Eat With Intention isn’t your average cookbook, it isn’t some kind of on-trend fad diet book either, the recipes don’t appear until chapter six and although all the food is nutritious and healthy, you won’t find any mention of measuring fat or calories.
Author, Cassandra Bodzak is the creator of Eat With Intention TV (as well as being a certified Kundalini yoga and meditation teacher), she believes that we need to love and care for ourselves in order to function at optimum health. This not only involves reaching for foods that that fuel us in the most nutritious way but by also taking care of our mental and emotional needs.
The introduction and first five chapters of the book introduce us to Cassandra and the routines that she follows in order to ‘shine her light from within’. Cassandra shares the struggles that she has experienced with her own self-esteem, her relationship with food during her younger years, and the profound affect that her brother’s illness has had on her.
Chapter one, ‘What Does It Mean to Eat with Intention?’ tells us that Cassandra wants us to make peace with our bodies, so rather than constantly battling our bodies by trying to diet - which usually leads to weight sliding back on again, she suggests treating it positively and with respect instead of depriving it. She also shares the Four Pillars of the Eat With Intention Journey – tools that can be returned to and used in any order as needed. Pillar One covers ‘Making Peace with your Body’, Pillar Two is ‘Becoming a Food Detective’ (learning to listen to your body, recognising its needs and highlighting any patterns between what you eat and how you feel). Pillar Three is called ‘Starting a Conversation’ (using meditation as a way to help you make time to converse with your body by trying to figure out what it is you are really craving). Finally Pillar Four, ‘Fall in Love with Food’ talks about making your kitchen a sacred place, remaining focused while cooking and making the effort to present your food, thus treating your meal as a ritual rather than just an automatic routine.
The second chapter ‘The Well-Being Trifecta’ discusses how diet, self-care and meditation work together, while chapter three, ‘Shifting Your Habits’ encourages you to form new positive habits and helps you to spot emotional triggers that may cause you to eat badly. 'Taking Care of You’ (chapter four) recognises the importance of taking time out, especailly for women, who as natural care-givers tend to put the needs of others before their own.The final chapter before the recipes begin, ‘Integrating Change into Your Daily Life’ encourages us to grab the reins and start living by making changes now and not to put things off for another week, month or year.
The recipes in this book are divided into the next six chapters: ‘Juices and Smoothies’, ‘Breakfast’, ‘Soups’, ‘Salads and Bowls’, ‘Entrées’, and ‘Desserts’. All meals are vegan as Cassandra has found that cutting both meat and dairy from her own diet has improved her well-being.
You can expect to see the more common vegan ingredients such as fruits, nuts, almond milk, coconut milk, avocado and chia seeds; Cassandra is also very keen on using plenty of brown rice syrup. Thankfully, there are very few recipes that use more obscure ingredients.
Each recipe comes with a list of ingredients, a method and most also come with a full page photo, but what makes this book really different is that each recipe also comes with its own meditation/visualisation/breathing exercise that you can try either before cooking or before eating. I guess it is up to you when you feel like doing it, but the idea is that you give yourself time to focus on you and your food, to practice intention and mindfulness instead of rushing to throw a meal together and then eating it while watching television and checking your emails.
There are meditations for all kinds of things, such as: ‘Healing Light Meditation’ and ‘Let It Go Meditation’, or a couple that I am persoanlly drawn to, ‘Meditation for Balancing The Nervous Energies’ and ‘Kundalini Meditation For Emotional Balance’. Each meditation guides you on how to position yourself, how to breath and gives you images, messages and thoughts for you to concentrate on.
Within the recipe chapters I found lots of tasty looking things that appealed to me (I’m not a vegan). I took a fancy to the ‘Creamy Tomato Soup’ and the ‘Cauliflower, Apple and Rosemary Soup’, and the ‘Grounding Salad’ and the ‘Veggie Curry’. I’d also like to try the baked options from the ‘Breakfast’ chapter, ‘Blueberry Almond Muffins’, and ‘Cherry Rosemary Scones’, as they just sound so good. For anyone struggling with sweet cravings the ‘Desserts’ chapter includes ‘Barely Baked Brownies’ and ‘Mini Carrot Cakes with Cashew Cream Cheese’, (they are both on my to-do list).
The tone of this book is friendly and soothing, it is incredibly open and honest, and that isn’t something that necessarily sits easily with me. I’m a bit of a cynic, and if you too are likely to give the self-help section in your local bookshop a wide berth, then this book may feel a little awkward for you at first, but do give it a chance. At first glance it may come across like those fluffy affirmations you see all over instagram, but if you actually read the content (and there is a lot of content) you realise that what Cassandra is saying actually makes a lot of sense.
I haven’t done much meditating so I know it is easy to be skeptical when you read through a meditation that also happens to include a chant, but I also know that the tiny bit of meditating I have tried really helped me, so I’m definitely open to trying it again. If you are someone that is open to meditating, or maybe already practices meditating, and want to start eating more cleanly then this book is perfect for you, especially if you are looking for new meditations to try; I counted over 60 recipes so that means over 60 new meditations/visualisations too.
This book may have fallen into my lap at just the right time, just when I was considering my health and how I could improve it. I’m not sure I would have picked this book out on my own, and had that been the case I think I would have missed out. One thing this book has in spades is content, for someone only just beginning on a journey of self-care this may seem daunting initially, but having read through the whole book, I feel confident that I could flick through whenever I felt like it, and would be able to find exactly what it is I was needing at that time. I may not be entirely comfortable with a language that talks about ‘honouring yourself’ and 'shining your light’ (that’s just me), but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognise a good, positive read when I see it.
Eat with Intention by Cassandra Bodzak, photography by Evi Abeler
Published by Race Point Publishing