'Eating with Intention' May Be The Self-Care Ingredient You're Missing

The Discipline That Developed From An Eating Disorder

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cass-eat-with-intentionIt’s not every day that you meet someone who follows a tweet or Facebook post with “#blessed without a touch of irony. But if anyone could get away with it, it’s Cassandra Bodzak, who looks and sounds like she might actually be made out of sweetness and sunshine, and who is a living embodiment of the mantra “love and light.” Her new book, Eat with Intention: Recipes and Meditations for a Life That Lights You Up, is a collection of helpful, positive insights for people seeking recovery from an eating disorder—or just looking to add a daily serving of mindfulness to their spiritual practice.

When we spoke, I could feel the Santa Monica sunshine through the phone. Bodzak, alternately reflective and effervescent, talked about her spiritual journey and the experiences that inspired her to write her book.

“I wanted this book to be a manual that, when it’s the right time, you can hand to a girlfriend, your mom, your sister [or]your best friend,” Bodzak said. “My hope is that the book will help you fall in love with your body as a tool for your intuition.”

It’s not all smoothies and sutras, though. The advice, suggestions and recipes are intentional and thoughtful. Bodzak is a self-taught chef, and her interest in allergen-free cooking isn’t just trendy; it’s a critical component of her self-care. After spending years trying to handle an eating disorder, Bodzak was finally sidelined by serious stomach and torso pain that made it impossible for her to move, breathe or eat. A full panel of blood tests revealed nothing, but a nurse—Bodzak calls her an angel—suggested that food allergies might be the issue. After three days on an elimination diet, Bodzak was pain free and on the path to inspiring others to change their relationship with food.

A series of personal struggles, including the end of a serious relationship and her brother’s diagnosis with a rare autoimmune disease, pushed Bodzak to explore her spiritual side. She started practicing Kundalini yoga (many of those meditations and mudras appear throughout the book) and got serious about doing “only the things that brought [her]joy.” She invested more of herself in her blog and began working as a lifestyle coach, teaching mediation. Then, she got a call from ABC about her vegan cupcake recipe.

“As soon as I was on TV, it was like the light went on. I remember being on the stage and thinking, ‘This is my mission’to help people like this, with food. It all fell into place.” After a deep meditation showed her more—a vision of life as a medicine woman, dispensing herbal potions to a long line of needy patients—she says she realized that “the prescription was the trifecta for well-being.”

Meditation, food and self-care are the three “treatments” in Eat with Intention. Bodzak is careful to explain each concept clearly. Instead of batting around lofty spiritual principles, her advice is earthy, grounded and always circles back to trusting your gut. “You need to express gratitude for all that your body does for you every single day,” she says. “After all, when you love your body unconditionally, it’s usually from a place of tremendous gratitude for it.”

Bodzak’s foods are nutritionally dense, easy to prepare and based on whole ingredients. The recipes have sweet, funny names. Reading through the sections on smoothies and entrees, it’s easy to hear Bodzak’s cheerful voice in the meditations and intentions that accompany each recipe. For example, Unicorn Fuel (a toasted-coconut piña colada smoothie) is for when you need a new perspective on a problem. “Am I approaching it as a muggle [for you non–Harry Potter fans out there, this is a non-magical person], or am I approaching it like the magical being I know I am?” Bodzak says.

Although Eat with Intention may be a leap for non-adventurous eaters (there’s an abundance of kale, cordyceps mushroom powder and quinoa), its sweet, purely expressed message is universally appealing. Whether you’re looking for a new twist on meditation or need help starting a self-care practice, Eat with Intention is a gold mine of road-tested techniques and at its core is Bodzak, whose conviction and kindness melted even my cynical little heart.

“It’s really about giving yourself the chance to change,” she told me. “Unconditional love is what allows us to transform.”

Unconditional love, and a delicious veggie burger too? Please pass the avocado fries.

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Foster Rudy is the author of "I've Never Done This Before," and has also written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, McSweeney's and The Rumpus.