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How The Cookbook “Eat With Intention” Saved Me From Myself.

I have a confession to make. I’ve been dreading writing this blog post. Been totally and completely resistant to it for the past two months. I feel like I’m bearing part of my soul here. Recently, I was looking into a rehab retreat and came across a quote from Geneen Roth who said, “No matter how developed you are in any other area of your life, no matter what you say you believe, no matter how sophisticated or enlightened you think you are, how you eat tells all.” That struck me like lightening. Not because I think I’m enlightened; I feel like I’m actually the farthest thing from it. But that quote was exactly what I needed to hear. If I can’t mend my relationship with myself and food, I’ll never be able to do anything else with any vigor, discipline, or gumption.  So this post is for anyone who ever struggled with choosing healthy habits when all you want to do is light a cigarette, throw on some black lipstick, pour yourself a martini straight up, and sit down with a plate of food that you know is no good for you but could honestly give zero fucks at the moment.

A few months ago, I hit rock bottom, and an all-new financial low. I was living in Los Angeles, CA trying to make it in the sexuality and relationship coaching industry. After a year and a half of the rat race, I couldn’t do it anymore. I got fired from my job, which was a huge blessing, and didn’t have money saved, so I couldn’t afford to stay in California. I called my family and my aunt flew me back to my hometown. And there I fell into a deep, dark depression. I got a job at a retail chain and shut the world out. I didn’t have the energy to care. I ate everything under the sun that I knew was not good for my health. Cheesesteaks most likely made with meat from factory farmed, tortured cows, mozzarella sticks most likely fried in the most horrible vegetable oil, cake, cookies, fast food, anything I could get my hands on to numb the fucking pain of feeling like a failure. I flew back to LA, donated my furniture to whoever would take it, and gave a homeless man twenty bucks to help me push my dresser on a moving dolly from my uphill apartment on 3rd and Rose Ave in Venice to a storage unit down the street. I moved out, left a life that was never for me, and headed back to my hometown to close the curtains and sleep away the days. Another dream goes down the drain. I spent months feeling everything. I cried the ugly cry, and ate many, many, many donuts. Because when everything feels like it’s going to shit, I fall back into old habits and eat food that matches how I feel: pizza, mac & cheese, mozzarella sticks, cheesesteaks, perogies, and hoagies (I’m from the outskirts of Philadelphia) and don’t forget to add the oreos, and other processed foods. But hey, at least I ate them with almond milk. Classic Stacy, throwing organic spinach on top of pizza in an effort to make myself feel better about my bad food choices. I literally threw out everything I learned in nutrition school, yoga teacher training, and so on, out the window, and horrible, toxic food became my go-to solution to numb the pain.

One day I was looking in the mirror, and thought to myself thank God for my fast metabolism because it lets me mask how I really eat and fool everybody into thinking I actually work out and take care of myself. My body was trying to talk to me. I started breaking out on my legs, on my chin (I haven’t struggled with acne in a decade) and got these weird spots on my back and feet. Did that stop me? Nope. I don’t like to listen. The pain feels too real. The circumstances are too bleak. Broke. Jobless. Homeless. Living in my aunt’s third floor attic downtown and sitting in over 150K of debt. Why the hell would I pick up a kale salad with avocado and tahini dressing when my life is like this? It’s sad how much I take my body completely for granted and all it’s done to keep me alive and healthy. My body keeps me going, keeps my heart beating, my feet walking, and I abuse it every time the going gets tough. There are people who have lost limbs and are running marathons in wheelchairs, but I lose my job and decide to eat cheesesteaks. I was so sick of myself. Sick of the same old patterns. My inspirations in life were fictional characters like Rocky Balboa and Wonder Woman, but what a joke to think that I had the same hungry heart. The only thing I was hungry for was cheeseburgers, french fries and Snickers Ice Cream bars. As much as I loathed my behavior and the person staring back at me in the mirror, I wanted to be better. It didn’t look like it, but my soul was still in there somewhere fighting for me to get sober in a sense. I needed to stop thinking I was weak, and needed someone else to save me. Because the truth is, no one can save you from yourself but you. I woke up one random day and wrote my body a letter:

“I love you, body. No matter how many cheesesteaks, donuts, hoagies and perogies I give you, you always love me back. You continue to forgive me again and again, bless me with a crazy beautiful metabolism, and you still signal what you need after I’ve neglected and ignored you. Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve you, but I know you’re showing me the deepest meaning of unconditional love. And if you can love me flaws and all, so can I. I don’t know how you do it but you keep bringing me back to love. You keep trying to tell me what’s best for me. I know I don’t always listen, but I’m gonna start. I promise I will try and be better to you. Thank you for sticking with me through the hard times. I’m gonna love you better from here on out.”

 

I knew I needed help. It was time to go to turn myself in. I knew it was time to turn to Cassandra Bodzak. I’ve been dodging her work for a while. She was a living breathing example of having healed her own relationship with herself, her body, and her relationship with food. It’s what she stood for. I always knew it. I followed her for a while on Instagram and then unfollowed her for a long time because she was a mirror that I didn’t want to look into. She made eating healthy and living her best life so easy and I was so far from that reality. I couldn’t see her posts in my feed. And I think a part of my light went out right around the time when I stopped following her. I knew she had magic around this. But, I wasn’t ready to see it. Fast forward to a couple years later, and I hit the follow button again. And this time, she had a book that had the exact medicine I needed to get my life back on track. This old flight or fight response isn’t working. I was so disconnected from my body. And it translated into every area of my life. I chose the wrong men, the wrong employers, the wrong profession, the wrong foods, made the wrong financial decisions, and so on. I didn’t know how to trust myself anymore. It was very hard for me to bring myself to my feet, head to Barnes & Noble, and buy the book, Eat With Intention cookbook by Cassandra Bodzak.

This wasn’t your ordinary plant-based cookbook. Cassandra shared her own story leaving none of the real details out. I related to her suffering. And was inspired by her healing. I read all of the chapters in one night and paged through the recipes. I was enamored by the uniqueness of this cook book. She had mantras like “I am a powerful creator”and meditations to go along with every single plant-based recipe that somehow matched how you felt, and gave you the medicine you needed to eat what your body was really craving and set an intention with the meal that was true to your heart. I never ate like this before in my life. Praying over my food? Asking my body what it really wants to eat instead of giving it chicken nuggets because I fucking felt like it? I was stepping into a whole new world, but I knew I couldn’t do anything in life if I didn’t heal my relationship with food. Because like Geneen Roth said, “how you eat tells all.”

In the book, Cassandra talks about her wellness tri-fecta: food, self-care, and meditation. This was the remedy for emotional eating. I loved the exercises in this book, and how she says you don’t have to start with all three, and to pick one that you want to work on right now and start there. Self-care has always been pretty easy for me (I’m a Taurus and love all things luxury), but food was the real fight. I wanted to take baby steps, so I started with meditation and getting back into it everyday. Once that became a habit I didn’t even think about or try to do, I was ready to look food right in the face. There’s a part in the book where Cassandra shares how she fell off the wagon whenever she got a new boyfriend. For her the trigger was relationships. For me it was money. We all have our thing. I recommend sitting with yourself and being willing to pin point yours. When I read this part of her book, it put exactly how I felt into words:

“When it came to love, I took time to create a solid daily routine based around my highest priorities so that my building was so strong that when the next tornado hit, I would not be swayed. This for me, is daily meditation, food that makes me feel good, and enough alone time to reflect and refresh, and the freedom to shine my brightest and do the work I’m here to do in the world.”

That was it. I wanted to build a house so strong that when the next storm hit it wouldn’t crumble down. My eating habits had to change. My old ways weren’t working anymore. I would eat well when everything was fine, but when things got rough, I stopped believing in myself. I stopped loving myself. And I crumbled, every time. There was this pattern of disbelief. Kinda like the part in the 2017 Wonder Woman film when young Diana was training, and her aunt was saying to her, “you keep doubting yourself, Diana. And Diana says, no I don’t. Then, her aunt says, “you are stronger than you believe, you have greater powers than you know, but if you don’t try harder….” I needed to train myself all over again. I needed to get stronger. Cassandra says, “when we stop using food as emotional comfort, or punishment, we bring it back to its highest purpose — fuel — and we start eating in a way that supports our greater good.” It was time. I read her book cover to cover and shortly after, Cassandra launched a Practical Magic Training Program for women who wanted to “Wonder Woman up” in business, in health, in relationships, in spirituality, and in life. This Wonder Woman clip beginning at the 1:36 mark is everything, and the reason why I joined the program. Cassandra was the Antiope to my Diana.

Eat With Intention saved me from myself. Cassandra says, judging yourself is not an option. Just notice how your body responds to the food its given. If you’re sleepy AF after a big bowl of pasta and have no energy, maybe it’s a sign that that particular food isn’t jiving with your body. There are so many gems in this book. The recipes are tasty and easy to make, and I learned three very simple, very powerful tools that helped me change my relationship to food, which helped me change my relationship to myself. It’s a work in progress. And there are times when I slip and fall like everyone else, but something shifted on an alchemical level when I read this book and did her Practical Magic Training Program. And the rest is still unwritten.

Here are some of my favorite tools from Cassandra Bodzak’s book, Eat With Intention:

Sacred Cooking. Taking the time to plate your food when you’re done cooking and eat from pretty plates makes you feel like you’re really nourishing your body (see photo to the right).

Start a HONEST food mood journal. Let’s clean house and see how you eat. Take a look at your daily habits for two weeks. Just notice and watch yourself and write down everything you eat and drink for two weeks. I literally ate kitchari and Oreos back to back because my cravings were so strong. The struggle was that real. No judgement, though. Just noticing. This really happened, but instead of beating myself up, I knew what counts was getting the kitchari in my body.

Talk to your body. Forget the labels and just listen. Ask your body for what it needs. This is so powerful. When I started to listen to my body, and asked it what it wanted to eat, I started feeling more empowered, more in tune with myself. I started with baby steps to heal my relationship with food and my body. Because let’s be real. There’s always gonna be that voice in your head that tells you to go for the cookies. But starting the conversation and checking in with what you really want can be a great way to start a whole new relationship with yourself.

Try these three things for the next three weeks and see what kind of bricks you find to lay the foundation for your new home. Take it day by day, step by step because this is your new home. Your home is your body, and your body is all you’ve got in this world. It’s your shelter when you’re cold. It’s the keeper of your heart and soul. One thing that Cassandra said in her Practical Magic Training Program that always stayed with me was: “your mind will always try to lie to you, but your body doesn’t know how.” Your body deserves to receive the love that it show you every single day.  Think about it. When you’re about to do something that isn’t right for you, it always sends you a signal that something isn’t right. We don’t always listen to it, but that signal always goes out and lets you know this isn’t for you. The signal goes out for every thing, all the time, from when you’re about to eat shitty food to when you’re about to have sex with that guy when you know you really don’t want to. Your body is always letting you know what decisions that aren’t right for you. Now, THAT’S unconditional love. No one will ever love you like that. That’s God talking to you. Call it what you want, but listening to that voice, that signal has made all the difference in every situation of my life. I highly recommend getting the book, cook some good food and follow your heart. Let it take you where your soul wants you to go. There’s something really powerful in the prescription that is Eat With Intention. A great, loving relationship with food, sets you up to have a great, loving relationship with life. How you eat really does tell all. The question is: are you listening?

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