The first thing to do when beginning a 12-step program is to write a personal history about what you’re striving to admit powerlessness over—food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, whatever that program addresses.
But this writing tool is available to everyone, in or out of 12-step programs. Documenting your journey with food and body image issues can be a powerful process. It allows you to dig deep into your past, examining the triggers, experiences, and emotions attached to your relationship with food and your body. By exploring the highs and lows, the successes and setbacks, you gain a greater understanding of the complex nature of your journey.
Start by writing down everything you can remember about your history of your issues around overeating, restricting food, body image, weight, or other challenges in these areas: every diet you ever went on, every time you isolated because you didn’t feel good in your body, and whatever else comes to mind.
Some people draw a timeline or make lists, but I find it most helpful to write in paragraphs, and to write by hand, rather than type, if possible.
When you get those examples written down, go back and write about their consequences. What was the impact on your mental, physical, and emotional health; your school, job, or career; and your relationships?
Next, write about your successes and joys when it comes to health and wellness. In those times you felt really aligned with your health, what was going on? And how did those times affect the different areas of your health and your life?
Writing your history is not something you’ll probably finish in one sitting. More things will come into your mind once you start the process. Be gentle with yourself; it can be very confronting to face these truths on the page.
Take comfort in knowing that once you’ve written your history, you won’t have to do it again. You may revisit some aspects if you find yourself in relapse. And new things may be revealed to you that you didn’t or couldn’t remember the first time. But for now this task is done.
Writing your history around food and body image is a wonderful opportunity for personal reflection and healing. Through this process, you can identify patterns, triggers, and coping mechanisms. Recognizing these can lead to an improved relationship with food and your body, and serve as a springboard for your journey towards self-awareness, self-care, and