, and I never even pick up a cold. It probably has something to do with the clean eating and (not gonna lie)the yoga.
5. Eat for energy and pleasure.
Restricting myself around food can be a dangerous habit. I don’t count calories or weigh myself because I’m tuned into my body and know what I need at this point. I eat for energy and pleasure, and however that shakes out with my looks is fine by me.
6. Follow feelings.
This works when your mind is healthy. When you’re in a more or less clear mental state, it’s useful to follow how you feel. Feeling hungry can often be a sign that you need water. Wanting sugar can signal the need for some dark greens. Salty cravings could be the body’s way of asking for a walk.
When you take time to follow how you feel, you’ll have a much better idea of what your body needs to feel great. (One caveat: I meet people who don’t feel grounded mentally and this isn’t a good guideline for people in that state.)
7. Grocery shop for real food.
Going to the market is a great opportunity to explore fruits and veggies and see what culinary creativity they can spark. I try to stay away from anything in boxes, unless it’s rice or grains. Bonus: with a basket full of fruits and veggies, you get to play a fun game of “what is that” with the check-out person. I wouldn’t trade those moments for a box of cookies!
8. Keep experimenting in the kitchen.
The more meals I can confidently whip up in the kitchen, the more tools I have to nourish myself and those I care about. It’s important to me to keep exploring so I don’t get bored and default to something mundane, like cereal for dinner, over and over.
9. Celebrate when it’s appropriate.
Whether it’s a birthday, wedding, or seeing an old friend, I like to recognize special moments with food and champagne. I also know that this can easily turn into excess, which is why it feels good to keep these celebratory times special. It doesn’t feel good to me to party every night like it’s 1999.
This is my most important rule! Food is meant to be nourishing and enjoyed. Stressing over food is an emotional trap; we shouldn’t release our feelings through food. I won’t eat when I’m in a heated conversation or stressed, and, knowing the importance of proper nourishment, I’ll practice what I need to practice to bring myself to a state of ease so I don’t miss a delicious meal.