Total opposites yet completely the same…

“You are severely underweight and need to gain 7kgs, ideally within 6 months”. These were the words I heard sitting in the consultant’s office in the hospital in February 2020. I should’ve been relieved considering the other suspected causes of my ongoing health problems were ovarian cancer, a brain tumour and multiple sclerosis. Hearing the words ‘gain weight’ made my blood run cold and it was in that very moment that I realised I had not recovered from the anorexia I had battled ten years previously.

This kick-started a very slow process of reintroducing baking into my life.

I always baked as a child. My grandma and my mum are both fantastic bakers and the phrase ‘shop bought cake’ is essentially a swear word in my family. I’d always known HOW to bake. I’d always baked for other people but I would NEVER eat the baked goods. Sometimes I’d attempt a nibble but would resist at the last second, silently commending myself for my self-control. ‘I wish I had your willpower’ is a phrase I’ve heard many a time. Not willpower I’m afraid but crippling, paralysing fear of food.

I began my reintroduction with healthy baking, no refined sugar, avoiding fats and dairy sources. While this was a fun challenge and a necessary stepping stone it was certainly not a relaxing process and I would agonise over every calorie, spending hours trawling the web for ‘low calorie’ bakes. A trip back to the hospital mid-pandemic and I’d lost even more weight. This was a massive wake-up call. I cried for 3 days and then did what I can only describe as rage baking. In went the sugar and the butter and the chocolate and my word my taste-buds didn’t know what had hit them! Baking with the ingredients I had feared for so long was a huge step BUT then came the guilt. I cannot recall how many times my poor husband had to console me whilst I cried over the guilt I felt for eating something I was so terrified of. The day I ate two pieces of Babka in one day was a particularly traumatic one!

The best thing I did for myself in my recovery was bake along with Bake Off. I LOVE the Bake Off and after a really sad year I was all for celebrating anything that made me happy. I baked along with each themed week and as time went on grew more adventurous with what I was baking and the portion sizes I allowed myself to have. By the end I was certainly over my fear of cake, bread and pastry! On dessert week it all clicked for me. I was living in fear of ingredients. INGREDIENTS! Things that live in my kitchen cupboards and have no power to hurt me. I actually started to laugh at how mad this all seemed.

Now I no longer spend hours searching for healthy or low calorie bakes, I just bake whatever I feel like baking and enjoy the process of getting from ingredients, to a finished product and finally into my belly!