Freedom from Eating Disorders, LLC
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Christian Eating Disorder Recovery Course
At the conclusion of this lesson, whether you’re new to journaling or you’ve been doing it for a while, you’ll have a huge variety of journaling questions and exercises to use.
I spent countless hours writing in my journal, and I don’t believe I would have recovered otherwise. May you find healing as you process thoughts and release feelings in your own journal.
If you’re ready to make a significant difference in your recovery, try journaling! Your journal can be a safe place to release your feelings, sort out your thoughts, gain new insights, let go of hurts, and so much more.
As you undoubtedly already know, it isn’t healthy to keep things hidden. Keeping thoughts and emotions locked inside will only allow them to hurt you more. Even back in Bible times, Job expressed himself. “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:11). Don’t keep silent. Whether you use your audible voice or speak through your pen for now, start expressing yourself. You might be surprised at how it can help you.
With the exception of the journaling exercise sections, the teaching portion of this lesson is from my Journaling in Eating Disorder Recovery e-book.
Benefits of Journaling
- Journaling can help you sort through your thoughts. Like everyone else, you have certain beliefs about yourself and your life, and you may even feel confident that you know what they are. However, sometimes journaling reveals otherwise. As you journal, don’t be surprised if you uncover hidden issues, see things from a new perspective, or find yourself writing thoughts you didn’t even realize you had. This makes journaling a great tool to help you be honest with yourself, gain insights, and address underlying issues.
- Journaling can help you release inner pain. Recording the events that hurt you is one step toward healing from them. Use your journal to convey how you feel about what has happened to you. That pain, left stuffed inside, will only hurt you more and more – better out than in. Leave the “sting” on those pages if you can. Try not to be discouraged if it takes several attempts to begin to experience relief. Especially with deep hurts, there is a lot of pain to express, and it will take time.
- Journaling can help you express your emotions. Rather than keeping your feelings bottled up inside, let them out through your pen. Whether it’s anger, sadness, fear, loneliness, shame, or any other difficult emotion, you need a healthy way to express it. Let your journal be your guts on paper; let it all out. Some of your emotions may be strong and deeply embedded. Therefore, if you need to write some of the same things again and again, so be it.
- Journaling can help you put your concerns into prayers. Examine where you need divine help, and write out your prayers. It’s a great way to honestly recognize where you need help as well as to open yourself to God’s power.
- Journaling can provide a record of your journey. You can look back at what you’ve written and see how far you’ve come. Sometimes it’s hard to see progress on a day-to-day basis, but it’s more obvious when you can look back at where you started and see the steps you took to move forward. When you review past journal entries, you might also be able to detect patterns in your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This can provide insight to help resolve underlying issues. Some people find it too painful to look back, and if you find that to be the case for you, you don’t need to do it. But if it isn’t too hard, you may find it quite helpful to look back.
Journaling is a great tool to help you express yourself in a safe place. Whether it’s the food-related behaviors or the underlying issues you find most difficult to talk about, know that you aren’t alone. Many people struggle to express themselves. These are very personal matters, and they aren’t easy to discuss. It’s understandable if you struggle to allow certain memories or emotions to surface. It makes sense if you’d rather not tell someone about some of the unusual food rituals you may practice. In the end, though, what you think and feel needs to come out so you can heal and begin developing healthy coping mechanisms. Use your journal to help you do that.
Journaling Suggestions – Getting Started
One of the great things about journaling is that there are no rules. It’s simply a safe place to record your thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t matter if your entries are scattered, and you don’t even have to write in complete sentences. Furthermore, if you’ve already written about something, but it’s still bothering you, it’s okay to write about it again. You’ll likely need to do so with things that trouble you most. Also, remember that your journal is a place where you can admit just how angry, sad, or disappointed you are. You can also pen the struggles you may feel too embarrassed or ashamed to say out loud. Your journal will not judge you.
Let your journal be your safe place to talk. To that end, if you’re afraid someone else might read it, lock it up in a safe place. If you prefer to journal on your computer, use only a flash drive and lock that up. Consider using an online journal. There are free ones available. Those are some options if you want to be able to look back at your journal entries. Many people benefit from doing so. But if reviewing past entries is too painful for you, you can write and then tear up the paper, or you can type and not save it. You don’t have to keep what you’ve written in order to benefit from releasing thoughts and feelings. Whatever journaling method you choose, the important thing to remember is not to let anything stop you from being honest and open as you write out your thoughts and feelings. That honesty will serve you well in your recovery.
There are several ways you can use your journal, and you can maintain various sections in it Here are some suggestions to help you get started. Don’t do them all at once, though. Just choose one that stands out to you and try it. Try a different one another day and find what works best for you.
- If you aren’t sure how to begin, start by writing just one word, feeling, thought, or experience, and go from there. If journaling doesn’t come easy right away, that’s okay. Give yourself some time.
- You can draw pictures, color, make collages, write stories, song lyrics, essays, or poems. They don’t have to be art or literary marvels. Just illustrate or write what’s on your mind and in your heart.
- Make lists. For example, list your thoughts or feelings about a matter that weighs heavily on your mind, or list things you look forward to once you have recovered.
- Maintain a section for inspirational quotes or verses. When you feel down about yourself, tempted to give into the eating disorder, or overwhelmed by recovery, you’ll be glad to have this section to review when you need it most.
- Write prayers. These prayers may be to ask for help, praise God, purge your inner pain, or simply share what’s on your mind. Write whatever you want to say to the Lord. Even if you aren’t ready to say these prayers, pen them anyway. Then they’ll be available when you’re ready.
- Dedicate a section to a list of things you are grateful for. Try to add at least one new thing each day.
- Enter a record of your steps forward. Every step counts and brings you closer to freedom. Looking back at your successes can encourage you when you need that positive reflection the most.
- Record the positive things that have happened in your life. Write about the joy these events gave you. You don’t want to forget the wonderful things in your life, so it’s important to have them written down.
These are some suggestions to help you start journaling. It’s okay to start small and work from there. Take it one step at a time.1
Journaling Exercises – Getting Started
Not everything you journal about has to be serious. It’s okay to write about surface or happy topics. This can help you get in the habit of journaling and learn to describe things in written words. If you’re reluctant to journal, it’s a nice place to start. If you’re an avid journaler, you still might want to take a break from the heavier topics and write about something lighter for a change.
- Describe where you’re the happiest.
- Write about your favorite season and why it’s your favorite.
- Depict some things in nature that you admire the most and share why.
- Pick some of your favorite quotes and write about why they touch you.
- Choose some favorite Bible verses and explain why they mean so much to you.
- Detail what an ideal day would be like for you.
- List things that make you smile.
- Pen a list of things you’re good at doing.
- Record things you enjoy doing and why.
- Print your name in capital letters in a vertical line. For each letter of your name, write down a positive trait about yourself.
Journaling Suggestions – Going Deeper
Perhaps you’ve already started journaling, but you wonder how you can get more out of it. Below you’ll find suggestions to help you go deeper with journaling. Again, don’t try them all at once. Review the ideas, and choose one that strikes you. Another day a different suggestion may stand out to you. If any of these exercises bring up thoughts and emotions that feel like too much, take a break from it or choose something else. Also, have someone you can talk to if you feel overwhelmed.
- If it’s difficult for you to identify your emotions, list every emotion you can think of so you can review this list when you find it hard to put your feelings into words. Then start writing about the emotion you feel – when it came on, what caused it, or when you’ve felt the same in the past.
- Ask yourself thought-provoking questions and answer them. For example, what does recovery mean to you, or what holds you back from trying your best to recover? You might be surprised at your insights.
- Use your journal to practice what you want to say if you’re having a hard time facing a difficult conversation you need to have with someone. For example, maybe you need to consider how to tell a loved one you have an eating disorder.
- Write letters to those who have hurt you. Although you won’t send these letters, you can release some of your emotions by putting your thoughts on paper. This exercise can also help you forgive others.
- Remember that conversations with God go both ways – that is, when you’re listening. Keep track of what God says to you. You’ll appreciate those recorded words when you need comfort or feel far away from him.
- Enter your fears on one side of a page and ways to face them on the other side.
- List your long-term goals on one page and intermediate goals on another. From there, you can make a page of daily goals. Mark them off as you accomplish them. You can also keep a calendar in your journal and give yourself a star or a sticker on days you’ve accomplished a goal or taken a step forward.
- If you find it difficult to open up to your counselor, you can use your journal to practice what you want to say. You can even read what you’ve written or give it to your therapist during a session. Your journal is there to help you get your thoughts and feelings out, so make good use of this tool.
Perhaps you’d like to try some of these suggestions. Maybe reviewing this list has sparked some ideas of your own. In either case, the main thing is to manage journaling in the way that works best for you.1
Journaling Exercises – Going Deeper
If you’re new to journaling, but eager to find out how you can get more out of it, here are some exercises to help you dig in and explore yourself and your relationships a little deeper. If you’re a veteran journaler, you might still find something you haven’t written about before that you’d like to address.
- Describe your relationships with your family members.
- Depict your relationships with your friends.
- Explain what you would like to change about your life and how you can do that.
- Portray your upbringing. Explain what your parents and siblings were like and how they treated you.
- Explain conclusions you made about yourself, life, food, and God as a result of your upbringing.
- Record ways you have been misunderstood and what you would say if you had the opportunity to clear up those misunderstandings.
- Delineate your grieving process. Perhaps you’ve lost someone close to you, a job, your home, or something else important to you.
- Detail what you think God would say to describe you.
- Outline God’s love for you.
- Write about recovery using a metaphor. For example, liken it to taking a journey.
No matter what you write about, be honest with yourself so you can get the most benefit from the experience. Hold nothing back. It’s okay to write about raw emotions. Write like David. Here are some examples of how he shared from his heart.
“I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched” (Ps. 69:3a).
“Do not hide your face from my servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble” (Ps. 69:17).
“Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none” (Ps. 69:20).
“But as for me, afflicted and in pain – may your salvation, God, protect me” (Ps. 69:29).
Journaling is a great way to sort through your thoughts and express your emotions, which are two keys to recovery. For more on these subjects, delve into the lessons Change Your Thoughts and Learn to Deal with Emotions.
In addition to the journaling suggestions and exercises above, there are other journaling helps in this lesson. In two separate sections below, you’ll find 100 journaling questions organized into 22 categories for easy reference, as well as six journaling pages. So with all of the suggestions and other prompts in this lesson, you can see there are several ways you can use your journal. Why not try it?
*Note: While it’s beneficial to process thoughts and feelings through journaling, if it gets to be too uncomfortable for you, pray, take a break, or try a simpler question. Be sure you have someone to talk to if you feel overwhelmed. As thoughts and feelings come to light, it may seem like things get worse before they get better. Ultimately, it’s better to get things out, but it’s okay to go about it in steps, and it’s important that you have someone to talk to if it starts to feel like too much. This is a challenging process, and it will take time to work through pent up feelings and untangle troublesome thoughts. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself the time you need.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I need your help with journaling. As I write, will you help me experience the release of emotions I need? Please also help me to gain helpful insights as I sort out my thoughts through writing. There’s just so much inside, and it feels all jumbled up and confusing. Please help me untangle it all. I need your reassurance as well as your healing as I work through things using my journal.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.2
The Quiet Place
As I enter the quiet place,
focused on solitude,
the concerns of the day
must wait for my return.
With pen in hand
and the page beckoning me,
the ink tells the story
as thoughts and emotions flow.
As secrets are revealed,
I am in awe of the inner place.
All that has been hidden
is now candidly exposed.
What was before concealed
takes its place in my conscience.
Now I must face what is within
to find healing and peace.
As I enter the quiet place
with anxiety and confusion,
I look into his eyes
and find assurance there.
Into his outstretched hands,
I place my hurts and shortcomings.
As he gently takes them from me,
my burdened heart lightens.
His forgiving spirit
and his leading hand
bring me to healing and wholeness
and fill me with hope and strength.
He is my healer, my refuge,
my comforter, my retreat.
He leads my every step
as he makes me more like him.
As I enter the quiet place,
stress and distractions cease.
In the stillness I hear his voice
as he leads and comforts me.2
Make a journaling plan.
- Decide whether to write in a paper journal, use software like Microsoft Word, or use an online journal.
- Determine what kind of sections or files you want in your journal. You might want a section or file for prayers, one for things you’re grateful for, one for steps forward in your recovery, and one for raw emotion where anything goes. If you aren’t sure of all the sections you want right now, you can add more later.
- Consider a time each week or each day that you can dedicate to journaling.
- Think about other times you may want to determine to journal, such as prior to a nerve-wracking event or when tempted to engage in eating disorder behaviors.
- Make note of what you want to journal about even if you don’t have time to journal at the moment. This will help you if you struggle with where to start when you sit down to journal at your designated time. However, if something else is more pressing at the moment, journal about that instead and save your other concerns for another time.
- Just do it!
The remaining features for this lesson, as listed below, are printable. You may download the PDF file here.
Additional Journaling Pages
Additional Journaling Questions
Answer Key for Quiz
All Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Find out about other lessons on the Recovery Course page.
Change Your Thoughts
Learn to Deal with Emotions
See Yourself through God’s Eyes Inside and Out
Address Your Relationship with Food
Invite God into Your Recovery
Let Go of Control
Face Your Fears
Experience Inner Healing
Let Go of Perfectionism
Let Go of Guilt
Let Go of Shame
Deal with Relapses