I Ditched My Dietary Rules to Embrace Cooking as Therapy
I’ve written before about how I have adjusted my diet since my pulmonary hypertension diagnosis, but this isn’t something I’ve always found easy. When struggling with mental health or the usual pressures of daily life, it can be difficult to find the time and motivation to properly look after yourself.
Realizing that cooking and preparing food isn’t merely a means to an end has changed my mindset. In the past six months, I’ve shifted from an attitude of discipline, where I would scold myself whenever I broke any of my dietary rules (e.g. no salt or processed foods), to one where I focus on enjoying the process of making a healthy meal as a form of therapeutic self-care.
Self-care is a term we hear thrown around often these days but it’s not something I’m very good at, and, it turns out, it’s more than just applying a facial mask or doodling in an adult coloring book (though there’s plenty to be said for those activities). According to Psychcentral, self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health … good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.”
For me, it’s been as simple as telling myself that my body deserves to eat well, that my body deserves to be looked after, that my body deserves better than a ready meal. I’ve found that treating physical self with the care it deserves has a massive effect on mental well-being and sense of self-worth.
Furthermore, the physical activity of cooking can be a respite from the anxieties of daily life. When focusing on the task at hand, your mind has to be present. Who knew chopping vegetables could be an act of mindfulness!
Mindfulness is another popular term I’ve only recently come to fully understand. The National Health Service describes it as “paying attention to the present moment — to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you.” Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says “an important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment.”
So now when I’m making dinner, I will put on some nice music or a podcast, make myself a cup of (decaf) tea and pay attention to the smells, sounds, and tastes of my cooking — all the while knowing that I’m doing something good for my body. By thinking less about a restricted diet plan and more about trying to find new recipes that will nourish my body, I have been able to kill two birds with one stone — caring for my body and my mind in one go.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.