March 19, 2016
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How Rachel “Yoga Girl” Brathen Balances a Yoga Diet With a Little Wine and Raw Cheesecake
Rachel Brathen, better known as “Yoga Girl,” has turned an Instagram account into a veritable empire. From herinspiring and refreshingly real ‘grams to a recent memoir to her online-based healthy lifestyle community,OneOeight, Brathen, 27, serves as a motivator for aspiring yogis across the globe. She’s also bracingly honest, with a no holds barred attitude about what a yoga lifestyle actually means. Swedish-born Brathen had a tumultuous childhood before moving to Costa Rica in her late teens. She worked odd jobs and began dipping her toes into a meditation and yoga practice. When a family vacation brought her to Aruba, she fell in love with the island and met the man of her dreams (now her husband). She then moved to Aruba to pursue a career in teaching yoga. She began posting about her life and practice on her Instagram and it all snowballed from there.
For Brathen, living well means a little bit of chocolate cake alongside her green juice. Read on to find out what a yogi in the 21st-century really eats. (Yes, there is wine).
You used to be a strict vegan. Are you not labeling yourself in the way you used to?
I still eat a mainly vegan diet—I don’t eat meat or eggs and I don’t drink milk. I just found that whenever you label yourself as something or another, it restricts you a whole lot. I focus on eating whatever makes me feel good.
How has your diet changed throughout the years?
When I was younger and lived in Sweden, I ate a pretty crappy diet. I never thought about the fact that the things I put in my mouth affect how I feel throughout the day. When I started a meditation practice, I realized I was eating lots and lots of sugar, processed food, and meat—things that weren’t making me feel very good. So I transitioned toward a raw vegan diet. Which was a huge change, like night and day. I used to be allergic to everything, and the moment I cut out processed food, those allergies fell away—and they’ve stayed away for eight years now. Then I moved to Aruba, which is a small desert island where nothing really grows. We don’t have farmers’ markets; everything we eat here is imported. So I started to become a little more flexible with my diet, eating some yogurt and a little cheese. Now I eat a whole foods-based diet, lots of fruits and vegetables, some whole grains like quinoa and barley. I still enjoy dessert and wine and the fun things in life, too.
What’s your favorite dessert?
Oh god. The whole point of eating dinner is so you can eat dessert! Anything chocolate. I’ve been drooling all these slow-cooker [dessert] recipes lately. Like lava cakes made in crock pots. I make a lot of raw cheesecake at home, too.
What’s the secret to a good raw cheesecake?
The secret is to soak your cashews long enough that they get soft and creamy. I use a ton of lemon juice, coconut oil, and vanilla bean.
What food do you eat every day?
I always eat a ton of fruit. I go through phases; right now I’m eating a lot of grapefruit and pomelo. Sometimes I get into this pomegranate phase and I’ll eat two of those a day because I like picking them apart.
You’ve been traveling a lot lately for your book tour; how has that changed your diet?
It’s a struggle. Definitely, definitely. I learned to lower my expectations a little and not be so hard on myself. Whenever we go on tour, my diet goes out the window a little bit, and I end up eating greasier things. But I know it’s temporary, and I do my best to set myself up for success. I always have a fridge in the hotel room, and I can stop by a Whole Foods and stock up on coconut water, fruits, and green juice. Then I don’t have to call room service and order French fries. Having good snacks helps, too.
What are your snack secrets?
I love Larabars. I travel with a lot of nuts, dehydrated kale chips. I like fruit that takes a long time to eat; things to nibble on, like grapes.
What’s your favorite or least favorite kitchen task?
I hate chopping things. I always delegate the chopping to my husband. I love the actual assembling and seasoning of the meal. And my husband does the dishes. I’ve tricked him into thinking that chopping isn’t part of cooking, so he does that and he also does the dishes because I did the cooking.
What’s your essential kitchen tool?
I use my Vitamix for everything; soup, sauces, dressings, and smoothies. I make flour with it. You can make flour from anything, like oats or nuts.
What’s the biggest misconception about what a yogi’s diet is like?
People sometimes think you live inside this little box; raw food, only vegan, no alcohol, no sugar, no dessert, nothing fun. But I eat what I want; I drink wine. Sometimes when I shared that [on social media], I’d get a little backlash, like, “Oh, how can you call yourself a yoga teacher and drink alcohol?” But that view is changing a lot.
Where did you learn to cook?
It’s all trial and error for me. Making mistakes and learning and building from there.
Kind of like life.
Kind of like life.