Can Over-involvement in the Kitchen Be a Warning Sign?
Imagine having a fear of heights. Also imagine that you are blindfolded and led to a platform which will raise you to an unspecified height. Imagine that you aren’t sure how far off the ground you are or how long you must stay on the platform. In fact, every piece of knowledge which would help calm your fears is kept secret from you.
This terrifying scenario is what I imagine it is like for clients at Center for Discovery to sit in the living room while I prepare the food they are about to eat. They do not know what I am putting into their food, if my measurements are exact, or even how I have arranged the food. Knowing these things reduces anxiety for many clients. Any form of control that is had over food can be comforting for someone who has an eating disorder, just as any control over distance off the ground is comforting for a person who is afraid of heights.
When food is being prepared for a client, often they will be seen watching everything that is happening in the kitchen. When they are the ones preparing the food, often they will carefully measure the volume or quantity of food. Sometimes, this is an effort to under-measure portions, add inappropriate spices, or manipulate the temperature of food and other such eating rituals all in an effort to either consume fewer calories or to ease the stress around eating food. Exerting control and perfectionism over food preparation can also lower the level of stress associated with it.
On Your Path to Recovery
It is a part of recovery to have some involvement in the kitchen and to prepare food without engaging in food rituals. However, on the road of recovery, some over-involvement in the kitchen is to be expected. People want to feel safe, and being in control allows them to feel this way. Sometimes, acknowledging this can go a long way in helping someone to realize over-involvement and over-control and help nudge them further toward recovery.
How is it Known if Someone is Over-involved in the Kitchen?
One good indicator is if the person insists on being involved or seems to experience high anxiety or anger when their involvement in the kitchen is denied. This is a clue that they are attempting to control some aspect of the food preparation process. If someone you care about is over-involved in the kitchen, first, understand that there is a need that is being filled through their over-involvement. Perhaps it is the need to feel safe, the need for knowledge or the need to avoid food intake. Second, tell the person that you notice their behavior and wonder what is driving their behavior. This opens up a conversation in which you can explore motivations and encourage less involvement and control in the kitchen. Sometimes, the need to control is too high for someone to ignore. If this is the case, a professional may be able to provide the level of behavioral intervention the person will need.