Learning How to Cook in Eating Disorder Recovery

Showing off Cooking SKills

Cooking is a fundamental skill for everyone, whether you have had an eating disorder or not. However, for someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder, learning the basics of cooking is especially important for knowing how to appropriately care for yourself throughout your journey.

Being in eating disorder recovery, it is necessary to first understand how you feeling about cooking in general to work through any potential obstacles you may be facing. For example, some individuals may find an aversion to being in the kitchen or triggered by certain steps in the process of preparing a meal, like being in a grocery store.

Whatever aspects about cooking you might find challenging, working to identify and work through these issues can be therapeutic as you re-learn how to cook and care for yourself.

Understanding Cooking Basics

Ideally, cooking basics will have been introduced and integrated in your treatment program, and having the support of your treatment team, including a registered dietitian, can support your journey in rediscovering the joy of cooking and preparing a nurturing meal or snack or yourself and/or your family.

This is essential to renegotiate, as cooking often means something else when engaged in an eating disorder. Many individuals with an eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa, may have used cooking as a way of feeling in control, often making elaborate meals for others without partaking or eating anything [1].

For others, cooking may be a way to escape or have a means for bingeing. Renegotiating what cooking means to you is part of re-learning the basics.

Understanding meal planning is also a foundational part of cooking. In order to know what to cook, you need to have a plan for what you will be eating throughout the week. This is where your RD can be helpful in guiding you with a meal plan that is sufficient for meeting your nutritional needs throughout the day and coming up with basic recipe ideas that can easily be put together.

The macronutrients that should be included with every meal include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in order to be complete. As you understand how to put together a complete meal, it will be easier to learn what ingredients you will need and cooking steps that should be taken to prepare your meal.

Asking For Guidance and Support

Teaching to cookDepending on your background, you may feel comfortable in the kitchen with cooking or may not know the slightest way to begin. Understanding basic skills, like how to safely use knives, how to store produce, knowing how to bake/grill different proteins, etc, will be important necessities.

Don’t get overwhelmed with what you might not know and start with the basics of what you do know and work to expand from there. Build simple meals and slowly work your way towards trying other recipes that seem appealing.

There are many available resources today that can help you advance your cooking skills, including online tutorials and videos.   Always remember to ask for support and guidance as needed, from your treatment team and loved ones, and know that you are positively working toward building an important life skill.


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


[1] Walsh, J. M. E., Wheat, M. E., & Freund, K. (2000). Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of Eating Disorders: The Role of the Primary Care Physician. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 15(8), 577–590. http://doi.org/10.1046/j.1525-1497.2000.02439.x

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 2, 2017
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com