Rocio Graves is a Mallorca based photographer and woman behind Let It Be Cosy, a blog and instagram, focusing on colorful, plant-based recipes and thoughts on self-care, self-healing practices, spirituality, and organic farming, all of which we’ve found to be incredibly inspiring ever since we learned about Rocio’s work a few years ago.
In this interview, Rocio tells us about her journey with Graves’ disease, her mindfulness practice and its profound effects on her life, the herbs that she uses throughout the day to support her wellbeing, her philosophy on seeing movement as a playful and essential part of life, tidiness and organization as a way to keep stress at bay, as well as routine, plant-based nourishment, beauty, and so much more.
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
I thrive on routine (especially with consistent times of eating and sleeping) but I’m yet to find one that works for me now. I have a very rebellious spirit and like to have a lot of freedom and act spontaneously, yet there are habits that, done consistently, really help me thrive.
My life has changed drastically in the last two years after going through a divorce and I’m slowly finding my flow, designing my days in a way that support me! I am freelance (working mostly from home) and I don’t have children so I really don’t have much structure. Basically, yes: routine is important to me and I also like to be open and free.
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
My ideal morning looks like waking up at sunrise, making a tonic, putting my bare feet on the earth and take the new day in. I really enjoy sitting on my meditation pillow, to breathe, meditate and then do some stretching and yoga followed by a dance session with very loud music. Then a swim in the sea before I make breakfast and start working.
This is what my ideal morning looks like and something that I could realistically do every day, however, most mornings I wake up late because I stayed up too late reading or dancing or cooking or scrolling on my phone. I also wake up feeling a little anxious and don’t feel like meditating. So I make myself a tonic and jump into my daily responsibilities (a mixture of tidying up, putting the washing on, e-mails…).
As I type this I am staying with my parents for a few days; They have a beautiful yurt on their land that I sleep in whenever I visit. My mornings here have been short of magical. As soon as I wake up I step outside among the trees and birds, I make myself a tonic and walk through the little copse to their long natural pool where I meditate, do yoga, and then swim. After this I kiss an hug my parents (and cats) good morning and make breakfast. Then I sit outside under the grape vine with my laptop and get to work for a few hours before another swim.
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
Yes! As soon as the sun sets I turn all the lights off in the house (including wifi) and light candles in every room. This helps my body get into sleep mode. Sleeping in a pitch dark room helps me have a very deep sleep.
I do my best to have an early dinner so I’m not digesting when I sleep and instead allow my body to do its amazing job of restoring and healing the body in deep rest.
I always use my foam roller before bed, it really helps release any tensions in my back. Playing soft music and doing some breath work in bed helps ground me.
Taking magnesium citrate in pill form before bed also helps so much.
— Do you have any kind of mindfulness practice?
Yes! I have a few! Cooking is one of them, it really grounds me and brings me into the present moment like nothing else. I also feel a very intimate connection with the moon and the sun. There’s no day when I’m not looking for the moon in the sky and not watching the sun set. They both bring me so much peace and a deep sense of feeling safe. They are always there, not going anywhere. I don’t always feel at home in this world, being connected to nature helps ground me.
As far as meditation goes, I practice Vipassana. It’s an ancient practice taught by the Buddha and in recent years by SN. Goenka in centres all over the world. This practice has helped me become aware of my breath at all times, not only when I’m sitting in meditation but in all situations; it brings me back to this moment now. Vipassana has also showed me through experience that nothing is permanent, and so I live my days very aware of this, which helps me live less attached, with less ups and downs and ultimately, more inner peace.
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Considering it’s summer time as I read this question… :)
Breakfast – a warm tonic to start the day and a sweet juicy local organic watermelon
Lunch – a big platter of vietnamese summer rolls with lots of beautiful fresh garden veggies and herbs like mint and coriander to go with these freshly made dipping sauces: parsley date and ginger chutney, medicinal sweet chilli and almond satay sauce… mmmmm. Also a bowl of cucumber raw soup (cucumber, hemp seeds, fresh mint, apple cider vinegar, one date, garlic and salt).
Snack – homemade kale chips or a juicy peach with coconut yogurt
Dinner – a big leafy green salad with lots of avocado, olives, sauerkraut, pickled onions and a delicious homemade sweet dijon dressing.
— Do you do caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
I absolutely love the taste and smell of coffee. I’ve never been a heavy coffee drinker but I did used to love going to my favourite cafés and enjoy a good cup coffee occasionally. In recent years I noticed that it wasn’t helping with my already busy mind and tendency to feel anxious.
You know, since changing my diet and leaving out a lot of the less healthy comforting foods that I used to eat, I’ve developed the capacity to enjoy those foods by just smelling them and taking in their essence without the need to eat them! It’s pretty powerful! And this is what I do with coffee, I enjoy the smell, close my eyes and appreciate it. I’m so in tune with my body, with what is supportive to my system and what isn’t, and that is my priority. There’s times when my body can afford something like coffee and others when it can’t. For me it’s about being in tune and choosing from there. If and when I do drink coffee I make sure it’s of highest quality, ethically sourced and roasted with care and I’ll savour every sip!
Most mornings I enjoy a homemade tonic using medicinal mushrooms and herbs (I use Sun Potion for both) in my favourite handmade mug. The base is either hot water or home brewed Chaga tea and the herbs and mushrooms I usually use are Reishi, He Shou Wu and Rodhiola (I also love Pine Pollen and Mucuna Pruriens). I blend it all in the Vitamix with a few teaspoons of hemp seeds to make it creamy (or homemade almond milk if I have some), a Medjool date or some honey, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of raw cacao if I’m feeling it. This makes a creamy and frothy warming tonic that really soothes my system and my heart!
— Do you have a sweet tooth and do you take any measures to keep it in check?
I have more of a salty tooth actually. But when I do want something sweet I just make it (I don’t have processed store-bought snacks in the house)!
There are so many easy quick ways to enjoy a homemade sweet snack. Some of my favourites: having homemade chocolate bark/bonbons in the freezer, blending dates with tahini (and maybe some cacao?) in the Vitamix and using that as a dip for apple slices, homemade ice-cream (I try to keep frozen berries in the freezer) by blending frozen fruit in the Vitamix (as you can see I’m obsessed with this blender, been using it for years!) and adding a few Medjool dates for sweetness if needed. These are some ideas…
If I’m out I always take a few pieces of fruit or Medjool dates with me. I also know where to find the best raw chocolate in town so I just get it from there!
In my experience, snacking between meals can interrupt digestion, so I try to be mindful about this. Also, I’m weary that when I do crave a snack it’s usually because I haven’t eaten a proper meal at lunch or dinner or because I’m either trying to procrastinate or feeling triggered emotionally.
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
During the past year I’ve been experimenting with herbal infusions as taught by Susun Weed. A few months ago I bought 1 kg bags of nettle, raspberry leaf and hibiscus (buying them in bulk is cheaper!) and have been taking them regularly. These herbs are very high in minerals which are essential to our health and I’m really loving them.
Aside from this and from the medicinal mushrooms and herbs, I find taking magnesium before bed time really helps with deep rest, especially in times of stress.
To support my digestion I take Triphala, which is a blend of three fruits regularly used in Ayurveda. It’s pretty amazing. I also take enzymes with my food, not essential but it does help, especially when eating out.
I also take Vitamin B12 in liquid form (I eat a plant-based diet and regularly check my levels; taking a supplement helps to keep my levels high).
I also make sure to eat lots of fermented foods (I love homemade sauerkraut, and homemade cashew yogurt) and I really enjoy eating seaweed which is really high in minerals and delicious (Icelandic Dulse is my favourite).
Eating a high amount of herbs is also something I love to do as they are so powerful and medicinal! Cilantro and parsley are always a thing. I use them in juices, dressings, sauces… I’m obsessed.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
This is one of the areas of my life where there is so much room for expansion. I am currently working this one out as there are some mindset blockages that have been keeping me from having the desire to move my body for fitness purposes.
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
Hmmm… as I read this question a few thoughts come to mind.
Firstly, our human bodies are designed to be moved. They are not designed to be sitting all day in the car, at the computer, on the train… We are so off with this as a collective. We are so disconnected from the laws of nature and the natural movement of the body. We used to make a living using our hands and our bodies. We used to move our body with purpose, not to stay fit. Now we use mostly our brain and we have machines do what we used to make with our hands.
The word ‘exercise’ creates a short circuit in my brain. I prefer to think of it as movement, as play. I want to create a lifestyle for myself that involves lots of body movement as a means to create something or as part of play and pleasure. My favourite ways of moving my body are through yoga, swimming, dancing, hiking and rebounding.
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
Ah… I’ll try to put this into words. I see beauty everywhere. I see beauty in the pain, I see beauty in the joy. I see beauty in the raw, slow, natural, lived.
If we are talking about physical human beauty, for me it looks like someone who is in embodiment, self-acceptance, presence, surrendered, connected to a higher power, goes slow, and is real.
Honestly, there’s nothing sexier than a healthy strong body. Someone who reveres their body as a sacred vessel and looks after it inside and out.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
My approach is to stay simple and minimal and 100% natural. I used to work as a professional make up artist and even blogged about make up and skincare for a few years! I was obsessed with products, thinking that more was better.
In recent years, after ditching the alcohol and the foods that didn’t support me, I also ditched my whole high-end make up kit, all my skincare products and started from scratch with a few oils and a few make up bits from RMS beauty.
I’ve learnt a lot about my skin in the past year and I’m still learning /experimenting. But one thing I know for sure is that our skin is our biggest organ, it absorbs everything that we put on it, so being mindful of this is absolutely crucial for its health and the health of our body as a whole.
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
Some that come to mind in no particular order: drinking plenty of water is absolutely essential, nettle infusion for healthy skin, hair and nails, lots of dark leafy greens and seaweed, beautiful heathy fats such as local sprouted almonds and avocados, He Shou Wu (also known as Fo-Ti) is an ancient Chinese herb that I take every day that does wonders for hair and nail growth.
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years?
Yes! As far as skincare tips that really work for me:
– Sunlight (in moderation of course, but the light of the sun is one of the greatest healers and ‘nutrients’!)
– Dry brushing to get rid of dead skin cells and activate the lymphatic system (I think we should all be talking more about the lymphatic system, it’s so crucial to know how to support it for good health / to avoid stagnation and sickness)
– Cold showers
– Oil massaging (Abhyanga self massage) – I use coconut/almond oil in the summer and sesame oil in the winter.
– Shea butter for everyday skin hydration is my obsession (I use Sun Potion)
– Washing face with oil (I’m loving Living Libation’s Best Skin Ever) and removing with wet warm towel. This is a natural way of gently exfoliating the skin.
– Moisturising with oil too (I use a few different ones – Living Libation’s Best Skin Ever and their Rose Serum, Mother Dirt’s moisturiser or Sun Potion’s Shea Butter depending on the day).
– Jade or rose quartz Gua sha (google it!) and jade rollers. I love using these two gadgets to activate the blood flow on my face (I use the Gua Sha also on my legs, arms and back).
– I like to splash my face with warm then cold water in the morning and I always, always, always take my make up off at night if wearing any.
As far as make up goes:
I looove a hydrated dewy skin with very minimal make up (I dab a little concealer with my fingers in areas where I need it but never wear foundation anymore). Strong but messy eyebrows, curled eyelashes, a touch of cream blush on the cheeks and lips and a little cream bronzer on the highest points of the face where the sun would naturally hit (collar bones too!). I rarely wear eyeshadow or mascara (I can’t be bothered, hehe).
— Do you practice any consistent routines in order to avoid stress?
The stress I experience is usually self created (procrastination / lack of organization). Having said this, there’s a few things that can help me feel calm even when outside stress is inevitable. The first one is keeping my house clean, tidy and free of clutter (knowing where everything is makes me feel so peaceful!), having a fully stocked fridge (leftovers are great stress helpers, one less thing to think about!), sleeping enough is essential and writing everything that’s on my mind or worries me down on paper. I tend to hold a lot of mental space for things I have to do, so having clear to do lists and calendars are essential to stay focused and avoid stressing unnecessarily.
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
I’m generally quite good with stress. I’m able to stay calm and collected. If whatever is stressful is not in my hands then I’m usually quick to let it go and trust in the divine plan. A good cry always helps with release tension, going for a walk in nature, doing a yoga class (love taking online classes with YogaGlo) or having a good sweaty dance session at home helps to let it all go too.
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
If possible I will rest as much as possible. I sleep a lot. I drink a lot of water… I also make sure that I’m eating foods that are really easy to digest — I don’t want to give my body extra work by giving it heavy food. I like to drink hot water with fresh ginger snd lemon. I also use colloidal silver and homeopathy.
But I do my best to avoid getting to the point where I’m run down and prone to get a cold by taking good care of myself, having proper rest and nutrition, supporting my immune system with adaptogens, etc.
— Do you strive to maintain a healthy work/life balance or do those things overlap for you? What is your approach?
Well… because I live on my own and I work from home, I have a tendency to never disconnect from work. I don’t have anyone waiting for me to have dinner or watch a film or go for a walk (I love living on my own, but there are some downsides ;) ) so I can sometimes forget to stop and push it until bed time. Let’s just say my life right now revolves very much around my work because I’m getting my career off the ground. But I do take days off when I need them without feeling guilt. I have a very flexible schedule so I might work on the weekends and take a few days off at the beginning of the week.
I’m very, very protective of my time, I am so aware of the fact that tomorrow is not guaranteed… this really grounds me and puts things into perspective. I will never get too caught up in work to the point of forgetting to enjoy my life. In fact, if you saw my inbox you would cringe. I can be quite radical with this where I prioritise self-care and time of enjoyment over getting back to emails.
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself?
When I’m tapped into love, trust and faith I naturally take care of myself and am super sweet with myself. Meditating and having a consistent spiritual practice really help me to stay present and aware of my thoughts. As soon as I have a self-deprecating thought I remind myself of the Truth – that I am love, loved and lovable. That I am doing the best that I can. That I’m doing enough. That I deserve all that I deeply desire. And so it is.
— What do you consider to be the single most important change you’ve made to your routine or lifestyle in terms of wellness?
I have to mention three:
1. Radically quitting doing things I didn’t want to do/be but felt obliged to (this includes jobs, people, plans, etc.)
2. Adopting a plant-based diet (ditching alcohol, dairy and gluten especially) – buying at the farm instead of the supermarket.
3. Having a spiritual practice.
— How do you deal with periods characterized by a lack of inspiration or procrastination?
I accept it and have compassion for myself / try not to feel shame or guilt for it. Then I remind myself that it’s all temporary. I focus on self-care and doing things that bring me joy first to raise my vibration and then I take aligned action. Sounds easier said than done, I know.
— A book/movie/class that influenced your view of self-nourishment or self-care.
Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr was the book that started it all for me.
— Can you tell us about your journey with Graves’ disease and self-healing?
Oh! I could write a whole book about this! In short; As a child I grew up in a very alternative conscious community. I lived very much in tune with nature in a small village in the mountains of Mallorca. I never took antibiotics and was never vaccinated. I was a very healthy strong child.
At the age of 24 whilst going through some major stressful life events I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition in the thyroid called Graves’ disease (ironically discovered by a great grand-uncle of mine). This was my first contact with the allopathic medical system and hospitals. I was on medication for years, told I would have this chronic condition for the rest of my life. I was given two options: take my thyroid out (!!) or radioactive therapy. I said no to both and went out to look for answers. I became a researcher and scientist of my own health. After trying several approaches I discovered a few people online who had healed from Graves’ through diet. I also found the raw food vegan movement and it truly resonated with me. I started implementing what I was learning that same day and I never looked back. Within 3 months my blood results came back clear.
I was diagnosed back in 2011, changed my diet in 2014 and have had many ups and downs every since.
High levels of stress was what triggered my autoimmunity, changing my diet was crucial to my healing, but I soon understood that food was not going to be enough. There is so much more to health than food. My emotional and mental health have been closely related to the health of my thyroid. During my divorce I had another episode of thyroid imbalance when I had to start taking medication again. I soon after started working with a naturopath and transitioned from allopathic medicine to homeopathy, flower remedies, and other therapies.
This is what I know now: we cannot separate our mental health from our emotional health, our spiritual health and our physical health. It’s all connected. When one is out of balance the others are too.
This is what I’ve found essential for self-healing through experience (not through books): we have to be in tune with nature (sleeping in tune with the rhythms of nature, breathing fresh clean air, drinking clean pure water, eating food grown on healthy so¡l, receive sunshine…). We have to do what we love, create what we want to create. We need healthy nourishing and uplifting human connections/community/support, laughter, play, love, hugs, a sense of purpose, clear open communication, release of suppressed emotions, a connection to a higher power, body movement, mindfulness practices.
I’m really passionate about this and I look forward to sharing more about the tools and practices that have supported me and continue to support me in my holistic health with the community.
— We are in love with your photos. How did you become a food photographer? Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Thank you so much!! Well… a little seed was planted when I was at university studying a degree in Human Rights when I decided to take a semester in photography. I absolutely fell in love with it but didn’t do anything with it until years later when I decided to start a blog! I started taking photos of the recipes I was creating with my very old DSLR camera. I was so bad at the beginning! I remember getting a food photography book for Christmas that year (this was back in 2013) and I just practiced every single day at all times! I have to say I learnt quite quickly and soon was approached by big newspapers and magazines such as Die Zeit in Germany and Vogue Spain. I got my first food photography job in 2014 where I shot most of the Michelin Star restaurants on the island of Mallorca. This was a huge learning curve for me as I was used to shooting in my own kitchen where I knew how the light coming through the window worked and at what were the best times to shoot. At this job I had to be super creative with finding the spots with the best lighting and quick! Actually, when I was approached for this job I was using a Canon 60D with a very basic 50mm lens (it’s a great camera for beginners!).
I said, if you want me to do this job I need a better camera. Pay me up front with my dream camera and we will both win! I will get the camera I’ve always wanted and you will get amazing image quality. And that’s how we did it!
I’ve been lucky to be approached by amazing clients without having to go to look for them. My blog and Instagram accounts have been my best marketing tool. Having said this, I don’t consider myself a food photographer, I really think of myself as someone who LOVES to cook and merge delicious flavour with applied knowledge of nutrition. I don’t cook only for taste anymore. It has to do both: nourish and pleasure. Photography is the means through which I share my craft, passion and knowledge with the world. I don’t enjoy photographing other people’s food creations / food products as much as I enjoy the process of creating a recipe in my mind, developing it, styling it and shooting it. The photography is only one aspect of what I do. And I love it!
My humble advice for aspiring food photographers… I would say, don’t do it just because it’s something that you think can make you a good living or because you see so many people doing it on Instagram. Do it because you just can’t not do it!
Learning about light, framing and composition is key. Less is more. Imperfect over perfect. Real food always. Practice, practice, practice! Having a real passion for food and knowing how to cook is also pretty important to understand the food you are shooting. Also, don’t look too much at what others are doing or what is trendy, it’s easy to get caught up and end up following other photographers’ style. Find your own voice.
The most successful food photographers, the ones that are shooting amazing food stories for magazines or beautiful cook books are not huge on Instagram. Their work speaks for them (word of mouth) and they don’t need a huge platform to promote their work. If you are crazy good at your craft, clients will want to work with you.
— The Cosy Gatherings that you host in your home sound amazing! Can you tell us a bit more about them, how the idea came about, what sort of food you serve, etc.?
I started Cosy Gatherings in Autumn of 2017 as a way to have a direct physical connection with my online community. I wanted to share my food with others whilst supporting local organic farmers, it’s been a dream since I was a child. To cook for others as part of what I call ‘work’.
I host these very intimate gatherings in my own home (sitting around a long table under a beautiful porch) and cook an all organic and local plant-based feast for my guests. From home made kale chips (from the garden), to cold pressed green juice, raw cheeses, salads, gluten free breads, hearty vegetable dishes, raw cheesecakes, bonbons… all the treats. Guests go through a guided meditation before dinner and then enjoy all the food around the table for hours on end.
Because I’m going to be moving house soon, I’m looking at how these gatherings will evolve. I will probably be hosting them in different spaces and collaborating with local artists, musicians and chefs. I want to take this venture out into the world, I’m ready to work with a team and not always on my own!
Fun and Inspiration
— What is something you are particularly excited about at the moment?
I’m excited about the openness that I am experiencing right now. I’m literally on the brink of big changes. I’m very likely moving house very soon, maybe country (!!), new projects, services, and collaborations being born… I’m setting intentions and planting seeds, then totally surrendering all of them.
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
Freshly cleaned bed sheets, pay someone to do a deep clean of my house, a massage, a swim in the sea at sunset, homemade popcorn and raw chocolate.
— What are your favorite places to eat and visit in Mallorca?
I’m going to keep this answer to myself. Mallorca is my home, it’s such a special island… we are receiving so many visitors that we are at full capacity and it’s getting really out of control (it’s been an ongoing situation for decades but getting worse in recent years). I don’t want to contribute to promoting it even more! If you’ve planned a trip to the island and want some recommendations send me a DM on Instagram and I’ll be happy to help.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
Song/Album – song: (sorry I couldn’t pick just one) Loving In My Baby’s Eyes by Taj Mahal / White Gloves by Khruangbin / Cler Achel by Tinariwen, album: Gitans by Thierry Robin
Movie – Demain by Cyril Dion and Melanie Laurent
Piece of Art – anything by Andy Goldsworthy
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
My dear friend Nitsa Citrine.
All photos by Rocio Graves // This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links