For those with eating disorders things like grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with others, all present huge challenges; and yet, healthy and balanced meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life. An important part of the recovery process is learning how to cook and “Recipes For Recovery” was created to do just that as well as raising money for BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity. I spoke to Francesca Baker, the creator of the book, to find out more…
Ah the question who am I? Without getting into an existential crisis of identity, I’m Francesca, and I work in advertising and journalism, and my passions are words, music, creativity and wellness. I always have a project on the go related to one of these areas – and Recipes For Recovery is one of those.
Recipes For Recovery is a book to help support people in recovery from eating disorders as well as hoping to get the message across that everything in moderation is OK and necessary in a healthy and balanced diet, and that meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life. What gave you the inspiration to start the project?
I have suffered from an eating disorder from a number of years, and I think that a huge part of recovery is learning how to love food again, and cook yourself nutritious meals. It’s important also to realise that food can be fun and meals can be social events – the focus does not always have to be on fuel, although of course that is an important lesson to accept. Often what is needed is guidance and permission, and I hope that this book helps offer that support. Conversations and experiences with therapists, professionals and those suffering and recovering from the illnesses, have taught me that having a connection with food again is a step on the path to a normal relationship with food.
People with eating disorders don’t necessarily like or dislike food per se – they can often be food obsessed, might fear it, might want to avoid it because of weight issues etc. For some grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with other people are difficult challenges. Learning to cook is an important part of recovery as those obstacles slowly get conquered. Bearing those issues in mind, what sort of recipes are most suitable for this sort of recovery?
Many people with eating disorders might have a limited repertoire of meals or food that they feel ‘safe’ eating, and the aim of the book is to widen the options available, giving suggestions in a simple and safe format. The book provides recipe ideas that are balanced and include all the food groups – carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vegetables – to ensure that the nutritional and physical aspects of recovery are addressed. It’s not rocket science, and so things like chilli, paella, salmon pasta, and fish pie are all included. Many of the recipes can be cooked for one, which is important as often people with eating disorders fear that it is not ‘worth’ cooking for only themselves. But they are worth it, health is worth it, and these recipes can help with that. I hope that it helps provide the stimulus to start new, healthy habits.
I have recently renewed an interest in cooking from scratch and exploring herbs, vegetables, fish, cheese and cuts of meat that I previously avoided because I didn’t know how to cook or use them – I haven’t got much of a sweet tooth so savoury main meal recipes appeal to me now and I’m finding it fun. Do you enjoy cooking? Have you got a favourite recipe that has been submitted to the book?
I love cooking, and I agree that the process of learning how to use food and basic ingredients can be a fun one. A few months ago I was travelling around Australia, and carrying around tins of tuna and noodles in my bag – typical backpacker food. I stayed in a lovely eco-friendly place where visitors were allowed to pick from the garden. The lemongrass, chilli and basil I picked from the trees transformed my bland dinner to an exciting stir fry. I also love the recipe for paella that a friend donated, telling me that he picked this one as it was ‘what I saw my dad do every Sunday from June to September. Always in the same place, slow, focussed, constantly assessing the water, the salt, the rice, cooking for the family that he built and loved. Paella is a social event, a family event, an excuse to be together….and my dad made a cracking succulent excuse!’ The importance of the emotional and social aspect of a good meal resonated with me.
The money raised from sales of the recipe book are going towards BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity. What are the aims of the charity?
BEAT provides helplines, online support and a network of UK-wide self-help groups to help adults and young people in the UK beat their eating disorders. They campaign, raise awareness, organise events and offer support to change the way everyone thinks and talks about eating disorders, improve the way services and treatment are provided, and to help anyone believe that their eating disorder can be beaten. 40-50% of people make a full recovery, and BEAT are one of many resources that can help recovery be a reality.
You have gathered recipes from a variety of people and sources. What has been the most unusual dish submitted?What type of recipe was the most popular submitted?
I’ve had a great number of people submit recipes, and vegetable chilli has been a repeat submission. Which is good, because it’s tasty, and can be made in lots of different ways. A breakfast salad that includes avocado, alfafa, coconut and carob was a surprise entry, and I’m looking forward to people trying the Maltese recipe for hobz biz-zejt, as that is filled with wonderful memories for me.
Have you plans to do more projects/ books in the future?
I’d like to develop this one to include an app – so if any developers out there fancy getting in touch that would be great?!
What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?
I’m a total words girl, and always seek out a library when I arrive in a new place. This has been the case since I was a child, and would visit the library on a Saturday and have devoured all the books I borrowed by Monday. I love Virginia Woolf and DH Lawrence, and grew up absorbed in Enid Blyton. Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan and Joe Dunthorne are contemporary writers I adore. And of course, Shakespeare.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I like all sorts of styles and trends, but I tend to feel the cold, so my outfits are made up of layers, cardigans and scarves. I love a bright and beautiful pattern, and pick up scarves from charity shops that catch my eye. Every year I make the New Year’s Resolution to wear more heels, but it rarely transpires. I have a fantastic pair of very high purple suede stilettos that live on my mantel piece – they are too hard to walk in but too beautiful to be hidden away in the wardrobe!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
I spend too much time on Bookish and The Literary Gift Company.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I saw this gorgeous skirt by Dawn O’Porter in one of the Sunday newspaper magazines a few months ago and fell in love with it. Pretty skirts and powerful quotes!
Boots or Shoes?
Perhaps boots – for their practicality. It’s definitely boots I wear the most often. I can walk, dance, skip and kick in them!
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Recipes For Recovery:
Thanks for talking to us Francesca and I hope the book encourages us all to enjoy cooking, eating food and discovering new flavours. Have you got a favourite recipe? I’d love to hear what you like cooking.
Photo Credits: The photo of Francesca was published with kind permission from Francesca Baker. The food photographs were taken by Linda Hobden.