Cooking and Baking: A Surprising RA Intersection
Last updated: December 2022
Recently, I've been taking time for myself away from family, friends, and other opportunities. I've found myself feeling overworked and overwhelmed, so I've been looking into new hobbies and ways to decrease my stress.
One of those new hobbies has been cooking and baking, and in this, I've discovered a lot about myself and how finding new hobbies and interests can help me feel relaxed and consequently help my body feel better, too.
My sweet tooth led me to a new hobby
I have to admit; I have a bit of a sweet tooth. I love sweets, including pastries, ice cream, cakes, and more. One of my favorite ways to unwind from work is to have a cup of tea and a sweet. It reminds me of being in Europe and having time to relax, think, and simply enjoy life instead of working all the time. It also allows me to rest my joints and combat fatigue.
But instead of spending money and buying pre-made sweets, I've started carving out time to make my own. The first sweet I made for myself was a batch of cake pops. I had some leftover cupcakes with icing from a work retreat, so I decided to be resourceful and turn them into cake pops, which involved combining all the cupcakes--icing included!--chilling them in the freezer, and then rolling them in candy melts. After that, you let them harden in the freezer again, and then surprise, you have cake pops!
A surprising RA benefit!
One interesting thing about making the cake pops was that rolling the cake balls was a pretty sizeable exercise for my joints. Not too impactful; it allowed me to massage some of my joints and give them some exercise to "break the gel" that forms when your joints haven't been used in a while.
I've found a similar impact when making a cake or brownie batter, but not when I'm making yeasted dough or some other forms of bread--this often makes my joints hurt more because the dough is thicker. Not that I don't like bread (I obviously do), but it's just a little more difficult to make.
Baking has given me back a sense of control
Another thing about this intersection between baking and RA is that it gives me a sense of control I have lost with having RA. In baking, I can create something I want to make. I mold and craft the dessert into what I want it to be. Due to the limitations I face with RA, I don't always get the opportunity to make my life its own, but baking allows me to flex that control. It's an extension of myself and allows me to engage in something I haven't felt in a long time.
In addition, I bake for other people, too--it's a social aspect that improves my mood because it allows me to interact with friends. Increasing social interaction can also impact the isolation people with RA often feel. Sharing the sweets I make also helps me feel better about myself, allowing me to situate my RA in a larger context of life itself. That is, everything will be okay.
Hopefully, this inspires you to consider new hobbies in your RA journey! Baking has allowed me to understand myself and my relationship with RA better; I would have never considered how much my RA could be connected with something as simple as baking.
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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