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Confession: I have kept a diary since I was seven years old. My aunt got her first diary at this age, and bought me one when I went through my parents’ divorce. Throughout that time, my diary kept me company — in fact, it’s how I became addicted to writing — and soon became a refuge for all my deepest secrets.
Flash forward nearly 15 years, and I am still keeping a diary (though now, I prefer to call it a journal). My journal continues to be my faithful companion amid anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. In fact, journaling is one of the many helpful habits that I credit with my recovery from orthorexia.
In eating disorder recovery, one of the most difficult things to learn how to do is to sit with your emotions, even when they’re uncomfortable. Distress tolerance is a skill taught in dialectical-behavioral therapy that helps manage these uncomfortable feelings. For me, writing in a journal has taught me how to cope with my emotions at a time when I’d rather stuff them back. And that’s not all….
The benefits of journaling in eating disorder recovery have been so numerous for me that I decided to write an entire blog post dedicated to them. Read them all and be rewarded with a freebie: a list of journal prompts to print and keep to inspire your journal-writing! Plus, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite journals from around the web to get those creative juices flowing.
Let’s get started!
Journaling for eating disorder recovery
Journaling has mental health benefits for anyone, but especially in my recovery from my eating disorder, I’ve found it a helpful way to tease out my true feelings about a situation. Write for long enough, and even the deepest emotions will come out eventually! But that isn’t the only reason why I love keeping a journal as a coping strategy for recovery: check out these other reasons to start a journal, too, such as….
- Holding yourself accountable. In recovery, you’re liable for all your relapses, slip-ups and mistakes. While I would never recommend beating yourself up, I do think it’s worth examining relapses to see if there is anything you can do differently in the future to support your recovery. Let writing about them be a learning experience, rather than a punishment.
- Uncovering uncomfortable emotions. Whenever we use negative self-talk in eating disorder recovery — for example, I often tell myself “I’m fat” when I’m down — it’s usually a cover up for something else that’s got us down. For example, when I feel “fat,” I know fat is not a feeling, so I must be feeling discomfort for some other reason instead. By writing down how I feel, I can eventually tease out the root cause of my discomfort, no matter how deeply seated it may be, so that I can address the real problem — and stop my negative self-talk.
- Push yourself deeper. It’s most comfortable to ignore the source of our discomfort and turn to a well-known coping strategy — like an eating disorder behavior. But by writing in a journal and accepting your most difficult feelings, you can push yourself harder to really get to the bottom of your personal challenges. It can be difficult to acknowledge these sources of discomfort, but when you figure out the root cause of your beliefs, this is where the difficult work of recovering happens.
- Experience catharsis. Much like you sometimes need a good cry just to get it all out, I find that I often need to write down my feelings to get whatever’s on my mind, well, off my mind. When I write down my worries, especially before bedtime, I no longer allow them to torment me. Instead of ruminating on the source of my challenges, I write down my feelings in my journal and close the book until morning, signaling to my brain and body that I’m the one in charge of my emotions. To someone whose eating disorder provided her with control, I find journaling a much healthier substitute for those ED behaviors.
- Solve your own problems. We all worry that we are a burden to others with our problems. Everyone with an eating disorder has that one friend who thinks you always make it all about yourself. But while it’s healthy to lean on others from time to time, writing in a journal helps you discover the tough solutions for yourself, without drawing others into your life’s problems. Because even though it’s healthy to share your problems, over-relying on others runs the risk of morphing into codependency, which is just as unhealthy as an eating disorder mindset for your mental health.
My favorite journals for eating disorder recovery
Sophia Side’s Eating Disorder Recovery Journal is available on Amazon for just $9, and provides patients with plenty of worksheets in gratitude, meal planning and all aspects of ED recovery.
The Trauma Healing Journal by Mystic Tortoise costs $10 on Amazon and is a mindful adventure into journaling that includes guided prompts, quotes and dotted grids for sketching notes or doodles.
Sugar Paper’s $24 essential journal comes with the $15 option for personalization: add your initials in silver or gold thread to this fabric-covered journal to mark your thoughts as your own.
Kate Spade offers the $22 Take Note notebook customized with your first initial — plus, it’s lightweight and portable, making it perfect for jotting down your triggers, emotions and self-talk on the go.
Download 30 free journal prompts for recovery
Thank you so much for sticking around with this article long enough to get to your FREE journal prompts! There are 30 prompts in a handy printable worksheet, so you can fold them up, tuck them into your journal and carry them on the go for whenever inspiration strikes.