The Recovery Bean
Cook with me - Creamy, Cheesy Pasta
As you guys seemed to like my "Bake with me", I thought that today I would do something similar, but this time a "Cook with me"! During lockdown, me and my girlfriend have been using the extra free time to make more adventurous meals for ourselves and for the rest of my family. We have been trying out lots of new recipes, and many of these dishes have pushed me outside of my comfort zone. One such meal was a creamy, cheesy pasta dish which we have since cooked several times, primarily because it was so delicious, but also in order to make sure I'm doing "Challenge, REPEAT", in order to overcome my phobias.
I thought this would be a good meal to start with as it was especially scary for me, and so I have been doing my best under the current circumstances, to challenge it in different contexts in order to eradicate my fear. We sort of made the recipe up as we went along, and have since created different variations of it, but I will try to outline the basic method and ingredients we used in case you want to recreate it for yourself.
Our first step was to cut up an onion and some garlic which we then softened and browned by frying them in olive oil. During my ED, cooking with oil was a massive no go for me, as I viewed it as unnecessary calories. One thing that helped me begin to overcome this was handing over control of meal preparation to my mum, as I was having to eat what she gave me, regardless of how it had been made. Through this, I became less fearful of oil to the point whereby I was confident I would be able to go to a restaurant and order straight from the menu with little anxiety. As a result of this, I believed I had conquered this ED rule, however when I checked in on this fact I realised that given the choice I would not personally use oil, and so evidently I still needed to work on it further. In order to do this, I needed to cook with it for myself, and by means of managing the stress this caused me, doing it alongside my girlfriend was amazing. This is because it helped to normalise its use as she showed me that it was just a part of the process, and most of the discomfort I experienced was absorbed by the fun we were having anyway! In addition to this, having tasted food with oil again in recovery, I know that it does in fact make things taste way better, and so I am not willing to go back to flavourless, dry food. I also prescribe to Megsy Recovery's message of “once it’s in, it’s in”, because I don’t want to be able to start using oil to then cut it out again and undo the work I put in. Using oil has also become much easier due to the “repeat” aspect of “Challenge, repeat”, as I have now used it when making lunches and dinners everyday, and so via exposure therapy, I am proud to say I now rarely even feel the urge to leave it out. That said, when or if I do, I know I am armed with the tools to act against the ED voice, and add it anyway.
The next thing we did was to turn the heat down slightly and add double cream, followed by grated cheese. These are both ingredients that I have resisted even throughout my recovery as my ED convinced me that I didn’t like them and this became ingrained in me to the point whereby I wasn’t even able to recognise it as being driven by my illness. My dietician kept trying to up my dairy intake in my meal plan, but due to the sneaky and manipulative nature of ED’s, I always somehow managed to swerve it. I have, however, slowly been introducing cheese into my diet, for example by having Philadelphia as part of a snack, and it turns out, (shock horror) it’s actually really nice. As a result of this discovery, I have been trying to branch out more, and so when my girlfriend expressed an interest in cooking this dish, we discussed it and decided it was an appropriate challenge. As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, I absolutely loved it, and so I think this was a big eye opener to me as to the need to reassess my likes and dislikes when it comes to food. I’ve talked before about the need to relearn your preferences during recovery, and to explore new tastes and flavours, and this just shows how important it is! I am so glad that I didn’t take my ED’s word for it, because since discovering my love for cheese and cream I have been able to incorporate it into more meals as well as sweet snacks and oh my days is it yummy!
I think that this had the potential to bring up other disordered thoughts such as remembering the reasons my ED was so against these foods in the first place, or worrying that now I'd tried them I'd never be able to stop eating them. These are concerns I have had more so with other fear foods in recovery, but ones that I am now more able to quickly overcome thanks to arming myself with the facts. For example, I am able to recognise that having been deprived of them for so long it is to be expected that my body will crave them as it is in a cream and cheese deficit, and this is true regardless of your weight or how many other fears you’ve already faced. Consequently, we owe it to our bodies to give them it, and by doing this, we are also allowing them to familiarise themselves with the taste and learn to trust that we will not take it away again. As a result, the cravings will eventually become less extreme and we will be left with the ability to eat them when we want them, and eventually to do so with no guilt or anxieties as we will view food as just food, without moral value.
The first time we made this dish we added broccoli, and since we have also experimented with asparagus, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and I’m sure we will go on to adding many more different ingredients. We have also topped it with extra cheese every time which was another thing that contributed to my reluctance to try this meal. My ED voice has told me that it is unnecessary as there is already cheese in the sauce and so it won’t add anything as I already have the cheese flavour. In order to overcome this therefore, I have had to practice acknowledging the thought, and then implementing opposite actions by covering it in cheesy goodness anyway! This was helped by my girlfriend reassuring me as to how much better it would make it, and then of course was confirmed to be worth it when I got to eat amazing melted cheese. This ties into the idea of going beyond the minimum which I discussed in my previous post. This is because I was already challenging cheese once, and so I could have called it quits there, but as I’ve said, I don’t want to recover just to scrape by, I want to be able to live my life to it's fullest.
A final point I wanted to make on this already very long post, is that this was not an easy process. No, it was not as gruelling as some of the challenges I faced early in recovery, but I still struggled to identify and then to accept it, and once I had, I then found it difficult to face it in different contexts. This is because we initially made it as an evening meal, and so when it came to having it for lunch I was scared as my ED told me I could only eat it at night. As timings are something I have struggled with a lot in recovery, this was definitely a challenge I needed to face though, and I am eager to try other similar dishes, as well as to eat it out in a restaurant when that is an option again. This is because I need to ensure I don’t allow my ED to sneak in and create rules around when or in what capacity I’m allowed to eat it.
I hope this entry maybe got you thinking about challenging some other fear foods and trying to identify those ones your ED has hidden from you. I’m still actively overcoming the last few I have and as I’m enjoying this style of writing so much I will likely be back with another soon!
Let me know if you’ve cooked or baked anything you think I should try, or tag me on Instagram (@the_recovery_bean).
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3