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Plant-Based Stories: Cara Cifelli

Posted on February 22, 2019

Hey franzzz, my name is Cara Carin Cifelli, and I am a holistic health coach over at CarasKitchen.net. Like many, I have struggled greatly with my relationship to food and my body image. While it was an incredibly painful experience (I had an eating disorder for over a decade), I can look back and see that without it I wouldn’t be where I am in my life. It was one of the dots in my past that truly connected in my present. 

Making the Switch

A turning point in my healing journey was when I began to self-educate on our food system and learned about crop subsidies, factory farms, animal agriculture and the revolving door of board members at large companies and government officials meant to regulate these large industries. 

Prior to this, food had only ever been about one thing and one thing only: weight loss. The food I was eating was either helping me lose weight or causing me to gain weight. That’s it. It was so black and white for me. But being exposed to this other side of food shifted foods purpose in my life away from being a tool to manipulate my body, to being a form of activism and a way to vote for the type of world I wanted to live in—a more just, kind, fair world that valued momma earth.  

It was inspiring to say the least and really took the pressure and focus off my body and made it about something much large than myself. This resulted in me transitioning to a predominately whole foods plant-based lifestyle (not 100 percent vegan) not just because I wanted to leave less of a negative impact on the environment. I also truly started to see my choices with food as a powerful form of love for myself and the world. 

A really beautiful side effect of this shift was teaching myself how to cook. To be honest, I do not have a natural gift in the kitchen. My first couple of years were pretty rough, making some dishes that weren’t even palatable, but I’ve come along way since then and now find cooking to be such a creative self-expression and an element of my self-care. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic, “It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.” That statement could not be truer in my experience with cooking plant-based foods. So if cooking new foods or different foods is something you’re nervous about, let that worry fall away, and know that before you know it you’ll be making food you absolutely love to eat.  

And honestly, the transition was a lot easier than I expected it to be which I believe reflects the desire for wanting to change how I was eating in the first place. It was not coming from a place of “should” or “have to” or a place shame or obligation. I really wanted to shift, and my desire came from a place of authentic inspiration to take care of my body and the planet. Plus I was saving a lot of money on my grocery bill which was something I was not expecting, but when you remove meat and cheese from your cart, things end up costing a lot less. 

My Philosophy Today

Now being years into having a healthy, nourishing, fun relationship with food, my philosophy is rooted in what is referred to as the Four Bodies. Traditionally we’ve been taught that we have one body, the physical body, but through my exploration in holistic nutrition and spirituality, I have come to believe that we have four: Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual. This idea is part of the foundation I use to help my clients heal their relationship with food and their bodies. 

This framework allows people to see cake and champagne as health foods because food is not just physical nourishment. It’s emotional nourishment too. Few would argue that there is no physical necessity to cake or champagne, but the role they play in our culture is hugely important to our mental and emotional well-being. Birthday cake or the champagne toast at a wedding reflects celebration, community, family and love. It enriches our lives and feeds our soul. Sure, they contain sugar and have zero fiber, but that’s not the role these foods play anyways. That’s what we have kale and beans for!   

As someone with a history of black and white thinking (foods are either good or bad), this has allowed myself and others to view food more holistically and realize there is a larger role for it to play than just fuel for the physical body. Food is something that also nourishes our mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. 

My Easy Go-To Dinner

One of my favorite quick weeknight meals that is all about comfort and pleasure is mac & cheese. It truly feeds my soul, and allowing myself to eat carbs after years of seeing them as bad has been incredible for my mental health and sanity! 

I absolutely recommend this Bac’n Avocado Casserole recipe for a holistically nourishing plant-based meal.

 

 

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