I know that baking often goes hand-in-hand with eating disorders, but since this week has been baking mad, I thought that I would do some research into baking and anorexia.
I find baking therapeutic. In fact, any activity which I can throw myself into and focus completely on the task at hand rather than the turmoil inside my mind is a wonderful distraction. At the moment, I need activities which require very little concentration because my brain is just fuzz, but provide enough distraction to transport me to another place, and baking is one of these.
I love to cook things that I would never eat myself, it is like proving to myself that I am strong enough to deny food, even if I am weak in every other aspect of life. I suppose there's also a sense of not feeling worthy of it, but I put love into the cooking and then give the treats away to people I care for who deserve the food, and to show them my love. I am constantly moving around when I cook, so it is like being surrounded by food, but burning calories at the same time. I even go as far as washing my hands countless times while baking to stop the fat ingredients getting into me through my skin. Part of me can see that these behaviours are ridiculously disordered. One day, maybe one day, I hope to be able to sit with someone I'm close to and just eat together, and actually enjoy it without any overwhelming guilt.
Research has long shown that there is a strong link between baking and eating disorders, as well as cooking in general, reading cookery books, watching cookery programmes and collecting recipes.
A study called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment was carried out in which 36 men were put on a semi-starvation diet between November 19th 1944 and December 29th 1945, a time when millions of people were in serious danger of mass famine due to the war, and so a solution was needed. The purpose of the experiment was to determine the physiological and psychological effects of severe and prolonged restriction, and then the effectiveness of re-feeding. During the study, a significant increase in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis was noted, as well as episodes of distress, self-mutilation, social withdrawal and isolation, lack of concentration, oedema, as well as lowered heart rate, respiration, body temperature and basal metabolic rate.
What I am interested in for this post, however, is that the participants developed such an intense obsession with food that they ended up daydreaming, reading and talking about it incessantly. After the experiment ended, three of the men even became chefs.
I find this study absolutely fascinating. It is also totally bizarre that I find myself able to relate to a starvation experiment even though I feel I eat far too much. That's what I love about science - a distorted mind cannot argue with true and proven facts, and this is a massive help in recovery.