Happy 2017 y’all! My fingers have finally found their way to the keyboard again and I couldn’t be more relieved. (Always have this mass blind anxiety that after each blog post I’ll suddenly run out of subjects and dive into a deep writers block and lose my voice and never write again and and… well, you get the picture.)
Anyway, I’d say my resolution is to write more consistently – but hey, I think resolutions are bullshit – and I don’t like writing unless I have a subject to delve into.
SO, with that being said, lez’ talk about cooking and eating disorders ’cause LORD – I gots some venting to do.
The other night my roommate walks into our apartment right? And there I am leaned over on the kitchen counter – squinting at a laptop screen.
She halts in the doorway. “Are you cooking?”
I look up from said laptop, brow furrowed – a dripping colander of black beans, a pan full of burnt rice, and reading some eye-rollingly beautiful blonde bloggers “easy, earth shattering sweet potato and grains bowl” recipe.
“I dunno what the hell I’m doing,” I say – turning back to the sink and pushing sweaty hair off my forehead.
SUCK IT BLOG LADY, I think. I hope all your cabbage rots and fumigates your 10,000$ oven.
“Well, this is interesting,” my roommate grins.
I make a face. “I’m on a budget.”
“Lemme know if you need anything,” she says – walking back towards her room (likely with deliberate stride).
“IS A CLOVE THE WHOLE GARLIC?” I yell.
“Jesus, NO. That’s the bulb.”
I sigh. Look over at my dog.
“Wanna give me your gruel?”
He did not.
The truth about cooking with an ED?
It’s a minefield.
Add a ‘pinch of salt’ the recipe states. A PINCH? Tell me, I wanna say, is that pinch of salt really necessary?
Is that entire stick of butter reeeeeally going to ‘blend it all together’?
Do we have to add a tablespoon (or two) of olive oil to the skillet before cooking? (Referencing this after sticking tortillas to a pan last night because I “forgot” ((refused)) to coat it beforehand…)
I’m just gonna come out and say it:
I. DO. NOT. ENJOY. COOKING.
Sigh, I know. A travesty.
“You just don’t know how yet.”
“It’s so relaxing. I do it every day.” (hint of belittling condescend)
“You’ll get the hang of it.”
“YOU SAVE SO MUCH MONEY IN THE LONG RUN.” (Yes, I too sign checks at the end of a night out at Thirsty Lion. I SEE THE BILL.)
I can almost physically observe a person’s confidence rise when they inform me on “how great cooking is for them.”
I get it. Our culture views cooking as a staple to adulthood. It’s fun to share a recent recipe at a group dinner or emote some obscure knowledge of kitchen cutlery or Japanese food custom.
It’s as if through our expertise in cooking we’re signaling to someone that we’re “responsible,” “put together,” “skilled,” and lastly, “DESIRABLE.”
(P.S. is that reference outdated? I was about to go with Paula Deen but, ya know, the whole racist thing.)
Anyway, as a 16-year old I always imagined myself at 27 being a fabulous cook. I’LL BE SO WANTED FOR MY GREAT THAI CURRY RECIPE (THAT I’LL DEFINITELY FORM FROM SCRATCH).
I’LL BE THE HEALTHIEST COOK IN THE WORLD. I’LL LOSE MORE WEIGHT.
I’LL. LOSE. MORE. WEIGHT.
Let’s be real. From the ages of 16 – 24 I had little to no interest in cooking for the “skill” or “pleasure” of it:
I was gonna cook for a bloody eating disorder.
And 3 years into recovery and I often still find the process more stressful than pleasurable:
Awash with embarrassment at general lack of cooking knowledge amplified with continuous (albeit less severe) food anxiety – I’ve found that over the past 3 years I’ve either fucked up meals because I scrimped on the ingredients, or avoided it all together.
NO – I verbally abuse the recipe in front of me. I will NOT put that much olive oil in the pan.
Result? Burnt squash.
NO – I insist to Pinterest recipe boards – NO ONE NEEDS THAT MUCH SUGAR IN A CAKE.
“How are you this bad at cooking instant rice?” My roommate once laughed after my second attempt at MINUTE RICE.
I don’t bloody know, I huffed – throwing the pan into the sink again. Steam spewing into my face – dog lapping up the hard rice that had fallen to the floor.
I do know.
It goes against every innate eating disorder tick to follow food directions.
Like a frat boy that thinks the law is above them – I think I’m above recipes. That I can find shortcuts and still come out unscathed.
It’s letting go of control, it’s identity, it’s wading into waters unknown.
The calories – the bloody calories – I think as I measure out the olive oil beforehand.
That’s the thing with me. I either scrimp on ingredients or I. MEASURE. OUT. EVERYTHING. TO. A. TEE.
I can feel agitation rise when my roommate makes us dinner and I notice her eye-balling the amount. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU IDIOT, I want to scream. YOU PROBABLY JUST ADDED IN 5 TABLESPOONS OF OLIVE OIL. NOW WE’LL JUST BE ONE PLUMP GREEN ASS OLIVE.
“Fats are good for you haven’t you read?”
Yes. Yes, I have. Hello, it’s me – Lindsey with an eating disorder. And I have read the benefits of fat and I still do not always have the “recovery mindset” to apply that knowledge in cooking.
Therefore, I end up doing one of three things. My partner/roommate make meals and I clean up in return, have staple meals that I cook all the time, or I eat out at the same few restaurants.
“Don’t you know that eating out is way less healthy?”
^^ My personal favorite.
OF COURSE. And I’m completely aware that my mentality makes little to no sense. But, it’s easier to turn off my brain to someone else cooking when I don’t have to see it.
When the control is taken from me.
I don’t have to “know” that the cook in the back is using a friar full of grease – or that the foods been in the freezer for a month. Ignorance, sometimes, can really be bliss.
When it’s up to someone else to prepare the meal, I don’t have to worry about “tasting” it one too many times or the ingredients or the pressure to be perfect (If I’m cooking I want EVERY onion slice chopped, every bell pepper cut into small pieces – I tend to be meticulous as shit which can drag the process out for so long that I can see my partner secretly trying to sneak chips and salsa when he thinks I’m not looking)
So, what’s the conclusion here?
Well, my lifestyle is catching up with me. I eat out too much and after a recent overview of my finances – It was an awakening moment. Eating out is a privilege few can afford and if I want to be a person that ‘gives back’ I have to budget my life accordingly.
Giving back equates to tons of different things but when you spend half your life at restaurants – it desecrates the time. (Plus, I’m tired of living as though I’m a broke college kid.)
Do I want to cook? Not really. If I were rich enough to live a minimalist life, give back time/money and still eat out – I’m not gonna lie and say I wouldn’t.
But, alas, I’m not a Kardashian and the only way to get over something is to face the reality.
If rehab taught me anything it’s to forgive yourself where you’re weak and try it again until you can alter your perspective.
ED is so much about perspective. It’s a tick in the brain, yes – but it’s also the lifestyle you create around it, and then breaking that lifestyle down once you begin recovery.
I’m beginning to cook more – budgeting – biting the bullet and saying “Hey, something’s gotta change. You don’t like it in the beginning but you’re gonna do it anyway – just as you have with many other tasks.”
I began to cook in New York for a couple months – it went well. I actually found myself enjoying it… And then I moved to Colorado and gave up.
Slid right back into that “HATE COOKING” mentality and here I am tapping back into it.
I made cheesy smothered burritos on Friday. As my partner and I prepared – I walked through my feelings as we went.
The anxiety – the little ED spurts that will always be part of me.
He listened, smiling a lil’ here and there (cause he knows my head can be a WARZONE.)
I even admitted that when he went for seconds I momentarily felt agitation that he *GASP* wanted more than I had planned for us to eat. ((NO, I THOUGHT. I ONLY ALLOTTED FOR 1 BURRITO FOR ME AND 2 FOR YOU. I MADE IT. I DON’T WANNA COOK AGAIN THIS WEEKEND, WE NEED LEFTOVERS. WHAT’RE YOU GONNA EAT THE WHOLE BLOODY THING IN ONE NIGHT?!))
We got through it.
Usually, I sit in a chair watching him from the kitchen table feigning that I have “too much work to cook,” but on Friday I went to the grocery store, bought the ingredients with coupons ((VICTORY as I didn’t just get the organic or whatever marketing BS cans say)) and when I got back, we practiced cutting garlic cloves with sharp knives.
Truthfully, it was nice. I’ve been okay this wekeend. We’re going to go work out soon and eat leftovers tonight.
Cooking was more pleasant than the stigma I put on it.
I’m not going to feign that I love it yet by any means. I long to just pop in an Amy’s frozen pizza. But, it was nice.
I don’t think I’ll mind meal prepping again tonight.
Eating disorders have such a way of getting in the way.
You can be this person that wants to ‘give back’ or be a great listener or develop a skill set or this and that – and eating disorders cloud all of those desires with action.
Eating disorders are powerful because we give them power.
We give them power every time we scan a “fitspo” Instagram site. Every time we avoid a meal. Every time we count how many calories we had that day.
Mostly, they linger.
And I’ve found that recovery is a continuation of unearthing the damage that ED has inflicted. Like a tornado, ED rushes in – causes mayhem – and it’s only once you’re picking up the debris that you find other byproducts its contaminated with its touch.
For all of you who have sent me your stories – I’m reading through them slowly. One day, I’ll publish them here and thank each and every one of you for your vulnerability.
Sending love to all my people out there struggling – you’re never alone. We’re always a work in progress. Be gentle on yourself. <3
7 thoughts on “Add A Pinch of Salt: Must We? Cooking With An Eating Disorder”
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Thank you for this.
Thank YOU for taking the time to write that. <3
Wow, I can tell you as someone who loves to cook, I still feel all of the same feelings. Oh my god the part about your partner eating the leftovers, do you know how many times I felt like I must be some kind of gluttonous psycho for thinking that very thought? My ruining dinner because I let my eating disorder hijack a recipe has led to many a meltdown. In my disordered moments, wasting calories eating something terrible is an even greater disaster than eating something high in fat and sugar.
The origin of my interest in cooking sounds very similar to yours: I dreamed of making every morsel that passed my lips morally superior. I spent years learning to make everything from scratch so that i could have complete control, no scrap of insecurity that an excess of obesegenic ingredients would enter my body and derail my path to thinness
A recent shift in my recovery and a decision to go back on medication has helped me to move away from these fears in a significant way, although sometimes they do still linger. My desire to make amazing food for myself and the people I love is trumping my fear of an entire stick of butter, an eyeballing of oil. I only use a food scale for converting English grams to American cups. Cooking no longer takes up hours of my day now that I don’t have to enter every ingredient in my fitness pal meticulously portion out servings from the pan into Tupperware to ensure accurate calorie content. It does get better as my fear of ingredients is pushed aside by my pride in my creative ability.
I’m sorry if people like me have condescended to you. I guess I can attest to the same thing happening to me from people who love running. I hope it makes you feel a little bit better that eating disorders make even those of us who a great cooks get a little bit psychotic.
I love this. Thank you. And thank you for taking the time to write it. It gives me hope that eventually I’ll be able to exist in the kitchen and be fine lol. Sending love to you.
The whole enchilada on this. You’re funny. Your place is super cute and you look adorable from your NY pics. I cook for other people and it took 17 years of recovery to get the hang of it. I eat salad, tuna, egg whites and popcorn, that’s my compromise. Sometimes I go out for sushi or salmon. I tried a million other situations before I found what works for me (plus a couple of relapses). As you say, be gentle with yourself. It’s a process and we might never view food in the same way as ‘normal’ eaters. Bargaining with recipes finally got to be too exhausting for me. Nutritionists help a lot. Keep on keeping on. ❤️
Love you Lindsay and just keep being good to your self.