Journaling Topics for Eating Disorders

Writer's journal

Many people enjoy and find writing or journaling to be a therapeutic endeavor. It allows a person to organize thoughts and feelings and to express them in a safe way. It can also allow a person to think through decisions and/or changes that they want to make in their lives. As such, many therapists and mental health professionals recommend journaling to their clients. People with eating disorders are no different, and may also find journaling to be helpful.​

Journaling is often simply an outpouring of whatever thoughts and feelings the person is experiencing that day. However, tackling specific topics such as those listed here can help address specific issues or break through a case of writer’s block. 

Topics for Writing About Your Recovery

Write a ‘goodbye letter’ to your eating disorder. A ‘goodbye letter’ to an eating disorder is a popular assignment among many therapists and can be an important piece of recovery when the person writing it is truly committed to it. This type of letter might include things about your eating disorder that you have liked or enjoyed (such as a sense of control or temporary anxiety relief) as well as a listing of negative things about the eating disorder. It might also detail the goals of recovery and the person’s plan for achieving them (attending therapy, entering a residential program).

Make a pros and cons list about your eating disorder. The decision to enter treatment and to commit to recovery from an eating disorder can be a difficult and scary one. Sometimes sufferers aren’t even sure that they want to change at all. Making lists of the pros and cons of an eating disorder as well as the pros and cons of committing to recovery can help to sort that out. Ask yourself about the things that the eating disorder has given you and what it has taken away. Be honest about both lists. If it is difficult to think of things you can also add to the lists at a later date as well.

Write about what your life would look like without an eating disorder. Another way to tackle fears about recovery is to think about how different your life would be without the eating disorder. How would meals be different? Would you have more self-confidence or be less depressed and/or anxious? How would relationships be different? Would you have more time for hobbies and other enjoyable activities? Would you feel better physically? Allow yourself to dream a little about an ED-free life.

Write down your eating disorder thoughts vs. the truth. People struggling with eating disorders typically struggle with distorted or incorrect thoughts regarding their self-worth, weight, and food. One way to change these thoughts is to acknowledge them as being ‘eating disorder thoughts’ and to write them down alongside the truth. For example, an eating disorder thought might be that “If I gain weight, my self-worth goes down.” The truth is that our self-worth is not determined by our weight. This is a journal topic that might be ongoing until you are able to recognize distorted thoughts and correct them quickly and easily.

Write about a slip or relapse and how it could go differently next time. Slips and relapses are part of a normal recovery from an eating disorder. It is important to learn from slips and relapses though and journaling can help you to do that. It is important not only to write about the slip itself but also about what happened beforehand and what you can do differently going forward. Ask yourself: "What triggered the slip? Is there a different way to respond to this trigger next time?"

If you are currently in therapy, your therapist can also likely give you topic ideas that are specific to your situation and experience. You may also want to talk to your therapist about journaling and any difficult thoughts or emotions that come up as part of the process as well.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Susan Cowden, MS
Susan Cowden is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders.