Published in


Does cooking reduce stress? I think so.

It brings me pure joy to cook for myself. When all else is out of my control, the type of food I make and eat is in my power. But not in a calorie counting way. If I am stressed, cooking calms me down. It’s very therapeutic.

It’s part of my creativity, opening the fridge and deciding what I can make with what I have. I don’t like wasting food and it makes my brain happy when I can make so many different meals out of a zucchini: grilled, turned into zoodles, ribbons, hummus, possibilities are endless.

It’s my artistic expression. Some people find painting, gardening, singing, coloring books, you name it, as a way to unwind and relax, for me, it’s cooking.

For the first time, I have a good relationship with food. I do think of it like any other relationship; you have to put the effort for it to work. When and if I start to resent cooking or feel like it’s a chore, I stop and try to understand the issue, because it’s never about the cooking, it’s always something deeper.

I used to eat to feel and out of boredom. It’s still a daily decision, but now I try to listen to my body and understand what it needs.

I’ve tried diets, cut things out but I don’t do that anymore. Instead, I think about the food I can have. It’s no longer low sugar, low carb, whatever is the latest trend, it’s what makes me feel good and healthy and that’s eating wholesome, fresh and no processed food. It’s me nurturing my body and soul and loving myself.

I had set out so many food goals before and failed. This time around, I’ve embraced the process and how it makes me feel. When I am stressed and have low energy on certain days, I want to eat (anything and everything!). In those situations, I try to make myself something delicious that will make me feel happy, satisfied and strong.

The act of chopping and following a recipe calms me down. You have to be in the present, because off goes a finger or the food won’t turn out good. You have to be focused on what you’re doing and cooking does just that. Some people meditate, I prep food.

If I had a bad day and make myself even the simplest salad, it brings me joy and makes me smile.

Salad with green onions, cucumbers and homemade falafels.

Food is transcending. It takes me places I’ve never been to and makes me actually want to travel there. I like trying and hearing about local food everywhere I go. It introduces me to cultures, it makes me learn about the land, customs and people.

When I try something new, I smell it, observe it and usually close my eyes when I try it. I let the noises of pleasure or surprise come out of me or do a happy dance as a way of me saying “well hello nice to meet you.”

Me indulging in beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Yep, eyes closed 😋

I enjoy making up recipes. I don’t think of it as a chore or a tedious activity, and it brings out my creativity. I’ve never taken a cooking class (I might). But I don’t want to be a chef, and I don’t want to publish a cookbook, I want to continue cooking for myself and others and nurture my wellbeing.

If I like you, I want to cook for you. I cook for people to show them how much I appreciate them and who I think will appreciate it too. It has to be mutual. The understanding that someone took their time to make something from scratch is priceless to me, whatever that might be.

I invited our neighbors over for some homemade bread, popovers, arugula and caprese salad.

Cooking is pure emotion for me, the full spectrum. If I eat something I don’t like, or I am let down by the taste, or if a recipe doesn’t turn right, I feel it, it affects me profoundly. I have to tell myself, “but it’s just food” but it’s never just food for me.

When I saw an article on Huffington Post about “culinary art therapy” all the bells rang in my head. Is this a real thing!? Can someone like me become a culinary art therapist? What would that look like?

I started the Dishmeetup community and currently, we share our recipes by using the tag #dishmeetup on Instagram. My vision for this community is to connect people whether one wants to learn a new cooking skill or exchange recipes. I love my little community because for us it’s more than food. It’s about its healing powers.

It’s nice to know I am not the only one. As an introvert, food topics have been the ones I gravitate to in social settings. It puts me to ease, it helps me open up and I love hearing what other people cook or what they enjoy. I learn so much about a person from talking about food, I love it!

Do you have a similar relationship with food? Do you believe that cooking can reduce stress and anxiety? Let me know your thoughts, would love to hear from you in the comments.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lily Ciric Hoffmann

Lily Ciric Hoffmann

Creator of @dishmeetup. Creative techie in love w/ multimedia storytelling, design thinking & the healing power of homecooked food.