SSP resident teaches ‘clean eating’ success

Carisa Rasmussen (submitted photo)

Since losing 80 pounds, South St. Paul resident Carisa Rasmussen has been spreading the word about “clean eating,” an eating philosophy that strives for eating food in its most natural, unprocessed state.

Her lifestyle is certainly healthy now, but this wasn’t always the case. Several years ago, she weighed 210 pounds.

Seeing someone else’s struggles

Then she met a quadriplegic man named Aaron Cross who changed her life.

Having worked as a personal care attendant, she was surprised this man didn’t have a PCA of his own.

“I was so curious,” she says. “I couldn’t figure out how he could even button his shirt. So I asked him how he was doing all this without help.”

His response was, “I just get up every morning and figure it out… Nobody can tell me that I can’t do it.”

Cross’ determination inspired Rasmussen to take a long, hard look at her own life and her own health. She began the process of losing weight and getting healthy first by changing her thinking.

But by that time, the odds were stacked against her. She was battling a number of chronic conditions, including chondromalacia, in which the cartilage under the kneecap deteriorates. “I had so many ‘can’ts’ working against me,” she recalls. 

Still, after meeting Aaron -- who’s competed three times in archery in the Summer Paralympics -- she refused to be deterred. “Who did I think I was, if he could do that?” she says. “I was making my destination.”

For her first try at fitness, she ran down to the end of her street and back -- a grueling challenge in her condition. “I felt like I was running a marathon,” she remembers.

Then she took a long look at the way she was eating.

‘Butter, butter, butter’

Rasmussen first became interested in cooking shows when she began watching food programs on TV after her daughter Molly, now 3, was born. She found, though, that what sounded and looked great on the screen wasn’t what her body needed.

“Everything was made with sugar and butter, butter, butter,” she recalls. “No wonder I was 80 pounds overweight.”

“Eventually I discovered it was fun to take recipes and make them more healthy and more nourishing for your body.”

Rasmussen was sure her strategy would work for others, so she took her new lifestyle one step further by founding “Clean and Lean,” an eating/lifestyle company offering personal fitness and clean eating coaching.

Last year, Rasmussen competed in her first fitness competition in Las Vegas. She was just happy to be there -- even if wearing workout gear showed clues to the struggle she’s been through. “Yeah, I had stretch marks,” she says. “But I thought, ‘Who cares? I’m here!’”

Last week, Rasmussen traveled again to Las Vegas, this time to watch one of her clients compete in the Fitness America World competition. She coached the client through losing 50 pounds via email and other social media and didn’t meet her until the competition. 

Before she left the Twin Cities, Rasmussen said, “I am certain I will be crying my eyes out. Because I know what it feels like to be on that stage feeling like you’ve overcome a million obstacles to be there.”

Readers can find Rasmussen on her Facebook page and see her on occasional appearances on FOX 9’s Morning News. She made her first appearance last summer after her friend, running partner and Fox 9 producer Carrie Patow asked her to appear on the morning show to demonstrate a “clean eating” recipe. After she made almond flour waffles on-air, the station was inundated with calls and emails, asking for more recipes.

It was Fox 9’s morning anchor Tom Butler who requested Rasmussen be a regular part of their morning programming. “She brings a great energy to her cooking segments. You can tell she believes in what she’s doing and it shows,” Butler said. “Plus, her ‘clean cooking’ tastes really good!”

—  Heather Edwards can be reached at

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