mindfulness

How to Eat With Intention: Interview With Author and Meditation and Wellness Teacher Cassandra Bodzak

I was recently lucky enough to connect with my new friend Cassandra Bodzak, meditation and wellness teacher and author of the new book Eat With Intention: Recipes and Meditations for a Life that Lights You Up!, out November 15.

Cassandra struggled for years with unhealthy dieting, stomach pains, and food allergies. It was only when she began to listen to her body, connect more deeply with her intuition, and ultimately, both eat and live with intention that she transformed her life. 

She believes our “Wellbeing Trifecta” — food, meditation, and self-care — lays the foundation for bringing peace and balance to every area of our lives. If you’re ready to start bringing more intention to your eating all that you do  please check out this interview and consider picking up Cassandra’s book in next month!

What were your biggest struggles with food and your body before you began your healing journey described in your new book?

For me, it was always about not feeling skinny enough. From an early age (we're talking like kindergarten here), I got it in my head that I was overweight and spent all my energy trying to get smaller. As I got older, that manifested into yo-yo dieting, overexercising, taking all different weight loss pills, and being chronically unhappy in my own skin.

How did meditation and other mindful practices help you heal your relationship with food and your body?

Mindfulness practices like taking a body inventory and focusing on my gratitude for each part of my body and it's miraculous job really helped shift my relationship with my body. I learned to care for, respect, and nourish my body, instead of feeling like I was waging a war against. Meditation, in general, is very helpful for releasing any sort of dis-ordered, compulsive, or plain old 'fear-based' thought patterns because it allows you to connect to the truth of who you are which is far beyond any of those thoughts. Daily meditation also gives you what I refer to as "the miracle moment" or those few seconds before you are about to go down that road (towards the thoughts and behaviors that are harming you) so that you can see what's going on and consciously choose again. Through a regular practice of meditation and checking in with my body, I'm also able to use my body to tap into my inner guidance as well as connect to what my body specifically needs to feel and operate at it's best.

What is the Food Mood Journal? Why does it play such an important role in creating sustainable change in one's eating habits?

A food-mood journal is a log where you write down what you eat every day and how you feel during and after you are eating it. It's not about changing your habits or choices, it's just about seeing with your own eyes where you are operating on auto-pilot and what foods you're eating that might not be serving you. Keeping a food-mood journal is so transformative for people because it not only forces you to be more conscious about your food choices but it also puts the power back with you to start making the associations between your actions and their results. So many of us don't even realize that it isn't normal to be tired, foggy, or uncomfortable after meals or which foods we reach for when we're stressed out. When you write it out for a few weeks, you can really see it for yourself.

What does eating with intention mean to you? 

Eating with intention means having a continuous loving conversation with and deep respect for your body as well as a free-flowing creative relationship with your nourishment. It's flexible, it's fun and it's empowering. Eating with intention is showing up each day, checking in, and seeing what your beautiful god-pod want's to be fueled with, how it wants to move and what's going to make it feel and work it's best. And then honoring that and listening.

How does this practice support your intentions in all areas of your life?

I truly believe our "Wellbeing Trifecta" of food, meditation and self-care lay the foundation for how we show up for everything else in our life. Our body is a beautiful channel for great work in the world and if we aren't properly nourishing it, we disconnected from what it truly needs and we are not giving it the rest and care it needs, then we have totally severed a massive connection to the inner guidance we all need to live our best life. Meditation is incredibly powerful and can be amplified or muffled by our instrument (our body) just as food and self-care are important but meditation really allows us to sink in even deeper and connect to our truth. We need all three, we need to take care of our foundation if we want to truly feel lit up and alive.

What advice do you have for women who are still struggling and feel like they've tried every dietary theory out there? 

Take your power back! That’s my message with Eat With Intention. Let's stop giving our power away to every expert in the trendiest fitness magazines or on Instagram. Let's tune back in to OUR OWN divine wisdom because that is the only place you will find the answers that work for you. Nothing has worked before because they were never aligned, because you weren't listening and mostly likely because you weren't coming at it from a place of deep love, respect and care let's be honest  you were fighting your body. "Eat with Intention" is about releasing everything you've heard before and finally asking your ultimate resource: YOUR BODY. These tools are for you to reconnect and start a loving conversation that will go on for the rest of your days on this planet.

If you're ready to hit the ground running, take your power back from food, and start living with intention in all areas of your life, I highly recommend we connect here.

And if you live in New York City, I invite you to my upcoming mindful eating workshop on October 22, where we'll practice yoga, meditation, tuning into our body's unique wisdom, and eating with awareness and grace. I'll share easy tools that you can start using right away. I would love to see you there.

How Comparison Blocks You From Food and Body Freedom

When I first committed to taking a new approach to food, exercise, and my body, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I knew that another diet, protocol, cleanse, or shortcut would not bring me the freedom I was seeking.

So, I set out on a new path and changed the way I think and feel about food, my body, and myself, using the tools I now teach my clients. I quickly started to see the life-changing benefits of addressing the root cause of my struggle, doing the deeper work, breaking through limiting beliefs, and aligning my thoughts and actions with my desires. 

But many days, I would wake up feeling empowered and set my intentions to eat, move, and think in a new light, only to hit a crippling roadblock that had the power to throw me into a downward spiral. I would fall down the slippery slope of comparing myself to others.

I would come across someone who appeared to have everything I wanted and almost immediately feel bad about myself. You won’t be surprised that the majority of my comparison, jealousy, and resulting anxiety was generated by the Internet and social media. 

I followed all of my friends and idols who drank green juice, mastered yoga poses, ran marathons, cooked delicious meals, traveled the world, built thriving businesses, spoke eloquently, and just oozed self-love. I know I'm not alone in falling prey to this addiction.

None of my progress mattered when I saw someone else who had "more." I justified my behavior by saying I needed inspiration and to be in-the-know. While we all need inspiration and education, I too often ended up wading around in jealousy, disconnecting from myself, and wasting a ton of time worrying about whether or not I would ever live up to the success of others.

My ego (aka fear-based mind) would pipe up and tell me that there’s no way I was good enough to achieve what they had already accomplished. I would scroll through Instagram and Facebook, read newsletters, blogs, and articles, and wish I was where they were. I obsessed over the filtered and edited versions of their lives and thought to myself, “I’m never going to have that” or “How could I possibly do what they do?”

This energy only detracted me from that which I desired. I knew I had to break the self-destructive habit. I had to learn this lesson: 

Comparison is the voice of the ego, always working to keep you in a place of fear. No matter where you are on your journey, comparing yourself to others will only slow you down.

When you let comparison take over, the ego can easily sneak in and fill your mind with thoughts of negativity and fear, which lead you to believe that you are separate from those around you, those you admire, and everything that you wish for yourself and your relationship with food and your body.

If comparing yourself to others is sucking your energy and slowing you down, consider taking these steps to break the habit, shift your perception, and move forward:

  • Raise your awareness. Become the observer of your thoughts. Notice when your ego leads you to believe your body and relationship with food is lacking. Believing in these thought patterns is what keeps you stuck in the problem. Call them out consistently. Shrink them down. This practice will lead you to a point where you can release your limiting beliefs about food and your body that are holding you back.
  • Catch yourself in the act and change your thoughts. When you notice negative comparing thoughts come up, say to yourself: “I am determined to see this differently.” Choose to shift into positivity. Reach out and compliment that person, and then consciously move on. Instead of looking at the greatness in others and feeling bad about yourself, look at the greatness in others and say to yourself: "The light I see in others is a reflection of the light in me."
  • Act as if you're already there. Notice the qualities and habits of others that attract you, and then act as if they are already a part of your character. Find their confidence in your own actions. Watch what they’re doing and mimic what seems to work for them. This could mean making yourself a beautiful meal, going for a hike, signing up for a new class, or simply changing your attitude. Don't allow yourself to stay stuck in self-pity and negativity. Take action.
  • Lean into love and gratitude. Remember that your connection to yourself and your intuition is your greatest asset. Leaning into self-love and gratitude for what you do have will strengthen this nourishing force inside of you. Comparing yourself to others will keep you separated from it. When you feel jealous or unworthy, an easy first step is to make a list of as many things as you can that you're grateful for right at that moment.

When I stopped comparing myself to others and started training my mind to focus on the positive, that's when it began to grow in my life. My commitment to building a deep loving connection to my highest self began to reflect in my connection to food and my body. This is the deeper work that will lead you to sustainable transformation.

If you’re ready to stop comparing yourself to others, strengthen your connection to your intuition, and finally heal your relationship with food and your body, I would love to connect with you here.

Sending you love and light!

What Energy Do You Bring to Your Food?

My relationship with food has had its ups and downs, to say the least. But I’m grateful for the rocky road that led me to where I am today, because it's taught me fundamental lessons about myself and my life that I would not trade for the world.

One lesson that changed the game for me: The energy you bring to your food is a reflection of what you're feeling within. 

At a very young age, I found comfort in food when I was lonely. I woke up early, snuck snacks from the kitchen before my parents got out of bed, and shoved the wrappers in between the couch cushions. In my teens, I stayed up late and secretly binged to numb the pain of having few friends and feeling like an outsider at school. No amount of food was ever enough to fill the void.

In my 20s, I was fed up with my body and weight loss obsession took hold. Over the course of a few years, I lost over 40 pounds, ran a marathon, cut out sugar, dairy, gluten, soy, grains, and preservatives, and ate an organic whole foods diet. While I gained superficial confidence, no way of eating or exercising ever made me feel whole. So I pushed myself harder and grasped for more control.

Whether I was mindlessly eating or strictly following a diet, I was constantly trying to avoid or control feelings that I didn’t want to feel. 

I kept searching for something outside of myself that would fill me up and bring me peace of mind and body, but nothing worked. Over time, I began to approach most food - even the healthiest of vegetables - with fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, self-deprecation, or a mixture of negative emotions - whether I knew it or not.

I reached a point where I no longer wanted to control food and my body. I knew I had to let go, but didn't know how to stop. I feared gaining weight, but also feared restriction. I didn't know how to accept or listen to my body. I didn't know how to change my ways without swinging back to the other far end of the spectrum where I would overeat. 

The lesson I needed to learn: No matter what type of relationship you have with food, it's a direct correlation to your relationship with yourself, the world, and your life. If your self-esteem, safety, security, or purpose are out of alignment in any way, your eating habits are going to be too. 

It took me a long time to learn, and even longer to accept, but I finally realized that I needed to look at the energy I was bringing to my food, in order to understand and ultimately address the root causes of my disordered eating. Once I accepted this was the path I needed to take, everything began to shift.

To begin shifting your relationship with food, look within and ask yourself:

  • What energy am I bringing to my food? (Controlling, rushed, fearful, mindless?)
  • If I'm mindlessly eating, what feelings am I trying to avoid? (Pain, loneliness?
  • If I'm controlling my food, what feelings am I trying to control? (Fear, stress?)

When you avoid, control, and restrict, you block your connection with your intuition and your body's innate wisdom, which blocks sustainable healing. In order to create permanent change, you must practice raising your awareness, get passionately curious, and address the energy at the root of your eating struggles.

Good news: As a complement to the deeper practice, you can jumpstart your shift by proactively bringing positive and loving energy to your food. Experience what it's like to be present. Use mealtime as an opportunity to practice how you want to act and who you want to be.

What do you want to bring to the table? If you feel called to learn more about how you can increase the energy you give and get from your food, I’m excited to share that I will be hosting a FREE workshop at WeWork Soho South in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, 6-7:30pm.

And if you're ready to dive in, do the deeper work, and transform your relationship with food, your body, and yourself, I highly recommend you connect with me here.

Sending you love and light!

 

We Are How We Eat: Why Mindful Eating Is Worth Your Time

We’ve all heard the saying: “We are what we eat.” 

Of course, there’s truth to this statement. There’s a reason why we feel better when we eat fruits, vegetables, and whole foods and worse when we eat junk. Everything we eat and drink directly affects our cells, which need specific vitamins and minerals to function. These cells are grouped together as tissues and then organs that compose our bodies and sustain our lives. We need nutrient-rich food to stay healthy and energized.

But at my recent mindful eating workshop, I set out to show everyone: “We are how we eat." 

When I struggled with disordered eating, I ate “perfectly.” Every single one of my meals included vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and/or healthy fats. I took supplements to make up for any deficiencies. I avoided sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, and processed foods.

I bought organic and local as much as possible. I picked up superfoods at every trendy health food store and juice joint in Manhattan. I ate probiotic-rich fermented veggies and drank bone broth to strengthen my gut. I stayed hydrated. I watched my portions. I tried my best to eat three meals at approximately the same time each day.

And yet, I was left wanting. No matter what or how much I ate, I always felt hungry. No food seemed to give me the energy I desired. I was exhausted. My digestion was a mess. My menstrual cycle was nowhere to be found. I felt like it was nearly impossible to concentrate on anything other than food and my body.

So, I continued to search for a way of eating and exercising that would solve my problem. I constantly asked myself: 

“What am I missing?”

“What am I doing wrong?”

“Why are so many other health-conscious people bursting with energy and excitement, while I’m confused, anxious, and overwhelmed?”

At the time, I didn’t realize what I was missing. I didn’t realize that my mind was so consumed with worry over whether or not I was eating the right foods and how they were going to affect my body that it left no room for gratitude, enjoyment, curiosity, or understanding.

I approached every meal in fear (whether I knew it or not). I didn't want to gain weight. I didn't want to fall back into old unhealthy patterns. Stuck in my own head, I completely removed myself from the actual experience of eating. My mind was disconnected from my body. 

As I ate my nutritious meals quickly and anxiously, I didn’t notice the swarm of fearful, stress-inducing thoughts flying through my mind. It took me a long time to acknowledge what was really happening, and even longer to understand its negative impact on my body. 

I studied the physical and psychological benefits of mindful eating and put techniques into practice. Not only did I experience an instant improvement in my digestion, energy, mood, and body composition, I also became more present, focused, productive, and graceful in other areas of my life. 

Our thoughts and feelings impact our bodies on a cellular level, just as much as the food we eat.

Science shows that chronic stress can halt digestion, disrupt hormones, damage the immune system, raise blood pressure, and even shorten life expectancy. When our sympathetic "fight or flight" nervous system is buzzing in the background, our bodies are constantly under attack, so our biological resources are allocated to relieve the pressure.

On the flip side, positive thoughts of joy, gratitude, and forgiveness are proven to ignite the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” activities like sexual arousal, muscle and tissue repair, fuel storage (increased insulin activity), salivation, digestion, detoxification, resistance to infection, and waste elimination.

Moral of the story: In addition to eating nutrient-rich food, we quite literally need positive, loving, and empowering thoughts to foster health and vitality. 

Here are three ways to start eating mindfully now:

  1. Show gratitude. Expressing gratitude before you eat helps you to slow down, center yourself, appreciate the food you've been given, acknowledge what you're putting into your body, and activate the balanced mind-body connection needed for optimal digestion, nutrient absorption, and metabolism. As a bonus, take a deep breathe of gratitude before each bite.
  2. Chew. Chewing your food thoroughly (ideally until liquid) prolongs your eating experience, elevates your senses, enhances the communication between your brain and organs, and releases saliva with a special digestive enzyme not found anywhere else in the digestive tract. As Kundalini Yoga master Yogi Bhajan would always say: "Chew well. Your stomach has no teeth."
  3. Have a conversation with yourself. While you're chewing your food and continuing to breathe, stay present with your thoughts and take back your power. Recite the internal mantra: "I'm nourishing myself with..." Proactively connecting with this intention throughout your meal will support you in slowing down, chewing thoroughly, enjoying the experience, and stopping when you're satisfied.

If you already know these tips, but can't seem to consistently put them into practice, I highly recommend we connect here.

If you feel called to learn the full spectrum of mindful eating techniques and how to tune into your body's unique hungry and fullness signals, please join me at one of my upcoming mindful eating and meditation workshops. I would love to see you there.

Sending you love and light!

How to "Be the Change That You Wish to See in the World"

Believe it or not, there is no reliable evidence of Ghandi ever saying, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” But to me, his similar yet different, documented words speak even more truth today:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”

Many well-intentioned bystanders with love in their hearts are searching for ways to help put an end to the hate, violence, and separation that plague our country and our world. This selfless desire grows with every selfish, heinous, and unjust act we see in the news and in our communities. 

Some people lash out with passionate words, begging for the madness to stop, for someone in power to do something, to lay down a law that will turn things around. Others humbly speak up and ask what they can do to support those who are wounded, oppressed, bitter, and devastated. And even more share their prayers for peace.

Yet the hate, violence, and separation continue to gain momentum, and the upcoming presidential election leaves many feeling lost, confused, and hopeless.

While Ghandi's message may be hard to comprehend as a solution to a problem fueled by rage, fear, sadness, disconnection, power, and misunderstanding, every fiber of my being believes its the only real answer.

If we look within and change ourselves, the tendencies in the world will also change. As we change our own nature, the attitude of the world will change. We don’t have to wait to see what others do. We don’t have to wait to follow someone else’s lead. We don’t necessarily need to become aggressive activists, join a protest, or start a support group (though all of these efforts are to be commended).

We are all desperate for systemic change, especially those directly affected by each tragedy and the leaders in charge of bringing order back to our society. I don’t deny for a second that wise, conscious decisions need to be made as soon as possible. 

But for those of us sitting here deeply shaken by recent events with a genuine desire to make a difference, I see this as a clear opportunity to become more aware of our own thoughts, choices, and actions, in every moment of every day. 

Take a look at your own experience, both internal and external. Be kind to yourself and others. Show compassion for yourself and others. Forgive yourself and others. Respect yourself and others. Believe in yourself and others.

Pay attention to what you’re actually thinking and projecting each day. Don’t paralyze yourself (and the world) with the limiting belief that there’s nothing you (or anyone else) can do to make a significant impact in the fight for love.

Let go of the thought that we are too far gone as individuals and as a human race. Don’t fuel negative energy by holding onto the thought that nothing you do will ever be enough to transform reality. 

Instead, rise up and be a beacon of love and light in your own life. Use the energy you feel in reaction to the devastation, hate, and fear. Allow it to give you strength in shifting your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and every person with whom you connect. 

We are not separate. If you believe we are not separate, show compassion to yourself, those you meet, and those you pray for. If you believe that the violence should end and we should find a way to love and respect each other, start by focusing on your own thoughts, choices, and actions.

Remember Ghandi's words not only when you contemplate the ongoing violence, upcoming election, and current state of our nation, but also when you wish to see a change in your personal experience, whether you desire to change your body, health, relationship, career, etc.

Don't be fooled. You always have the power to choose. You have the power to stop, evaluate yourself, and change your own nature, which will then reflect in the world around you.

Don’t underestimate the power of your own consciousness. 

If you feel called to change your relationship with food and your body so you can show up every day as your highest self, I invite you to sign up for a free consultation

This consultation is my gift to you, with zero obligations attached. My goal is to help you get crystal clear about what changes you desire to make, what's holding you back, and the best next steps for you to move forward in your pursuit of freedom. 

You can also come see me at my upcoming mindful eating and meditation workshop at Kundalini Yoga East in New York City on Saturday, August 13! Learn more about the event and sign up here

Sending you love and light!