Baking and Anorexia

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.

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  • Many thanks for this post, The results of the semi-starvation experiment are very interesting and I can see how my own restriction has given rise to some of the same effects. "Food for thought" there!

    I was very struck with your sentence: "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". My sense of achievement and satisfacvtion in denying myself because I think it is the strong willed way to be is something I struggle to get over in order to recover".

  • Thank you for your lovely comment! It is a fascinating study isn't it!

    I wish you all the best in your recovery and hope that you are able to swap your strong will from denying yourself to feeding yourself. There is no denying that it is a struggle, but I am sure it is a struggle well worth it!

  • Hi sarahM, Thank you for your interesting post. I too have a fascination with cooking and actually trying to make everything from scratch setting my goals higher. I remember a time when I would never of eaten the things I had produced and like you I put a lot of love into food. I found through my recovery I was able to test my strength by tasting these foods and gradually managing to eat a small amount and building this up.

    I firmly believe our determination to obstain from food can gradually be rotated to having the determination to eat. I can say that on good days I can do this and am allowing someone else to cook (although my currrent situation has shoved me into this position) I find allowing the control from my hands to be unbearable at times but this is improving, with time and effort. I wish you all the luck and love that you find it in your heart to turn your obvious strength to giving yourself some of the love that you give to others. You DO DESERVE IT. It may take time to sink in, but it will and you can have the life you want.

    Im here if you need to chat, love and blessings xxx

  • Thank you for your comment Angelus!

    How did you find the strength to even start to taste what you had eaten? I think I find myself deliberately cooking things I cannot eat, because it gives me greater pleasure. This sounds so twisted! I admire you for being able to gradually build up what you are eating.

    It seems so simple, the idea of just flipping around the way we think, but it's so hard! It's wonderful to hear that on a good day you can do this, because I know how difficult it must be. Do you sometimes find that it is a relief handing the control/responsibility of food over to someone else?

    Thank you so much for you strength and positivity, it is a blessing to hear. I wish you well too and I'm here too if you need a chat or anything!

    Love, hope and strength xxx

  • Hello lovely, Yes it all does sound so simple......but it is far from that. I am not quite sure how I managed to start tasting. I think I looked at my parents eating what I had done for them and I was so jealous that I could not do it. It started there and once I pushed myself very hard I started to taste some of the things. I still find this very difficult and continue to be body checking, so frustrating!!!

    I admit I will not try everything and yes I do feel the need to punish myself if I do try something that seems to be forbidden in the anorexic world. I have to distract myself which takes a great deal of effort and is not always successful however, the more I have done this the more things seem to become more 'normal'. I struggle very much with handing the control over. My dad says I am terrified when I don't know how or what he is cooking. How awful I am so obvious especially when he takes so much care with what he cooks for me because my parents know and I always have my food so different to them whether it be how it is presented or cooked.

    The good news is, I am working my way to a more 'normal' diet despite good days and bad. The good days outweigh the bad. I am rambling but I really hope it helps and gives you something to work with. Thank you for your support and I am always here if you want to ask me anything or just chat. Love and blessings to you, you can do it hun xxx

  • Sorry for taking such a long time to reply. I've been struggling a bit lately, but seem to be more stable now!

    I think I know what you mean about feeling jealous that you could not eat what your parents eat. I don't think I feel jealous, but I feel a certain longing that I wish I could just eat whatever I wanted without feeling guilt for it. But I also feel a certain sense of achievement for not eating what I've cooked.

    You body check too? I didn't realise I did it until someone pointed it out to me. I now find myself fighting the urge to do it, because the more we body check, the more we do what anorexia wants us to. I hope you find the strength the fight the urge to body check too.

    Does your dad cook for you?

    I hope your working towards a more 'normal' diet is going well! There will always be good and bad days, but I'm glad you're experiencing more good than bad!

    Sending love, strength and hope xxx

  • Hi SaraM

    "" 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. ""

    My daughter loves cooking and baking - reads cookery books, bought her own! for everybody and anyone.

    Feel free to read my posting, in my profile. Any comments?

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