Writer Name: Dayna Altman
Location: Boston, MA
Years of Experience: Novice Baker
Available for writing projects: Yes!
Niche/Beat/Genre: Mental Health, Resilience, Trauma, Feminism,
Other websites/blogs: Facebook/Instagram/Tik Tok: Bake it Till You Make it LLC
Favorite food: Apple Pie
Writing tip for fellow writers: Authenticity is magic, so put it all on the page. I have never once regretted being vulnerable with my readers.
Dayna Altman addresses mental health topics via her website, Bake it Till You Make it, where she inspires her community members to speak freely about any struggles they may be having in their lives, using food as a vehicle for those conversations.
Tell us a little about your writing background.
From as early as I can remember, writing has been my “go to outlet.” I can vividly remember my sixth grade teacher telling me writing was my “bread and butter” and my eighth grade teacher lovingly naming me the “run on queen.” It's a title I am proud to own to this day.
However, outside of the classroom, writing became my saving grace when I really struggled with my mental health. As someone who lives with mental illness, writing is something I turn to at my worst and also at my best. I love being able to write out how I feel, capture my recovery journey, or just process the moment.
Similar to my love for writing from a young age, I knew early on that I always wanted to be an author. I would visit my local Barnes & Noble with my family and look at the biography section; I would imagine seeing my book on the shelves.
I would look through the books, read about the authors and think, “I want to be that.” Thus, I still find it surreal to walk into select Barnes & Noble stores and see my books on the shelf.
What inspired you to create Bake it Till You Make it?
Bake it Till You Make it is a community-based LLC rooted in using food as a vehicle for mental health conversation. This organization celebrates authentic storytelling and vulnerability by inspiring community members to share their stories and speak freely about mental health.
I have struggled with my mental health from as early on as I can remember, but my treatment and diagnosis journey really began in college.
When I entered college as a freshman, I very quickly started to experience daily panic attacks and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder as well as depression and an eating disorder within my first few weeks.
Over the last ten years, my mental health journey has landed me in my lowest valleys: struggling with suicidal thoughts, taking time off from school, but also my highest peaks: creating advocacy organizations, telling my story in a public way, connecting with my therapist, allowing others to share their stories, among so many more.
Bake it Till You Make it has, undoubtedly, given me my tallest platform to stand on and share, and I am so grateful for that.
The actual organization was born out of an extremely difficult summer. I had just survived a serious car accident and it was a summer with naturally little structure, which left me feeling especially depressed and anxious.
Being stuck at home due to having no car, I had little to do but go into the kitchen and bake. I remember it being so easy to share with my friends what I was going through by baking next to them or handing them treats I just created.
I have always been a visionary and outspoken about my mental health, and when I saw a relationship between baking and palatable mental health conversation, I never looked back. I remember thinking “I really have something here,” and I still feel like I do.
Tell us about the mission of the site and what types of content it covers.
The mission of the organization is to create authentic mental health conversation as well as promote healing and recovery.
The LLC seeks to reduce isolation, deconstruct stigma, allow others to share openly about their own struggles and normalize mental illness to the point that taking a “sick day” for one's mental health is “normal” (among many other markers of success).
The organization has also allowed me to produce two books: Bake it Till You Make it: Breaking Bread, Building Resilience and Mix, Melt, Mend: Owning my Story & Finding my Freedom.
The first book I listed is a mental health cookbook that is essentially a compilation of stories about resilience, tied together with recipes and resource pages. The second is my own “memoir” written in a recipe format where I use ingredient metaphors to share my journey. Both books cover issues related to anxiety, depression, sexual violence, eating disorders and OCD as well as hope, recovery, authenticity and finding your voice.
What have been some of your biggest rewards from creating your site?
I believe the ultimate reward of creating Bake it Till You Make it has been learning what resilience means to other people.
I have my own definition and my own life experience, but really getting to connect with others has made my mission complete.
I have found that being vulnerable about my story has allowed so many others to come forward and feel comfortable sharing their stories, to the point of including them in my books, on my website and overall part of my platform.
Additionally, getting the opportunity to create workshops and engage in public speaking have been wonderful consequences of becoming a presence in the mental health world.
What’s your advice for someone who has aspirations of creating a mission-focused website?
My initial piece of advice is to “go for it!” Even if it’s “just an idea” or you don’t have the funding (a problem I have run into countless times), if you believe in it, you will find a way and there is something really special about that.
Also, Google and YouTube are great resources as are public figures who are “killin' it” in your desired space. People love to share their journeys, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask for a virtual coffee or a phone call, you never know where it could lead.
What has been the hardest part of building your site?
I alluded to it earlier, but funding has been probably my greatest challenge in creating my organization.
In addition to Bake it Till You Make it, I have a full-time job, which covers my bills, so there is little left over for my organization. However, in a lot of ways that has inspired my creativity and networking.
I have become really good at sharing my ideas and speaking eloquently about them to raise thousands of dollars over the years to pursue my dreams.
Are there other websites or bloggers who inspire you?
I also love body positive food blogs, like RD Kara Lydon’s The Foodie Dietician blog as well as the mental health blogger and advocate, Ivy Watts. These are all people I know personally and I feel very lucky to be inspired by my friends.
What are your future plans for the site and/or more books?
Such a great question! I think the future holds a poetry book. I have been so into poetry and a kids/teen component. I think to address mental health fully, I need to be thinking about kid/teen mental health. Plus I have spent most of my career working with teens, so working to address mental health in youth is a natural fit.
Anything else you’d like to add about mental health, in general?
When it comes to mental health, everyone’s story is different. I am a recovering perfectionist and someone who compares themselves to others constantly, but if I have learned anything, it is that there is no comparison of misery, and no “benchmark” to “deserve help.”
You alone are enough, and if you think you may need support, that’s the end of the story, go find it.
There are resources and support, there are so many people who care, so it is worth the flight, always.
Also, if you are in crisis, you can always call 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741. Getting help is nothing to feel ashamed of, it’s truly a sign of strength.