Over the last few weeks I have really started to enjoy baking and as a result, I have been in the kitchen lots! My relationship with baking has been challenging since developing my Eating Disorder, and this has continued through my recovery which I’m sure is something a lot of people can relate too. In this post I therefore want to discuss some of the warning signs that suggest you might be baking for disordered reasons, as well as talking about how to overcome this and how to use baking to your advantage in committed recovery.
So why is baking tricky?
Baking typically involves a lot of ingredients that diet culture and eating disorders both deem to be bad, and so short of substituting everything for vegetables and making some tasteless, vegan, gluten-free, low fat, sugar-free mush, it can be a scary experience. This can make eating what we bake quite difficult, which can put us off entirely, cause us to engage in disordered behaviours when eating, or only to bake for other people. All of these actions suggest you are being driven by your eating disorder, and this means they need to be challenged.
In order to do this, I set a rule in my recovery that I would only bake if I was going to join in on eating it. This benefited me as it ensured I wasn’t getting in the kitchen just to fixate on food or to feed others (something my ED loved to do), as well as reducing anxiety around baking. This is because once I’d decided to bake, that was it done and I didn’t have to spend the whole time stressing over whether I would allow myself any, and if so how much, or at what time etc.
Another rule I set is that I wasn’t allowed to compensate around my baking - something that has looked different at different stages in my recovery. For example, when I followed a meal plan, I would eat what I baked as my allocated snack or dessert, and wouldn’t reduce my calories elsewhere despite it being more calorific than what I usually had. Once I became more intuitive in my eating I continued to follow this rule, but as my eating was less structured I focused on not compensating with increased movement or by ignoring my hunger before or after baking. This meant that if I was hungry in the lead up to or whilst baking, I would get myself a snack rather than holding off for my cookies or whatever I was making to be ready.
A final baking law that I set was to taste the batter whilst clearing up. This is because when I was younger, licking the spoon or the bowl was one of my favourite parts of baking, and so I owe it to little Mais to continue that tradition. Again, I don’t allow myself to restrict around this - I still have to try the finished product and I still have to maintain normal eating with no compensation.
Initially, sticking to all these rules was incredibly hard for me, and for a while it put me off baking all together. I was scared of binging on my bakes, as I mistook my extreme hunger and need to replenish my ‘cake deficit’ for this, and I was scared of letting go of my sick identity as “If I was able to bake then clearly I was never even ill in the first place!”. This was my eating disorder talking (as per usual), and so I had to remember that making it angry is the aim in recovery. If you are reading this and thinking you’ll never be able to do it, know that you are not alone, and that by following these steps you are challenging lots of eating disorder behaviours, and so of course it is going to be anxiety provoking and the guilt that may accompany it will be uncomfortable. It is however something you have to push through, not only if you want to find a love for baking again, but also to allow you to join in on other aspects of life. For example, being able to eat my bakes which are “unknown calories”, has made it easier for me to eat out and to eat other people’s cooking. It has also helped me overcome hurdles in my recovery and to reduce calorie counting behaviours which in turn has taken away power from the eating disorder. Furthermore, so many happy moments in life centre around cake, and being able to join in has meant I’ve formed way more memories of birthdays and celebrations than I ever would have done if I was still trapped in my illness. It has also allowed me to discover the joy of eating cake for no reason. I’m sitting here writing this post on a Tuesday morning, having already had breakfast but enjoying a warm blueberry muffin and that makes me happy.
Challenging baking in my recovery has helped me find another passion, and coming from a place where I thought that no life existed for me outside of restriction, that is pretty amazing. I was convinced I would have nothing if I let go of my eating disorder, but here I am. You can get here too.
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3