I love to cook and I enjoy cooking a different meal every night of the week, but it hasn’t always been like that. When I was living with an eating disorder my joy of cooking faded away and the stove became my enemy. The list of my safe foods became shorter while the list of my fear foods became longer every day. This didn’t mean I became less interested in cooking. On the contrary, I became obsessed with food. I spent hours looking for recipes and watching food networks, collecting cookbooks and worrying about what my family was eating during the day. Besides, I was eager to cook for them, as long as I could stick to my safe foods.
Think about your own situation. Do you spend hours surfing the internet to look at food images and recipes, without making them for yourself? Are you afraid of eating too much when cooking for one and have no clue where to start?
The obsession with food can make a person with an eating disorder so stressed and afraid of food that he or she won’t cook at all. I remember one of my self-imposed rules allowed me to cook and enjoy food only when I was having dinner with others. At nights when I was having dinner alone, my self-imposed rules took full control over what I was cooking, prohibiting me to cook what I want. This resulted in eating one of my safe meals every night. How do you overcome this fear and enjoy cooking for one? How can you become friends with the kitchen in recovery?
One of the main goals in recovery is to reconnect your body and mind and restore your relationship with food, no matter what your eating disorder behavior looked like (e.g. binging, purging, exercising, restricting). Cooking can be extremely powerful in learning to treat yourself well and give your body what it deserves. Instead of being afraid of food, you can learn to embrace the challenge of cooking and enjoy a delicious meal afterwards.
The best part of cooking for one is that you don’t have to worry about what other people want to have for dinner. You can eat crazy combinations that only you like. For instance, I love using burnt toasts for my sandwich. You can call me crazy, but I love it. However, this doesn’t discount that cooking for one can come with some challenges, whether you’re recovering from an eating disorder or not. Over the years I’ve figured out some methods of make it less daunting.
Make a plan
You don’t want to come home from a day at work, school or university with nothing left in the fridge. Plan your meals in advance. I’m not suggesting to become a perfectly organized person, but having a rough idea of what you’re going to eat for the week helps to prevent a lot of kitchen stress. Jot down a few dishes you’d like to eat in the upcoming week and put together a shopping list of items you can buy in advance. If you are looking for inspiration you might want to read our article highlighting 7 of the most popular food blogs.
Cook in batches
Most recipes are made for more people, so start cooking in batches. When you cook a recipe made for 4 people, you can easily eat the leftovers. Serve them for lunch the next day or freeze them for up to two months. When cooking in large batches you will always be assured of having a nourishing healthy homemade meal you can take out the freezer. It will reduce waste and save you a lot of money and time when not being able to cook.
Use one recipe more than once
When cooking one-dish meals you can often use them in different ways. If you make a big pot of pasta sauce, store the leftovers in small containers and re-purpose them. You can mix and match the sauce with many more ingredients. For example, you can easily use pasta sauce on a homemade pizza or serve it over stir fried vegetables. The possibilities are endless.
Use your creativity
The kitchen is a great place to let your creativity go wild. Try something new, look for inspiration beyond your safe meals. Don’t hold yourself back to step out of your comfort zone. No one will be affected when the meal turns out to be a disaster. Make mistakes, learn and laugh about them. Something I like to do is what I call ‘empty my fridge’. I don’t buy anything new before I used everything. I grab to random ingredients and make them into a nice dinner. Give it a try! It will save you a lot of money and results in some pretty creative meals. If only you would try some of mine…
Keep it simple
Start with something simple and build from there. Look for easy recipes not requiring too many different ingredients. It doesn’t need to be perfect, a mistake I use to make when I started cooking for myself. No one expects you to make a 6-layer cake or an elaborated 3-course dinner. Just start with a basic balanced healthy meal. If you don’t understand terminology used in recipes or need advice on how to cut an ingredient, look it up on YouTube. That is how I learned some really awesome cooking techniques.
Enjoy the experience
Make cooking a reward rather than a chore. Instead of seeing it as a necessity start seeing it as a way to unwind. While chopping vegetables or stirring pieces of chicken you can clear your thoughts and calm your mind. Turn on some music or an inspirational podcast you like. Allow yourself to enjoy creating a tasty, nutritious meal for yourself!
Cooking can be really meaningful in restoring your relationship with food and reconnecting your body and mind. Consuming a dish that you’ve put effort and energy into will also help you to eat more mindfully. Light some candles, turn off your phone or TV and allow yourself to taste and enjoy your meal!
Be patient with yourself when you’re recovering from your eating disorder. It took you many years to develop your unhealthy and destructive behaviors, so be kind when you work towards restoring your relationship with food and cooking. After time you will be able to enjoy both the smell of food and consuming it, trust me.
Do you experience any fears with cooking?