Tara Stiles On Why You Should Forget Traditional Dieting And Follow Your Own Rules

19/01/2015 09:31 GMT | Updated 07/12/2015 12:59 GMT

Another January, another tidal wave of crazy New Year's Resolutions that are just crying out to be broken.

Because let's face it, no matter how hard you beat that 'New Year, New You' drum, sticking to that ridiculous fad diet or grueling exercise routine is nigh-on impossible.

For Tara Stiles, founder of Strala yoga, this is no surprise. And the problem, she says, is rules.

tara stiles

"Dieting can be extremely negative and restrictive," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. "People say that diets never work, and that's because they're primarily ruled-based, and full of long lists of what you can't have. These people start a new diet every Monday and, each week, they fail to stick to it."

Instead, the 33-year-old believes that the key to changing eating or exercise habits is by writing your own rules - and occasionally breaking them, too.

Her approach is to work from the inside, out: to listen and respond to how your body feels, rather than adhere to an external one-size-fits-all prescription by somebody else.

"Once you start to become sensitized to how your body feels in relation to day-to-day life, it really is quite easy to take care of yourself," she says.

Her new book, Make Your Own Rules Diet, combines food, fitness and wellness in a way that not only complement each other but that relate to the individual.

Centered largely around her own personal and somewhat tumultuous journey to the present day, it encourages women to take a step back, be honest and take stock of their own lives to better themselves in a gentle and easy way.

tara stiles

And Stiles would know, for her journey hasn't always been plain sailing. Before building her yoga empire, Stiles trained at a conservatory dancer programme - but her life turned upside down when she was sexually assaulted while in her dorm room.

In a bid to try and cope with what had happened, she became reclusive and developed disordered eating.

"I became more and more isolated, and I was losing more and more weight," she reveals in her book. "I hated eating because it made me feel good, and I didn't want to feel anything. Empty felt okay."

Thankfully, her ballet teacher noticed her weight loss ("I was wasting away," she tells us) and told her she needed to take better care of her health. She credits him as being pivotal in guiding her towards yoga and a healthier lifestyle.

Stiles has never spoken publicly about this period of her life before, but felt it was necessary to help others.

"I never wanted to tell my story for sympathy or for attention, but when I was writing the book it made sense for me to share my story and to get people to connect," she says. "Now, not only am I seeing people sharing their stories, but feeling good about speaking out and feeling strong enough to come back to themselves."

"Ultimately, I've learned it’s OK to go through something as long as you take care of yourself in the long term," she adds.

This tumultuous period in her life gave Stiles the tools to be positive - and it's something she wants to share.

That's why her approach to yoga is so unique. It's straight-talking, accessible and, above all, inclusive. The New York Times even described her as the "yoga rebel".

tara stiles

"When I first started yoga, it was so unapproachable and small and lots of people had misconceptions," she explains. "I wanted to create an approach that is for all different kinds of people."

"The Strala style is meditative, calm and easy. There’s no pushing or forcing your body, it's all about the process of moving your body and following feeling."

Similarly, her approach to food is relaxed.

While she eats a mainly plant-based diet, she's not strictly vegetarian. "If I'm at someone's home and they've prepared a meat-based dish, I'll eat it. I'll eat whatever."

And she's not too fussed on "fashion foods" either.

"Superfoods can be a little hyped up, there are even jumpers with 'Kale' on them now! But just because something is a ‘superfood’ doesn’t mean we should eat it all of the time! Longevity is in finding foods that are healthy and sustainable and can find anywhere and cost effective."

"One of the problems if we aren’t eating healthy is not that we don’t know what’s healthy, we just don’t feel like it," she adds.

tara stiles

We asked Stiles for some top tips to help people kick start a healthier 2015:

1. Practice regularly. I have loads of videos online to help people fit in a few minutes of yoga wherever you are and however much time you have.

2. Drink your greens! Green juices and smoothies are an easy way to get your energy up and keep your whole body and energy vibrant.

3. Do new things, learn new skills to stay interested and active. I’m into knitting, learning languages and about Japanese culture. Pick something and make a hobby out of it. It will keep your mind sharp.

Her new book features 50 plant-based recipes, six yoga routines, eight meditation exercises, a 7-day kickstart programme and 30-day transformational programme, and is out now.

Stiles will be back in London on 15th March speaking at Ignite – a weekend that brings together the freshest voices in wellbeing to discover a happier, healthier you.