I wrote in one of the earliest posts in this blog about the food journal. The reason to revisit this topic is the increasing feedback from the clinical community that the journal is more than a tool and actually a necessity for recovery. Many other clinicians see the journal as a key difference between those in recovery and those who aren't.
The journal represents a daily external mechanism to see one's daily intake of food and share that with someone focused on helping with recovery. This explanation encompasses the three important aspects of the journal.
First, the journal is a means to externalize the thoughts of the eating disorder. The act of writing the journal is a daily exercise in separating oneself from the eating disorder thoughts by processing food in a new and different way. Encouraging separation from those thoughts is a critical part of recovery.
Second, seeing the day's food written out enables each person to see realistically the food intake for that day. Rather than allow the eating disorder thoughts to confuse and cloud that reality, there is no hiding from the words on the page.
Third, the act of sharing the journal is a daily step of allowing someone else to help. It's a sign each day of committing to recovery and using relationships to move into a place of health and wellness and not become lost in the distorted priorities of the illness.
The food journal is one of the hardest things for someone in recovery to complete regularly. Writing about food and showing that to someone else is very exposing and activates the shame that is a common stumbling block.
In addition, food is the most intimate of subjects for someone with an eating disorder so sharing that information opens the door to a very intense and close bond, something that feels intimidating when the illness remains so strong.
It's important to recognize the food journal as a cornerstone of treatment. Writing and sending the journal each day are not just useful steps but instead are clear markers of recovery and need to be a central part of any effective treatment.