Yes, baking pies and cakes really does help relieve PTSD symptoms

Josh Tredinnick, a retired Army sergeant and fellow at the Dog Tag Bakery, is training to become a baker through a work-study program conducted by Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, Oct. 19, 2015, in Washington. DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard.

I woke at midnight yesterday and decided I want to know the truth, once and for all: Does baking have healing qualities for people with PTSD?

I’m talking pastries and pies, not medical cannabis. I already know medical cannabis is the most effective treatment available for my chronic PTSD, and I’m so grateful I live in a state with a medical cannabis program.

But I’ve been trying to implement other life changes to control my PTSD that don’t involve cannabis. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the better.

In recent months, I’ve been getting cake mixes, pie mixes, and the like from the St. Pius food pantry. It has been piling up, and a few weeks ago I thought: Try baking. It can’t be that hard.

And then I asked myself: Do I know any angry bakers?

And I don’t. Again, I’m talking cookies and cakes.

The truth is, I never had baked anything in my life before my midnight yesterday rendezvous with Duncan Hines.

My first project: White, Super Moist, Rainbow Chip Cake.

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Physical exercise, good memory trigger, accomplishment

So, I don’t have those mixer-beater things, so I had to toss the mix “vigorously by hand” for two minutes. It was good exercise.

I also had fun tossing the three eggs in, as it reminded me of a childhood adventure of about 40 years ago that took place in that very kitchen….

A friend had thrown an egg at another friend when we were playing outside, and it hit him in the head. My mom had to wash the egg out of the kid’s hair. Pretending to be angry, my mom turned to the egg hurler and said, “Eggs belong in cakes.”

….I was pleased that even though I did not have a mixer, the mix turned out smooth. All I had to do was hope I didn’t burn it.

Can I tell you? That cake turned out perfect. And I ate it right up.

But before I tell you about the NEXT baking project I took on (key lime pie!) … let’s explore the very serious question: Is baking good for your health and, specifically, for people with PTSD?

Now, I have come to decide that the British have a much better handle on mental health research and messaging than we do here in the United States. In the U.S., we stigmatize mental illness and seldom discuss ways of preventing it. A mentally healthy nation isn’t good for Pharma now, is it? And Pharma fuels our economy.

I’d rather give my money to Duncan Hines than Pharma any day. Let me quote from this British website to explain what I already suspected about baking:

In recent years both mental health and culinary experts have come round to the idea that baking could very well be helpful in relieving the symptoms of anxiety and depression by combining the physical and projection aspects of the traditional occupational therapies. Kneading a batch of bread dough for 10/15 minutes will sure take away a lot of frustration and negative feeling, the weighing of the ingredients, the repetitive motions and the feeling of being in control could help keep calm and level up unruly anxiety feelings, decorating a cake, making beautiful artistic creations can mirror the feelings of projection people might experience when painting or writing.

And obviously let’s not forget that at the end we get to indulge in some great home bakes which would definitely put a smile on anyone’s face and share our creations with family and friends reclaiming those great positive feelings of nurturing and making someone else happy.

Thanks to the website Mental Healthy for that great info. You can learn more about baking your way to better mental health by clicking here.

Research conducted just a few months back showed that cooking has “psychosocial” benefits.

I can tell you already I had so much fun baking that cake (and I haven’t even told you about the key lime pie yet) that I may just start baking cakes for neighbors.

“Finding benefits to cooking that extend beyond nutritional may be helpful in increasing motivation and frequency of cooking. This review suggests that cooking interventions may positively influence psychosocial outcomes, although this evidence is preliminary and limited,” concluded Farmer et al in the journal Health Education and Behavior. “Further qualitative and rigorous quantitative research are needed to identify mechanisms by which cooking interventions may improve psychosocial outcomes.”

Combat vets baking away stress

Finally, the picture with this piece says it all: Even manly military men are finding PTSD relief from baking.

From a Department of Defense news release that you can read for yourself here by clicking here:

For Josh Tredinnick, a medically retired Army sergeant, the Dog Tag Bakery fellowship gave him a new future.

Tredinnick was injured in 2009 in Afghanistan when he was struck by an improvised explosive device. He had hip and back surgery and has a TBI and PTSD. He said his work in a veteran support office was fulfilling, but baking has always been beneficial for him. 

“Baking has been very therapeutic as far as just getting me involved in a healthy activity,” he said. “What I’ve enjoyed most about it that you can take this set of ingredients, you can follow these steps, and you’re more than likely to come out with this final product every single time.

“You take these small steps and do it correctly, you put everything you’ve got into it, and you’ll come out with a better product on the other end,” Tredinnick added. He said his favorite part of baking is the variety of breads that can be made from the same basic set of ingredients.

He said his wife, Erica, has enjoyed his work at the bakery, especially when he brings home some of the French baguettes he bakes.

So, regarding that key lime pie…

I did not have “heavy cream,” nor did I even know what it is. And I have bene putting my computer in a “lockbox” for hours at a time to stay off social media and become mentally healthier, so I could not Google “heavy cream.”

So instead, I used milk and sour cream.

My key lime pie turned out PERFECT, just like my Rainbow Chip Super Most White Cake. I made the cake and the pie back to back, and I ate them back to back as well.

I cannot tell you how PROUD I was of my very first cake and my very first pie.
it was a lift, and I’ll for sure bake again.

Until next time.

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