I don’t cook.
Well, that’s not true. I guess what I should say is that I don’t cook anymore.
When I was younger I would often make dinner for my parents, I would bake twice a week, and I took over hosting Christmas dinner when at 13. None of these things were out of necessity, but stemmed for a true love of being in the kitchen. If school or friends were stressing me out, I knew a two-hour study break to make brownies would turn my attitude around. Somehow, the thing I always listed as my favorite hobby has become something I do only by special request from family.
My whole life I have struggled with body dimorphic disorder. And while BDD always affected my perception of myself it never got in the way of my relationship with food. In high school I exercised 3 days a week, ate well most days, and enjoyed the typical pizza and junk food when I was with my friends. I was unhappy with my body but I was physically just fine.
When I moved out in 2013, the changes of starting adulthood and struggles in my personal life put a major toll on my mental health. Stress from not liking my new school and being away from my boyfriend and best friends made me feel like I was losing every piece of myself from high school. I never went out, I didn’t make friends, and I exercised control in the only way I saw how—restricting food.
Every gram of fat, protein and carbohydrates was meticulously counted. I was in the gym anywhere from two to four hours a day with every motion planned around what I had eaten the meal before. Cardio until I saw spots. Then a little bit more because I’d decided to have a cookie after dinner. No food that I had deemed “bad” was allowed into my body, and if I slipped up that meant skipping the next meal.
I could probably count on my hands the number of meals I’ve cooked over these last three years because I can’t look at pasta or red meat or butter without feeling the familiar knot in my stomach and thought in my head saying, “don’t you dare.” Since my anxiety has gotten better so has my eating disorder, but just like a panic attack, there are times when I don’t see a flare up is coming. Years of restricting have damaged more than just my metabolism, but my relationship with food.
As much as I hate that my body needs food, I really love when I’m “allowed” to eat it. Of the things I love, I really love peach pie. I love the way fresh peaches smell and the way they bubble and get a little carmelly when you bake them in sugar. I love when you cover peach pie in vanilla ice cream and it oozes together into a big happy lake that you kinda just wish you could swim in. And I love the way peach pies mean summer and BBQs and friends and laughter.
Today I baked a pie for the first time in about four years. A big, gooey, delicious peach pie. With homemade crust. Made with a cup and a half of butter. It was heavenly.
There it is. A big, yummy, peach pie full of everything I’m not “supposed to” eat. For two hours today I stood barefoot in my kitchen in silence, slowing cutting cubes of frozen butter, rolling crust, and slicing peaches so I could put them together into this beauty. And it turned out a little runny, but what peach pie doesn’t?
As an artist, I have always loved creating something out of nothing. Paint on canvas, light on film, or code on a webpage—it doesn’t matter. Cooking is beautiful because not only are you creating something beautiful out of dozens of little parts, but you can then turn around and share what you made with the people you love. Unlike a painting, this peach pie doesn’t beg to be stared at and analyzed. All this pie wants is to just be enjoyed.
I’m tired of staring at myself in the mirror, picking myself apart like a pretentious art critic. I’m tired of hoping that with a few more hours and another coat of paint I will be flawless. We aren’t made to be works of art. Statues to be sculpted and airbrushed and silent and still. We’re meant to be like this little peach pies. Warm and comforting and loving and kind.
If I want to fully rebuild my relationship with my body, I need to first to rebuild my relationship with food. If that means making more pie, well I guess it’s time to start taking requests! I can see myself healing, and I’m learning to trust my body to know what’s right for me. I’m learning how to be active without being obsessive-compulsive. I’m learning to love food without being afraid. I’m learning to move through life without being ashamed of my wants and needs (hint: they’re both equally important). And I’m learning to make a peach pie that doesn’t turn out all runny on the bottom. It’s all a process, and just like the pie, healing takes practice.