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Originally published January 10, 2020
Content Warning: eating disorders
There is a sort of trendiness associated with journaling these days, and journaling prompts can be helpful if you’re feeling unsure where to start.
Read any self-help article about mindfulness, and you’ll probably come across the idea that emptying your thoughts onto a page (or Word document) each day is essential. But trendy or not, I’ve found it incredibly helpful. Words were (and still are!) hugely important to me.
Words are how I make sense of the world around me, and playing around with them is necessary for me to do that.
When I first began struggling with anorexia as a teenager, I couldn’t understand why I was doing what I was doing. So when I was finally set on a path to recovery and given the vocabulary to explain what was going on in my head, I finally had power over all of it. It’s a method I’ve heard about called “name it to tame it.”
Using Journaling Prompts for Self-Awareness in Eating Disorder Recovery
In addition to using words to explain what I am going through, self-awareness has also been key.
Becoming self-aware has involved a great deal of honesty, accountability, and practice. I desire to seek out the knowledge that is buried deep inside my mind, and journaling fosters this self-awareness.
So when my eating disorder behaviours resurfaced after years of thinking all that was behind me, the first thing I did (after admitting to myself there was a problem) was start journaling.
I thought of topics that might allow me to figure out why I’m struggling and how to get to a place where I’m not anymore.
Here are some journaling prompts for recovery that helped me:
Eating Disorder Journaling Prompts that Dig Deeper:
A Letter to My Younger Self
This journaling prompt isn’t entirely my own; I think it’s a rather common topic because it shifts our thinking from our present selves to our younger, innocent selves. We’re forced to think about the children we once were, what we’d say to them, or what advice we’d give.
Would we warn against the dangers of falling into eating disordered patterns? Would we go on about how perfect that child naturally is?
I wrote a letter to my sixteen-year-old self (who’s much younger than I am right now!) because that’s when I first stepped into the world of recovery, a move that very much saved my life. I told her how proud I am of her and to keep going no matter what.
What Does “Recovery” Mean to Me?
So we’ve been throwing the word ‘recovery’ around, but there are lots of cases where we can’t actually conceptualize what it means.
In my experience, eating disorder recovery is different for everyone.
It’s even been different for me throughout different periods of my life.
Recovery means “freedom,” of course. But I also define it as endless possibilities, glowing skin, radiant passion, and everlasting resilience.
To you, it might be fewer metaphorical concepts.
Figuring out what recovery means to you gives you some context for what you’re doing.
Looking back on this journal prompt might also help you find the motivation to keep going during periods of struggle.
Eating Disorder Journaling Prompts that Make You Think:
A Conversation Between Me and My Disorder
I know many people who personify their eating disorder, thinking of it as an entity separate from who they are. They may call their eating disorder Ana, Mia, or Ed. While this method doesn’t do much for me, I still found writing this helpful.
I was able to pretend that my disorder was sitting in front of me if only for a time.
I asked it probing questions, told it how I felt about it and took out some of my anger and resentment on it.
What Will My Recovered Life Look Like?
Can you picture your life without it being tied to eating disordered thoughts and behaviours?
It might be hard when you’re deeply entrenched in all of it but recovered life is achievable. Try to imagine that achievement.
Imagine what you’ll feel like, how proud you’ll be, how relieved you’ll be. Imagine the confidence you’ll find, the smile that will light up your face.
Sometimes just thinking about the end result of something can actually draw it towards us.
If nothing else, it gives us something concrete to work towards.
Who Am I Without My Eating Disorder?
It’s essential to realize that you are more than your disorder. You are a whole, multifaceted, unique, and powerful human being.
You are more than your struggles.
I know it feels like your eating disorder consumes so much of you. I know it affects many areas of your life. But you’re still YOU, and that can never be taken away from you.
Eating Disorder Journaling Prompts that Shine Light on the Truth:
What Are the Negative Impacts of my Eating Disorder?
Even those who still struggle to admit they have a problem probably feel their disorders’ devastating and unfortunate impacts. The physical aspects (fatigue, constant cold, lack of concentration, hair loss, rotting teeth, etc) might come to mind first. Or perhaps interpersonal issues (having to lie to friends and family) are the first. It could be social issues (avoiding people and being isolated). The list goes on and on.
Writing down what eating disorders take from us makes it easier to see what recovery can give back.
How Do My Disordered Thoughts Differ from the Truth?
Our eating disorders lie to us. They hiss negative thoughts into our ears, and we internalize them and believe them. It can be tough to differentiate those lies from reality because they can be so persistent. It’s the nature of these disorders that have so many psychological effects.
Trying to think rationally and impartially can help us realize that we are more than negative thoughts. We don’t have to be beaten down by them.
Writing using this journaling prompt might be the hardest of them all. I know it was among the hardest for me. But if all else fails, you can simply write out your disordered thoughts and their direct opposites.
I can almost guarantee that whatever your disorder tells you is the complete opposite of the truth.
Eating Disorder Journaling Prompts that Empower:
Reasons Why I Can Achieve Recovery
The bottom line is that you can do it. Even if you aren’t feeling particularly great right now, there is always hope.
Search your soul for all the beautiful reasons within you that will help you get there. Refer back to this list when you get discouraged.
Maybe I find journaling so helpful because I have a particular affinity for words as a writer. But I believe that if you sit down and think about these prompts and questions, it’s a good step toward recovery.
Sometimes being honest with ourselves and thinking deeply are two of the bravest things we can do.
My name is Laura! When I was a teenager, I fought what I call a crazy battle with anorexia. After three years of intense struggling, I was lucky enough to be shown that there was another option: recovery. It took years of hard work, mental grit, and introspection, but I learned to live a life of freedom. Now I’m learning (once again) that you don’t just choose recovery; you have to keep choosing it.
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