How I Used Self-Care To Completely Turn My Health Around
Some people would call it an "inconvenience" or look at me with pity in their eyes when I explain how sensitive I am to harsh chemicals and even certain foods. But I've learned that this is actually one of my greatest gifts.
When I was a little kid—we're talking elementary school years here—my mom started to notice that my whole body would break out in hives when she used a particular kind of laundry detergent on our clothes. She had to seek out a hypoallergenic laundry detergent just so I could wear my clothes without looking like I had the chickenpox. That solution seemed to work—for a few years, at least.
Fast-forward to my senior year in college: I'd find myself lying faceup on my bed with pains throughout my torso so crippling I could barely get up. I would have an hour or so of relief, and then the pains would come back. I would immediately be doubled over, doing my best to get to the nearest bench to sit.
I took countless tests in the infirmary until finally, I tried an elimination diet. I eliminated meat, dairy, gluten, and a few other common allergens at the same time, and within days I was back to my usual self with more energy than ever. In an elimination diet, you add back in things one at a time to see what was causing you the reaction. It helped me find out exactly how sensitive this body is.
I knew that this couldn’t just be a one-time thing—this was going to be a whole lifestyle change for me.
That changed everything for me. I became a very conscious consumer in every way. I knew that this couldn't just be a one-time thing—this was going to be a whole lifestyle change for me. I took a "nature up" approach: I went through my cabinets and started switching everything one by one, searching for the most natural form and steering clear of any of the foods or chemicals that my body couldn't handle.
This is why I refer to my sensitivity as a gift—it led to a strong desire to care for and honor my body. And it makes me so excited to see how more people are now catching that wave, making self-care a priority and choosing more natural products as a regular part of their life.
Ready to nature up?
Cassandra's go-to tips
A morning meditation practice. I've been meditating daily for years, but I always like to switch it up with new practices, mantras, and breathwork. One of my favorite customizable meditation practices is utilizing an "I AM" mantra. Want to call upon strength, feeling more loved, and have peace of mind? Simply put that after the words "I AM" in a statement and allow it to bounce around your head for 20 minutes to let it work its magic. Some of my favorites include: "I am supported." "I am loved." "I am powerful." "I am worthy."
A daily journaling reflection process. I like to start the day by writing in my journal. It's usually unprompted and just helps me get down on paper—and out of my head—some of my thoughts. Around the new moon and full moon, I like to incorporate more prompted journaling like, "What are my intentions and goals for these next 30 days?" or "What in my life is ready to be released? What habits or thought patterns are no longer serving me?"
Getting out in nature. Being in nature always resets my whole body. I love going on a hike to clear my head and recalibrate. I feel so lucky to live in Santa Monica and be able to walk down to the ocean; hearing the waves crash and staring out into the horizon is so deeply healing for me. Even when I'm in New York City, I love grabbing a blanket and journaling on the grass in Washington Square or Central Park.
Besides paying a little extra to buy organic produce at the farmers market, I made simple nature-forward swaps for things I use daily, replacing my conventional drugstore products with natural options from Tom's of Maine. I gave up my go-to deodorant once I read the ingredients for natural choices, and I like to add refreshing flavors to my oral care routine: The new Tom's of Maine Sea Salt Toothpaste and Sea Salt Mouthwash both have purified sea salt (a fave ingredient of mine in the kitchen and now the bathroom) along with a nice peppermint flavor for a great-tasting balance of salty and sweet! I've also been using their new Activated Charcoal toothpaste, the gentlest charcoal toothpaste among leading natural brands*, to safely and gently whiten my teeth without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. You can also leave behind conventional body lotions and use a natural body butter or even organic coconut oil to moisturize.
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In the kitchen
I listen to my body's wisdom when it comes to what I eat. For me, that's a plant-based diet with whole foods and as many local, organic ingredients as possible. My intention is to always eat from a place of self-love and nourishment for my body, which helps keep me feeling my best.
When it comes to moving, I do what feels good. I love taking a walk first thing in the morning to get sunlight in my eyes and fresh air in my lungs. I do what feels fun when it comes to exercise and honor how my body feels, so that often looks different each week. Sometimes it's spin class and weight training; other times it's yoga and Pilates. My main rule is that I never use exercise as a punishment for what I ate. Exercise is a celebration of my body and my health.
*based on Relative Dentin Abrasivity testing
Want to learn more? Follow along with our 4-week Wellness Reboot and find out how more mbg wellness experts NatureUp!
WEEK 1: Faith Hunter on simplifying the digital detox
WEEK 2: Leah Goldglantz on going natural with a growing family
WEEK 3: Betina Gozo on finding health and wellness through fitness
WEEK 4: Cassandra Bodzak on practicing holistic self-care
Cassandra Bodzak is a holistic lifestyle expert who helps people all over the world design a healthy life from the inside out through food, meditation, and self-care. She's the author of Eat With Intention: Recipes and Meditations for a Life that Lights You Up, an inspirational speaker and mentor. Her upcoming cooking show, "Eat with Intention," teaches people how to eat from a place of self-love, fuel their bodies, and nourish their souls. You may know her from from ABC's "The Taste" or her healthy, plant based cooking videos on SHAPE.com.