A recovery notebook is both a retreat when you’re craving an addiction and a record to look over and find patterns in your habits. It’s a place of lists, plans, quotes, journal entries, sketches, and clipped articles. Just pick up a marbled composition notebook from Walmart, nothing fancy. The cheaper the notebook, the freer you’ll feel to write anything in its pages.
But be careful. “Recovery” notebooks have sometimes enabled my bulimia, fueling self-pity and excusing unhealthy behaviors. Here’s some tips to keep a recovery notebook as help instead of steroids for your food struggles:
1. Keep asking questions. Write a question at the top of the page and free-write an answer (don’t think, just keep your hand moving). It doesn’t matter if you concoct ridiculous ideas, no one’s watching. Jump in, explore your head, and see if you find something. As soon as you start spiraling into self-pity, self-degradation, or just obsession, gently steer yourself back to the topic.
2. Gather inspiration. Scribble quotes, scripture, poems, names of people you love, pictures, doodles. Pepper these throughout the pages to remind yourself why you’re fighting. Visit sites like something-fishy.net for prompts and other exercises. If you’re artistic (unlike me), try art journaling.
3. Poke patterns. When you find yourself returning to a thought over and over again (like I’m worthless), don’t leave it to rot and spread like mold spores throughout your beautiful notebook. Poke it. (Why do I think I’m worthless? What if I turned it around to “I am precious” every time I catch myself thinking it?)
4. Write about more than food. Write about life, your crush, the mustard stain on the coffee table, your plan to become a classy millionaire, how your parents treat you, the brilliance of the novel you just finished, why you love the people you love. Get the focus off food and onto your life.
5. Enjoy your notebook! Don’t let it become a diet law. Scribble as you swing at the park, hang upside down off your bed, plop down on a sidewalk bench. Some days write one sentence, other days fill whole pages. Write a poem, glue pictures from travel magazines, draw a smiley face with a green crayon. Forget your notebook one week, return with a fury the next. Be flexible.
P.S. Can’t buy a notebook? Use loose paper and gather them in a folder or binder. Don’t own paper? Use leaves. Live in the leaf-less Sahara desert? Move.
Rebekah Burcham struggled with bulimia nervosa
for almost six years before she fully embraced recovery.
She now co-edits UNGLOSSED magazine and manages
Big Fat Juicy while tackling her freshman year of college.