It’s all the same. Self-love, body acceptance, eating properly, listening to your intuition, and fueling and caring for both your physical and your spiritual self are all part of the whole. Food, meditation, and self-care are all essential components of this whole that needs to be in balance, so we need to embrace all of them if we want to look, feel, and live our best in this lifetime.
I want you to really let this sink in. I call this our “well-being trifecta,” and it incorporates self-care, food, and meditation as a sacred triangle anchoring the best version of you. They are inseparable and you should honor and utilize all three of them collectively to fully tap into their individual powers.
When I was very young, I became ill and went from playing street hockey and soccer to barely being able to get off the couch. It was terrifying—I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but it suddenly felt as though life was being sucked out of me. The doctors finally concluded that I had mononucleosis and that it needed to run its course. I was sent home and instructed to sleep and drink plenty of fluids, and so I did. Since then, I’ve developed profound awareness of my energy levels, which is something that I don’t think a lot of children think about. I witnessed firsthand the healing power of listening to your body, allowing it to sleep, and giving it the fluids it needs to thrive. It was about three months of doctor visits and various medications, and the best thing they ever did was to just take me off of all of it and let me sleep. That experience taught me that I needed more sleep than most people and when I ignored my body’s signals for rest, my body would shut down on me.
These days, I have a much more peaceful relationship with my body. I take baths almost every single night ever since I discovered that my body loves warm water with lavender Epsom salts. I can almost feel it thanking me every time I relax into the tub. I have also become an occasional napper. I used to push through or caffeinate myself through a tired spell, but now I realize that my body tells me what it needs. When I listen to my body and give in to the nap, I wake up an hour or so later completely refreshed to jump into the next task of the day, feeling much more balance in my life. Self-care is no different than food. When you love and accept your body, you begin to hear its requests for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Whether it be bubble baths, painting, a cup of herbal tea, reading a book, or listening to music, indulge in that one thing that relaxes you at the end of the day and puts you in a good head space.
Unsurprisingly, it was the keen awareness of my energy levels that convinced me of my newly clean diet. I immediately realized that the foods I consumed could be measured in other ways beyond the number on the scale. I was absolutely fascinated by the changes in my mind and body. After abstaining from meat and dairy, I was noticeably less moody and my periods were much less painful.
Finally, I had more energy, and I was off the emotional food roller coaster that had terrorized me for so long. I was so grateful and overwhelmed with those two developments alone that I could barely wrap my head around the idea that there might be more. Years later, as a vegan, gluten-free baking enthusiast, I read about the effects of sugar on our bodies and minds, and I decided to omit bread and sugary baked goods from my diet and see what happens. Well, as you might have guessed, I had more sustained energy and sharper focus instead of sporadic energy bursts, which are synonymous with sugar. I didn’t even realize how distracted and scattered I had been before I quit sugar. Don’t get me wrong: I have not sworn off bread or sugar completely. I love bread as much as the next person, but it’s no longer a part of my daily life because it doesn’t love me (with or without gluten). Occasionally, when I’m in the mood for toast or pizza with gluten-free dough, I go for it. When I was in Paris, you bet I had a croissant. I am all about living, and it’s the reason that I never put bread totally off-limits. Everyone is different in this area, so again, it’s about knowing yourself. If having a little bread means you consume an entire loaf, then skip it. The great news about the food conversation with your body is that you will get into the swing of listening to its needs and responding to it so intuitively that it becomes integrated into your lifestyle. You do not have to spend the rest of your life writing in a food-mood journal. You reprogram yourself to veer toward foods that fuel you and to listen to your intuition when it says, “Meh, not feeling any more kale this week.”
Meditation has been the most epic game changer for my life. People meditate for various reasons: to release work stress, to seek peace of mind, to maintain a balance in life, or to establish a deeper connection with a spiritual entity. I found meditation because I didn’t know how to live after my brother Kenny was diagnosed with a rare terminal illness. I’ve already explained how meditation transformed my life, but I don’t want you to think meditation is just for a certain type of person—it can help anyone, allowing you to balance your everyday life. When I first began meditating, I felt as if I had entered a vortex. All I had done was show up, willing and desperate to find a way to calm my mind and connect to something inside of me for strength, and the gates just opened. In fact, you would be amazed by how far a little willingness goes! If you have had enough; if you are done feeling imprisoned by food and your body; and if you are ready for guidance to help you navigate from where you are to where you want to be, then you are ready for meditation in your life. I like to tell my clients to think about meditation as medication. The amount of medication you take for a minor headache will differ from the amount you would need if your leg was cut off. So if you try to heal a devastating wound (like mine when my brother was diagnosed), you probably need a stronger “dosage.” Meditation helped me balance out the hard times. It’s not that I stopped crying or feeling sad about my brother; in fact, that journey continues to this day. I have moments—even days—of deep, dark sadness about his condition. When Kenny went into surgery to remove his large intestine, I would sit in easy pose on the floor of the hospital chapel, crying hysterically, and bargaining with God. That brought me more comfort than anything else could during those scariest few hours of my life. It wasn’t about pretending my feelings weren’t there, it was feeling held by a power much greater than me while experiencing them. This triangle of well-being has been my saving grace and my anchor to hold down my ship during the storm, but it has also been my rocket ship, propelling me to a life beyond my wildest dreams. I truly believe it is the secret sauce to living a life that lights you up from the inside out. It doesn’t serve us to pretend that bad things don’t happen in the world or in our lives; it’s not helping you to ignore the patterns that are hurting you or the feelings that well deep in your soul from events that have happened in your life, but that doesn’t mean any of those things need to take us out of the game. This life is a gift—it’s a precious privilege to walk this Earth, so let’s really live while we are here. When the world throws us a curveball, we don’t have to feel out of control. We have the power to take a deep breath, re-center, go back into our toolbox, and navigate ourselves to safe shores. By cultivating this trifecta as our base of operations, we achieve altitude in all aspects of our lives: the ability to look at circumstances from above and have some peace, clarity, and compassion.
Excerpted from Eat with Intention by Cassandra Bodzak with permission from Race Point Publishing, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group.