Cooking Therapy: A Snap Shot

Chef Franco Lania - Bloomingdale's

Chef Franco Lania – Bloomingdale’s

Cooking saved my life! Yes I know that sounds a bit drastic but it’s true. Many people find great solace in the kitchen. I’ve said this many times, especially during speaking engagements. The act of cooking gave me a new lease on life after a difficult childhood, my parents’ divorce, fleeing from the second tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, my own divorce and the roller coaster ride of business ventures. Every trial and tribulation that I’ve encountered has been overcome by my sheer desire to want to cook my way out, over, under or around major obstacles. We all face things that knock us off center. And by keeping steadfast on solutions we’ll persevere.  The saving grace during these rough times is finding some inspiration that can lead us to a better place. This inspiration will place our wheels in motion toward healing, higher ground and happiness.

I view the stove as an old friend who is always ready to greet me with a warm embrace. I have relied on this cooking mindset my entire life.  As I began to grow and mature, my life moved into more constructive and peaceful times. The reassurance, nourishment and feelings of accomplishment that I’ve attained from cooking are truly monumental and healing.

Cooking through the tough times helped me change everything that was fundamentally wrong with my life and also guided me through coping with the areas of my life that were in great transition.  And I hope that it can do the same for you.

I began to feel a great need to share my cooking revelation with as many people as possible, especially after 9/11. I thought since cooking, as a form of therapy, has helped me it could help others. Cooking can be a perfect form of therapy for those struggling with job loss, divorce, low self-esteem, bereavement, drug/alcohol addiction, business failures, stressful exam weeks, and even for Veterans or others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders. The list goes on and on, but my point is that cooking can be a fundamentally helpful “grass-roots” approach that can assist you through life’s trying times.

Chopping and Concentration

Chopping and Concentration

For many of us, one of the first things to fly out the window when we’re down on our luck is eating right. Then, cooking becomes a monumental task, an overwhelming nuisance that is easily replaced with convenient processed foods and soft drinks; we can’t even fathom taking the first step toward venturing to a supermarket, let alone preparing a nutritious meal. This can begin a dangerous downward spiral. Sometimes we need to be reminded to return to a commonsense approach that can actually be helpful. My message of cooking as a form of pleasant therapy is a friendly way to be nourished and nurtured.

 And here is where the importance of nourishing your noggin becomes paramount. Without proper nutrients our brains function ineffectively, let alone allow us to orchestrate a plan and think of a way out of a challenging situation. At this point we have two choices: either we strive to overcome our hardship by fighting back, or we simply spiral down the rabbit hole of confusion and depression even further. I see only one good option and I hope you do too. With every ounce of energy you have, you must lift yourself up from the couch, get dressed and head to the supermarket. Oh, I know it’s a scary thought but you can do this. Pick up just 3 ingredients of whatever it is you want to cook. If you can’t think of any try grabbing this- a chicken breast, an onion and some broccoli. Now pay for it, get the heck out of Dodge and head home. Phew, not so bad! I’m proud of you. Here comes the fun part- the simple act of cooking! You are now about to engage in a pleasant form of therapy (yes, pleasant therapy for a change).

Cooking Therapy Demo - Institute of the Culinary Arts in Omaha, NE.

Cooking Therapy Demo – Institute of the Culinary Arts in Omaha, NE.

The key is that we need to be open-minded to the idea of cooking as Kitchen Therapy. Cooking masterfully engages all 5 of our human senses. This is something no other self-help activity can do. And at the end of the therapeutic cooking session, we get the best reward of all: a way to nourish ourselves with what we’ve created. This creates a complete healing cycle for body, mind and overall well-being.

Here is a quick snap-shot as to how this works. As the chemical makeup of what you’re cooking in a pan changes from something raw and inedible to something edible and delicious, so can you change. During this process you can tap into this miraculous change that takes place during the cooking process and harness it in a positive way for you. This creates a wonderful connection between you and the food. Over time and practice you will begin to be able to use this invigorating energy to help regain confidence, reassurance and face changes that are greatly needed in your life.

This symbiotic relationship while cooking will assist you in letting go of those ever-consuming negative thoughts in your mind and replace them with delicious new ones. It’s no wonder why many therapists now offer therapy based cooking classes to help treat their patients.

Therapeutic Cooking - Culinary Arts Institute in Jersey City, NJ.

Therapeutic Cooking – Culinary Arts Institute in Jersey City, NJ.

Therefore, this interactive therapy can create seeds of positive change that will eventually take root deep inside of you. Ultimately, this surge of confidence and reassurance will give you the strength and determination to face the problematic areas of your life and address them head on.

This realization, for some, enlightens them in a very quiet yet helpful way. Others feel the connection very deeply, in a way that’s earth-shattering and monumentally invigorating. Either way, the curative nature of cooking will place your wheels in motion toward the direction of happiness. And, happiness is a win for everyone!

Also see the links below to read more about Therapeutic Cooking: