How to treat eating as an act of self-love

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Some days you may wake up, whip up a delicious smoothie, splurge on Sweetgreen for lunch, and make a well-thought out-dinner…and then others, well, it’s a crapshoot.

Have you ever noticed how those days when you’re reliant on takeout and eating whatever will make your life easiest are typically the days when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed? Or maybe you’ve just been on autopilot for so long, you have no idea what nourishing yourself even looks like—or if you have time for it.

Eat With Intention
Photo: Race Point Publishing, an imprint of Quarto Publishing

Wellness guru Cassandra Bodzak is on a mission to change that. Her new book, Eat with Intention, includes recipes paired with meditations and tips on how to eat as an act of self-love.

Sounds great, but what exactly does that look like? (Especially when you’re often stuck at the office late or would rather spend the precious evening hours you do have hitting up a workout class and not slaving away cooking for one?)

Here, Bodzak shares some tips on how to eat as an act of self-love.

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slicing avocados
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Listen to your body

“Eating with intention means taking the time to listen to your body, asking what it wants and what will be nourishing,” Bodzak says. As a starting point, her book includes a food mood journal with space to write down what you eat, how you feel while eating it, and how you feel an hour or so later. (You can try it with any notebook.)

“Some people may notice that on the mornings they’re tired, they grab a bagel and down two cups of coffee by 10 a.m., but on the mornings they get up in time for yoga, they’d rather have a smoothie bowl,” Bodzak says. “That’s sort of an obvious example, but it gets really interesting in the individual nuances,” she says, adding that some people feel super energized after eating oatmeal for breakfast while someone else might not. Being able to look back and see how certain foods affect your mood and energy level can be surprisingly eye-opening.

women with smoothies
Photo: Stocksy/Ellie Baygulov

Find new ways to treat yourself

The food mood journal also gives some insight as to when you’re prone to emotional eating (AKA not when you’re actually hungry). Bodzak herself noticed that on days when she was super stressed, she had a habit of stopping by Peacefood Cafe for a Brazil nut chai and vegan chocolate chip cookie. “It was coming from this mindless place of having a long day and wanting to treat myself,” she says. And she went back to feeling crummy soon after that cookie was gobbled up. So, she adjusted accordingly. “If your hardest days are Wednesdays and Thursdays, those would be good days to make plans on meeting a friend for tea or smoothies after work or scheduling a manicure so you can relax—it’s a healthier way to treat and nourish yourself,” she says.

chopping vegetables
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Meal prep when your mind is clear (and your stomach is full)

Sunday meal prep can be lifesaving, but chances are that whatever you’re bulk-making loses its luster by mid-week. That’s why Bodzak is more in favor of prepping the night before, when you can more fully map out the next 24 hours.

“After dinner, when you’re on a full stomach and a clear head, think about what tomorrow holds for you,” she says. “If you know you’re going to be stuck at the office until 7:30 p.m., plan a snack you can eat around 4 or 5 p.m. Or if you have a lunch meeting, look at the menu and decide what you’re going to order. We waste so much mental energy during the day worrying about what to eat.” 

women having lunch
Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold

Feed yourself as you would feed a loved one

When someone you love is sick or feeling down, chances are you would happily make that person a thoughtful, healing meal. So why are we so hesitant to do that for ourselves?

“A lot of people have planned out their meals from a place of eating to change themselves, not self-love,” Bodzak says. “When we cook, we really do infuse our food with good energy. So when you cook for yourself, you’re showing you are committed to nourishing yourself and finding creative things you like to eat.”

When Bodzak was little, the meal that made her feel most loved was her grandmother’s creamy tomato soup, made with Campbell’s and heavy cream. “For some reason, that soup just made everything better,” she says. By getting creative in the kitchen and sticking to her commitment to nourish herself, she perfected a healthier (vegan!) version of her childhood favorite.

And now she’s passing it on—check out the full recipe below.

tomato soup
Photo: Race Point Publishing, an imprint of Quarto Publishing

Creamy Tomato Soup

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 white onions, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup raw unsalted cashew nuts, soaked in water 2 to 3 hours and drained
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 cans stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup canned light coconut milk
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
3 Tbsp basil leaves, shredded, to garnish

1.  Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for five minutes until softened, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute.

2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or high-speed blender. Add the remaining one tablespoon olive oil, the soaked and drained cashews, vegetable broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, and spices, and puree until thick and creamy.

3. Transfer the soup to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the soup is warmed through. Serve hot and garnish with the basil leaves.

Want more food intel? These are the 10 foods dietitians wish people ate more of. Plus, should you be avoiding nightshades?

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