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Combating Food Trauma? You Should Try Baking

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

In a lot of diet culture-related media, you often see ads targeted toward not having dessert. Either that or the dessert advertised is low in whatever Instagram and fatphobic dieticians have decided to rage war against. Dessert was supposed to be “bad,” and I think for a lot of people it gives them a lot of anxiety to this day, but for me, it’s the opposite.

Dessert has been my saving grace against my eating disorder and my food trauma.

If you aren’t familiar with it, food trauma is exactly what it sounds like. It’s trauma pertaining to food, whether it be the consumption of, physical foods, you name it. This can be the result of abuse, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, etc. It’s a specific form of trauma that really makes life difficult because you need to eat to survive. 

Personally, my food trauma creates a barrier between me and trying new foods. If I’m pushed to try a new food when I personally am not ready, I get very anxious. On top of that, if I’m eating and get full, I have a tendency to sometimes binge eat and force myself to keep eating even when I don’t want to. That stems more from my specific food trauma versus any kind of binge eating disorder. 

When society is telling you that cake, cookies, ice cream, etc., are “bad,” it’s obvious to create a complex around that specific food group, but for me, it never happened. Dessert is the one food group that I feel completely safe and happy with, and it’s because I have marginally positive memories relating to them. Some of my favorite bonding moments when I was younger were spent making cakes before school with my mom and brother and seeing the joy on everyone’s face when I would bring fresh baked goods to school or work. I love dessert so much, that I even worked for a few years in an ice cream shop, happily. To this day it was one of my most rewarding jobs because of the sheer amount of creativity and fun I could have with it. I created happiness and was able to share it with others, and for someone who is mentally ill, that was everything.

Baking, when my attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) allows me to do it, is one of my greatest weapons against my food-related trauma (and mental illnesses in general). 

In therapy, I used to work on creating new memories as a way to overcome things, places, and people that had a negative or trauma-related association with them. I went years without watching certain shows or listening to music that I once enjoyed all because of the trauma component attached. For me, baking, and the art of doing so, was my way of combating my negative associations with food.

Learning the science of baking, keeping the measurements perfect, and learning different piping and baking styles all worked well with different parts of my mentally ill brain, but nothing quite compares to the sheer joy I would get when I tasted my buttercream (which I’m this close to trademarking because I do make the best buttercream in the world), and when I got to share it with others. Food became a source of joy, helping build and bridge the community around me. Whenever I start feeling off due to my food trauma, I’m usually one baking session away from a mental reset. 

All things are possible through a good buttercream (but not fondant because fondant is actually the worst), including healing. Rewriting negative narratives into positive ones takes a little bit of time, but I know for a fact it can be done whenever I pull my oven mitts on. 

Lead image courtesy of contributor

Originally published: July 15, 2022
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