We talked to Cassy Joy Garcia ahead of her Texas Book Festival debut about meal prepping and having a healthy mindset toward food.
By Courtney Runn, Photos courtesy of Cassy Joy Garcia
More than 140,000 people know what Cassy Joy Garcia is making for dinner. The author and nutritionist updates her popular Instagram account regularly with recipes, meal-prepping tips and thoughts on healthy eating and, this spring, released her second book, Cook Once, Eat All Week.
Garcia wasn’t always regarded as a meal-prepping expert. She grew up eating healthy food but in college, junk food and caffeine replaced homecooked meals. She misdiagnosed her increasingly poor health as temporary weight gain but once she couldn’t lose the weight, she started to dig deeper. Instead of running because she felt like she had to, she found exercises she actually enjoyed like CrossFit and started researching inflammatory foods. After changing her eating patterns and ditching the constant diets, her body composition began to change and her energy was restored.
“I had friends and family ask me what I was eating, and it was really that simple,” Garcia says. “They were like, ‘What are you eating? You look amazing! You look like you feel amazing!’ and so after enough questions is when I decided to start fedandfit.com with the long distant hope and vision that maybe it could turn into…an online magazine.”
Her website soon attracted enough readers that she went back to school to study nutrition. Garcia now works with a team of women to produce weekly online content and keep up her social-media presence. She published her first book, Fed and Fit, in 2016 and followed up with her Cook Once, Eat All Week this year “as a way to solve meal prep for everybody who is just having a hard time getting a healthy dinner on the table.”
Ahead of her Texas Book Festival debut this weekend, Austin Woman talked to Garcia about meal prepping, developing a healthy mindset toward food and how social media has changed the blogging game.
Austin Woman: How do you set yourself up for success in meal prepping so you’re not up until 1 a.m. on Sunday night cooking?
Cassy Joy Garcia: Try to find meals that work with each other. It makes it more affordable and more efficient in the kitchen. For example, let’s say you find pork shoulder for a great deal at the grocery store. You don’t necessarily want to be eating shredded pork all week long and so go ahead and cook that pork in your Instant Pot…and then use half of it for carnitas and the other half for maybe a green chile verde. Try to use similar proteins and main components that you can cross across different meals…That’s how Cook Once Eat All Week is set up. We give you a protein, a veggie and a starch.
AW: If someone is ready to learn more about nutrition and go on a personal health journey like you did, where do you start?
CJG: If they know something needs to change and they’re tired of throwing themselves into the arms of these diets that don’t feel custom for them, I would remind them that nobody knows your body like you do. And no two bodies are alike and what you need in order to be the healthiest you is different than [what] your neighbor or your sister or your husband or wife [needs]. I would say the best thing you could do is put yourself in your own coaching seat and the way you do that and get out of your own head is to journal and write down how you feel after certain meals and let that knowledge empower you. We throw ourselves into these mystical, weird guilt circles when we have a weekend out with our friends. We come home and we feel like crud because we had a bunch of alcohol and pasta and dessert, but we don’t think about the fact that those foods just physically do something to our body; it’s more guilt about the choices. … Did you sleep well, or did you sleep poorly? Did you feel great at your workout the next day? Were you sleepy all day long? Did you have a stomachache? [Write down] those kinds of things and then start drawing your own correlations about, ‘Wow, you know what I’m going to have that bowl of pasta and I just know going into it that I’m not going to feel great tomorrow but that’s ok because it’s worth it to me.’ That is the biggest freedom I want folks to have when it comes to wellness is to just demystify it all for themselves and also if they really want to feel great, they can put themselves in the driver’s seat and cherry-pick those things.
AW: How do you make that mental shift? It’s so ingrained in us to carry guilt and shame surrounding food and see food as good and bad.
CJG: It’s a hard one but my personal stance is there’s no such thing as good and bad food. It’s all food; some of it’s going to make you feel good and some of it’s going to make you feel not good. The food is not the villain and the choices are not the villain and our bodies are also made to heal. So even if we eat the food that we know is not going to make us feel great, we don’t have to throw ourselves into this guilt cycle. We can just say, ‘I made this decision. I’m not going to feel good and I know the things I can do to help myself feel better.’ It doesn’t have to be whether we made the wrong or right decisions because it’s in the past. We’ll feel better again, and the decision is fleeting but the guilt can stick around for a while. Call it is; it was just a meal. That’s all it was.
AW: Did having a daughter change the way you talk or think about food?
CJG: Absolutely. We got a leg up because this was my profession. We’re not afraid of healthy fats in our home; we’re not afraid of carbs. We don’t eliminate any one big thing. We just eat good, healthy foods when she’s hungry and when she wants to fuel herself, there are no good and bad foods that I try to talk about and a part of that is just the stuff we bring into our home is all going to be nourishing in some way. It doesn’t mean we’re not above crackers; we have them. I try not to talk about, ‘Let’s get a good snack’ or ‘No, that’s not a good snack.’ That kind of thing. I try not to use that kind of language around her. I also try to vocalize maybe a little bit more now decisions that I do make like, ‘I really want some vegetables for lunch.’ I’ll say that out loud whereas I may have just gone and made myself a plate of greens which could seem kind of like a diet-y, restrictive mood but it’s just because I’ve been craving greens so I try to put words to those actions more often than not. I also try to put words to when I do feel great like ‘Man, I love this dress and I feel great in this dress.’ … You can’t protect them forever but when people talk about other peoples’ bodies, I will pull Gray aside, as teeny as she is, and say if she looks distracted by it, ‘That’s a beautiful person isn’t it.’ And refocus away from what somebody might look like.
AW: I love that. That’s so important to already be having those conversations. How have you handled social media? That also can be a hard space. How do you balance using it as a tool to connect with readers and not experiencing the negative aspects of it?
CJG: I love it. I say this a lot, but I mean it: I really think we have the best readers in the whole wide world. …. They’re just the most wonderful people and I think that’s the culture we’ve cultivated at Fed & Fit, this big community of knowledge without trying to scare and empower without trying to belittle, recipes that nourish without restricting. I think it’s just created a really positive space. I made a decision strategically in that—because I didn’t want to fuel a comparison game—you won’t find me taking pictures of myself in a sports bra and stretchy pants not because I don’t want to be seen in them; I couldn’t care less but because I don’t want anybody else using that to judge themselves against where they may be or think they should be. … If I do post something that has my body in it then I try to use it as an opportunity to further drive the point home that your body is the least interesting thing about you. That’s something we say a lot here. The comparison game business is definitely there but I just try to keep my head down and remember that those positive notes are coming in and our work is really making a difference in peoples’ lives and if I need to, I can mute somebody who doesn’t make me feel good about myself.
AW: The industry of social media and blogging has evolved so much. You started out in the early blogging days and have experienced the shift toward Instagram. How has that affected Fed & Fit?
CJG: It’s been interesting. Back in the day when I started, people would go on your website to leave comments. That’s how you’d interact. And now you have interaction on social media. What I’ve also learned—not to negate the point I just made—is my two audiences on my website and then on social are two different groups of people. … We now have several content calendars where we’re creating microcontent for social media and then macro content for the website, for the Googlers, for the people who are on Pinterest, people who really want to read and find resources. The job has grown but I think it’s a luxury for folks who are starting out now to be able to start fresh because if they don’t want to blog and do double the work, they really don’t have to. And to play Google’s SEO game, it’s an advantage to start fresh. We’re doing that right now, really just trying to rebuild the ship while the ship is currently underwater and still make it airtight. It’s quite an effort.
See Cassy Joy Garcia at the Texas
Book Festival on Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Central Market Cooking Tent.