Clementine at OPC Nutritionist Alyssa Mitola, MS, RD, LD/N shares her personal experience of facilitating cooking group with our adolescent clients and the importance of understanding the values associated with food and nourishment.
At Clementine adolescent treatment programming, we have girls from many different backgrounds, which is the perfect “recipe” for a cooking group. Every Tuesday evening, the girls and I gather in the kitchen and end up taking a culinary trip around the world. We have whipped up everything from empanadas to stuffed shells to arepas to Caribbean chicken curry – that is only the start. The best part is, many of these ideas have come directly from the clients themselves!
Cooking group is one of my favorite groups. During cooking group, our clients begin to develop the needed skills to feed themselves; skills that will last a lifetime and are critical for recovery. This group enables me to teach girls that food is so much more than just nutrients. Nutrition is only one of many food values, and these other values are often quickly overlooked by society. In the kitchen we discuss values such as culture, flavors, tastes, budgeting and so much more.
What are some of your own personal food values?
Have you ever stopped to consider how these values influence your meal choices?
As the Registered Dietitian on staff, I love being around the girls in the kitchen. While we know it is common for some individuals with eating disorders to love cooking or baking, typically she enjoys cooking food for others and not herself; others may be afraid to step foot in the kitchen. However, it has been a pleasant surprise to all of our staff to see just how receptive our adolescent clients have been to cooking. Many of these girls have never cooked before, but each week, without fail, they are banging down my door to see what we are making. After the meal is prepared, we all sit down to eat together. It is a powerful moment as we gather to share what we have all worked together to create.
Participation in cooking group has served as a turning point for numerous girls on their journey of recovery. We have had a few girls struggle at the beginning of treatment, who light up the night we cook a meal from their culture or use a family recipe. These girls become very excited to share family traditions and cultural recipes with the rest of the milieu; and for that night, the meal becomes just a little bit easier. It is truly inspiring to work alongside our clients as they cook dinner. However, what I find most meaningful is that cooking group becomes the catalyst for not only greater autonomy with food, but a profoundly corrective experience with the power to repair our client’s relationship with food.
P.S. We hope to create a Clementine cookbook very soon. Stay tuned!
For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and newly expanding Clementine adolescent treatment programming, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our website, subscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.