In eating disorder recovery, journaling can be an incredibly valuable tool for reflection, working on your relationship with yourself and your body, and to cope with the challenges you may face during recovery. As an eating disorder dietitian, I often give my clients journal prompts and my clients find that this really bolsters them and helps them keep moving forwards.
Why Journal in Recovery?
Journaling is not about putting pen to paper, being productive and producing something that will one day be turned into a memoir, it’s messy! And is about self-discovery and healing. Here are a few reasons why journaling can be a game-changer in your eating disorder recovery journey:
Journaling provides a safe space for self-reflection. It allows you to explore your thoughts and feelings surrounding food, body image, and your relationship with nourishment. By putting these thoughts on paper, it can help you get a better understanding of your problems with food and perhaps the reasons behind them.
Eating disorders take a toll on your mental health. Journaling can serve as a valuable coping mechanism, helping you express and process your emotions. Evidence has shown that journaling can help us to regulate our nervous system and to have more neural plasticity aka putting ourselves in a position where we are able to change or rewire the automatic thought processes in our brain.
How to Start a Journaling Routine?
If you’re new to journaling, here are some tips to help you get started:
- Choose a journal: Pick a journal that resonates with you. It could be a simple notebook, a beautifully designed journal, or an online platform. The key is to select a format that will encourage you to write regularly. Some people may even do it on the notes app on their phone.
- Set aside time: Establish a daily or weekly journaling routine. Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can reflect without distractions.
- Consider habit stacking: Developing new habits can be easier when we link the new habit to an established one for example if you normally read in bed, spending 5 minutes writing before you pick up your book would be a good example.
- Be honest: Your journal is your private space to express yourself openly and honestly. Don’t hold back, let your thoughts flow freely. It can feel exposing, writing down the difficult things that we feel in our minds, it is totally okay to hide your journal if this makes you feel safer.
- Start small: Begin with just a few sentences or a brief reflection, and gradually increase your writing as you become more comfortable.
My Favourite Journal Prompts
To help you get started, here are some journal prompts that my clients find helpful:
Reflective recovery prompts:
- How has my relationship with food evolved since I began my recovery journey?
- What are some small victories I’ve achieved in my recovery process?
- What triggers my negative thoughts about my body, and how can I challenge them?
- How can I cope with the stress that comes from challenging the eating disorder?
- What ED behaviours do I do automatically that I want to change?
- Current short term recovery goals
- Long term recovery goals
Body Image related prompts:
- List three things you appreciate about your body.
- Describe a time when you felt confident and comfortable in your own skin. What led to that feeling?
- How do societal beauty or gender standards impact my relationship in my body?
- What does a positive body image look like?
- What judgments do you place on yourself and your body?
- Would you place these same judgments on a best friend? If not, why do they feel true to you?
- What is one amazing memory you have that wouldn’t have been possible without your body?
- How can I cope with negative body image feelings when they arise?
- What self-care activities have I found most beneficial for supporting my recovery journey?
- How can I look after myself in a way that shows love and respect for myself?
- What are some goals related to self-care and nourishment that I’d like to work towards in the coming weeks?
- How can I care for myself in a way that is aligned with my values?
There are also a number of recovery journals you can buy online. I particularly like the Eating Disorder Recovery Journal by Cara Lisette.