By:  Brandi Stalzer, LIMHP, LPC, NCC

Several months ago, Mary Lynn Kardell posted a great article on how issues of food insecurity and disordered eating patterns can often go hand-in-hand.  This issue is all to real in the clients that I work with.  For many individuals, once they get passed the hurdle of finding the resources needed, they are met with another roadblock in their own skill set.  A recent article identified that 28 percent of Americans do not know how to cook.  For anyone (whether they have an eating disorder or not), this can pose as a significant barrier to leading a satisfied life.  For someone with disordered eating, lacking the skills it takes to implement treatment recommendations can be devastating to their progress.

So, what options are available?  The good thing is, there are many resources available to meet this need.  Here are five ways to deal with cooking barriers.

  1. Utilize formal supports like a registered dietitian or cooking classes.  Check out NEDN’s membership page; many members are registered dietitians within the community including current members:  Emily Estes, Jessica Wegener, Crystal Zabka-Belsky, Mary Lynn Kardell, and Leigh Healey.  They can help by providing guidance and education in this area.  The Omaha area also has a number of cooking classes available, and some are sensitive to the issues that individuals with eating disorders face.  OMNI Behavioral Health is now offering cooking classes on Monday nights from 5:30-7:30 PM.
  2. Look for those informal supports. Is there a neighbor down the street that always wants to come by with baked goods?  Do you have a grandmother who always cooks the holiday meal?  Ask them if they can help.  You would be surprised at how willing people may be to share in a skill they possess.  They may even appreciate the time they get to spend with you.
  3. Ask questions. Whenever I’m at a restaurant, I like to sit at the bar top…not so much for drinks, but so that I can interact with people.  It is not uncommon for me to ask how something is prepared or what ingredients are in an item.  And waitstaff are often willing to provide that information.
  4. Practice, practice, practice!  How do human beings learn anything?  We try, try, try again!  Think back to when you first learned to tie your shoes or ride your bike.  You probably knotted your laces and fell of your bike a hundred times before you got the skill down.  Cooking is no different!  Start simple with recipes that are easy to understand.  Practice them until you are confident in the creation you made.  And then try different and harder recipes.
  5. Read blogs, books or watch shows (as long as they are not feeding urges to binge).  I caution individuals with this last suggestion, because often obsessing about food is a part of an eating disorder.  However, if you are in a place where you can manage urges effectively, reading blogs or cook books or watching shows on Food Network (or other channels) can really help develop your skill set.  Certain shows, like Alton Brown’s Good Eats, are my favorite because they will explain the science behind various techniques utilized in cooking and baking items.  Sometimes these explanations can help to understand other recipes.