Do you ever feel like you have so many thoughts jumbled in your head that it’s hard to figure out where they’re even coming from or why? Yup, us too! One of our favorite tools to use in making sense of those jumbled up thoughts is with journaling. Journaling in eating disorder recovery is not only a way to externalize and challenge intrusive thoughts, but it is also a great way to take some time for yourself.
Are you having some reservations about writing? We get it. Read on to figure out whether journaling is right for you.
Why Use Journaling In Eating Disorder Recovery?
When navigating your recovery or relationship with food and body, having your thoughts written out in front of you can also help you to recognize and externalize disordered thoughts and give you a chance to challenge them. So, whether you need an outlet to deal with frustration or “someone to listen”, journaling can be an instantaneous way to make this happen.
As an added bonus, journaling has been shown to reduce anxiety and relieve stress. Studies show that people who actively journal for one month decreased their mental distress and increased their well-being compared to when they started (1).
Okay, i'm in. How do i fit journaling into my life?
When journaling in eating disorder recovery, we recommend doing it in any way that feels helpful and supportive for you - there is no right or wrong way to go about it! If you’re looking for suggestions on how to get into a good rhythm, we have some suggestions:
1. Carve out a time that works for you
This could be anytime! In the morning to help you set intentions or at night to recap your day. Maybe even on your lunch break! Sometimes journaling before or after more challenging meals can be a way to help navigate challenging thoughts or feelings as they come up. Whatever the time is, try and stay consistent with it to give yourself a chance to establish a new routine.
By the way, it’s okay if you don’t journal every single day; this is not something you get graded on, so try and show yourself some compassion if you miss a few days. However, try to notice how it feels on the days you did journal versus the ones you weren’t able to.
2. Have a Prompt in Mind
This is optional, but recommended. Having a prompt can help a very unstructured activity feel more guided and give you a more focused topic to write about. If you are feeling stuck with prompts - keep reading for some of our favorites.
If more structured prompts aren’t your thing, we still recommend giving yourself some more open ended questions to answer. One of our favorites is: “What do I need right now?” Put pen to paper and see what comes up for you.
3. Review your entries
Dating your entries is a great way to be able to look back on your own journey and remind yourself to keep going. Behavior change does not happen overnight and especially during your eating disorder recovery it can sometimes feel that you have not made any significant progress (as these changes may not provide the same instant gratification as a hyped up fad diet does). Journaling can be a great way to reflect back on how far you have come and help you feel more connected to your personal growth.
4. Let go of expectations
This one is for all my perfectionists out there - it's okay for your journal entries not to be perfect. They do not need to sound like the next New York Time's bestseller! Keep reminding yourself that journaling is an outlet - a way to get the thoughts out of your head and onto a page. This doesn't always look or sound beautiful, and that's okay!
4. Make it your own
Journaling in eating disorder recovery is a skill that you do for you so make it your own! Curate an enjoyable experience that can become something you want to do versus something you feel you should do. Maybe this looks like snuggling up on the couch with a big cup of tea listening to your favorite music, journal in hand. Whatever it looks like for you, make it enjoyable. Journaling can be a great way to learn more about your thoughts and feelings about yourself or past experiences.
15 Journal Prompts to get you started
1. Write a letter to your body. Then have your body write a letter back.
2. How can you challenge your current feelings around ____(exercise/intake/body image)_______?
3. What does fullness feel like to you? What does hunger feel like?
4. What are your favorite foods to eat? Write about the best ways to prepare that food.
5. How would you describe your relationship with exercise now? Has this changed over time? What would you like your relationship to exercise to look like?
6. How can you be kinder to your body?
7. Write about a time when you were happy in your body? Have this surround an activity you did or when your body did something for you, not how you looked.
8. Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years?
9. Write a letter to a loved one or a friend and tell them why you appreciate them in your life.
10. Write about your next goal you want to achieve.
11. Write about when you eat for other reasons than hunger.
12. Think about a fear food for you. When did this become a fear food? Was there a time in your life you remember enjoying this food? Where do you think your fear comes from around this food?
13. What is your favorite attribute about yourself? (can be physical, quality, emotional, attitude)
14. What emotions do i feel when i think about food?
15. What rules do I have around food? Why?
A journal prompt can be incredibly helpful in inspiring you on a specific topic to write about and the great thing about journaling is there is no right or wrong way to do it! You may find yourself starting with one initial idea and by the end, your focus has shifted entirely. Any thoughts or ideas are free game to be written down. Remember - it does not have to be perfect!
If you are finding that these topics are bringing up thoughts and feelings you are needing more support with, be sure to bring these up in your next session with one of our dietitians. Or, if you come up with a great journal prompt yourself, drop it into the NourishRX Guided PATH community to get the conversation going!