How Does Writing Help Us Heal?

Does it sometimes feel as though your thoughts are like a thousand out-of-control driverless express trains simultaneously zipping through a labyrinth of tiny tunnels in your mind?

If so, you’re not alone.

People whose eating is emotion-driven often describe themselves as “overthinkers” – they’re so consumed by their thoughts that eating is the only way they find respite from the turmoil in their heads (that and going to sleep).

But how do you start making sense of your thoughts when they’re whizzing by so fast you can’t grab hold of any of them?  Where do you even begin?

In my experience, the best way is to get a paper an a pen and start writing.

Writing cuts through the confusion and disrupts the cycle of chaos.  Just getting words out of your head and onto paper helps those trains to slow down so you can begin to work out what’s going on inside you.

Most importantly, if reaching for food is a way of avoiding a relationship with yourself, then writing down your thoughts and feelings is a great way to reconnect.

For that very reason you’ll no doubt feel resistant to the idea, but you can tell the part of you that’s avoiding to back off and let you get on with it.  Writing allows you to vent your anger safely, acknowledge your fears and aspirations, and achieve vital insights.  As a result, it helps you feel better, pose important questions and understand yourself.

But you don’t just have to take my word for it.

I’d like to turn to some of my fellow bloggers to show you what I mean.  I really hope you follow the links to their posts – none of them are very long and all of them illustrate beautifully what I’m talking about.

Writing Helps You Feel Better

In her post “Decisions and Deadlines”, Cristy at mexi minnesota investigates her struggle to make a big decision about her career.

“My soul has already made the decision”, she says but she has yet to take action. Notice how she identifies in the moment the beneficial effect writing is having on her: “Just writing out that decision has helped my body relax and given me some determination to move forward”, she notes.

Writing Helps You Ask Important Questions

Sometimes it’s not so much about finding the answer as it is about just asking the question.

Rory at A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip! demonstrates this in an entry on his “Dear Blog” feature in which he explores his feelings about his Dad having terminal cancer.  He repeatedly asks himself the question “How do I feel about my Dad dying?”.  He doesn’t have the answer, but that’s not the point – the point was he needed to ask himself the question.

Writing Helps You Understand Yourself

Merri at the Binge-Free Blog often shares illuminating excerpts from her journal such as this one from her post “The Bathing Suit Test” in which she examines her struggle with body acceptance.

Although she had difficulty writing because her mind was preoccupied with thoughts of “losing weight and looking my best”, she manages to explore her feelings, finally concluding “I am okay just the way I am”.

Keeping a journal is not about being a good writer or even about enjoying writing.  You don’t have to write every day, it doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t have share it.  It doesn’t even have to be a journal – you can write on the back of an envelope, an old shopping list or a pile of receipts.  The important thing is that you’re writing and forging a relationship with yourself.

Writing is deeply personal expression of self-care and self-acceptance, and can help to heal a lifetime of self-neglect.  The message you’re sending is “I value myself enough to sit down and write about my thoughts and feelings because I deserve my attention”.

As a typical angsty teenager in the 1980’s, I often attempted to keep a journal.  I fancied myself as a modern-day Samuel Pepys but instead of writing about The Great Fire of London or the Restoration of the Monarchy, I was writing perfectly formed sentences about why Duran Duran were better than Spandau Ballet (they were) or which member of the Breakfast Club I most wanted to hang out with (Ally Sheedy).

My journal now resembles the fervent scrawlings of an eccentric scientist attempting to invent a formula to solve a particularly baffling equation.  And, yes, sometimes I look back and think “what the hell was I on about?”  But it doesn’t matter.  It’s an indication of where I was at the time and, more importantly, that I’ve moved on.  I know for certain that I would never have managed to resolve my overeating issues without writing regularly.

So if you’re serious about healing your relationship with food and yourself, and you want to move forward – start writing.

At some point, and perhaps for the first time in your life, you may feel something within you breathe a sigh of relief as if to say “Thank you. I feel heard”.

What Did You Learn About Food Growing Up?

Lunchtime had ended at my primary school.  I sat alone in the dining hall, apart from two teachers who stood over me.  They stared resolutely at me, while I stared forlornly at a plate of cold cottage pie.  Everyone else had gone out to play and I could hear the familiar noises of the playground in the distance.

I was told I couldn’t leave until I’d finished my lunch.

At 10 years old, I truly loathed cottage pie.  It was My Completely and Utterly Absolutely Worst Food in the World Ever, apart from my Mum’s curried egg (sorry, Mum).

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Why Do We Need To Let Other People Own Their Feelings?

You’re about to send an email and you’re re-reading it for the tenth time to make absolutely sure there’s nothing in it that could be misconstrued and cause offence.   Then you check it another ten times after you’ve sent it – just in case…

You bump into a friend in the street.  As you walk away, you replay the conversation over and over in your head trying to work out if you said anything “wrong”.  You’re still rerunning the conversation in your head as you lie in bed that night…

A work colleague seems a bit off with you.  You instantly rack your brain to recall your most recent interactions with them.  You spend the day desperately trying to work out what you did to upset them so you can apologise and make things right…

Sound familiar?

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What’s The First Thing You Say to Yourself in the Morning?

The alarm clock goes off.

Your eyes flutter open.

Still drowsy from sleep, you turn over and glance up to see someone who looks remarkably like Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” standing over your bed.

He stares down at you, face like stone, eyes cold and unblinking, as he barks:

“RISE AND SHINE, SCUMBAG! TODAY YOU WILL EAT HEALTHY FOOD AND NOTHING BUT HEALTHY FOOD!  YOU WILL EXERCISE FOR PRECISELY ONE HOUR – I DO NOT GIVE A HOOT ABOUT YOUR SO-CALLED TENDINITIS!  YOU WILL COMPLETE EVERYTHING ON YOUR “TO DO” LIST, INCLUDING TAKING YOUR CAT, KATY PURRY, TO THE VET BECAUSE SHE’S TWO MONTHS OVERDUE FOR HER WORM TREATMENT!  I DO NOT CARE IF YOU DID NOT SLEEP WELL OR THINK YOU MIGHT HAVE A CASE OF THE SNIFFLES, THERE WILL BE NO EXCUSES AND NO COMPLAINING!  YOU WILL COMPLY WITH THESE ORDERS BECAUSE YOUR ASS IS MINE!”

Continue reading “What’s The First Thing You Say to Yourself in the Morning?”

How Do You Handle Setbacks?

Photo by RoadTrafficSigns.com

“It was going really well and now it’s not and I’m just so annoyed and angry with myself.”

This is something I hear a lot.

I understand.  You’ve been doing really well listening to your body about when you’re hungry, what you feel like eating and when you’ve had enough.  You’ve been leaving food on your plate (something you thought you’d never do), you’ve turned down ice-cream because you didn’t feel like it (unheard of) and you ate just one brownie rather than devouring the whole batch (say whaaat?!).

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What Are You Waiting For?

We can spend so much of our lives waiting.

Waiting for something to happen.
Waiting for things to get better.
Waiting for the ideal moment.

I know I did (and sometimes still do).

There was an awful lot of time between acknowledging to myself that I had an overeating problem and healing my relationship with food.

Most of that time I spent waiting.

Continue reading “What Are You Waiting For?”

How Can Fear Make Us Fat?

Let’s say you’ve managed to normalise your relationship with food.

You’ve been eating in tune with your body for a while – you’re eating when you’re hungry, you’re eating exactly what you feel like, and you’re stopping when you’re satisfied. In addition, you’re getting better at acknowledging your feelings and you’re finding ways to meet your emotional needs directly. Now that you’re no longer overeating, you’re really beginning to work with your metabolism and, whaddaya know, you’re starting to lose weight.

All good.

Or is it?

Continue reading “How Can Fear Make Us Fat?”

Why Am I Doing This To Myself?

After I’d finished yet another secret binge.
After I’d made myself feel sick from the vast quantity of food I’d eaten.
After I’d told myself how weak and pathetic I was.
After I’d said I hated myself with utter conviction.

As I sat alone in physical and emotional pain, this is the question I would ask over and over again.

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What’s The Big Deal About Exercise?

“I’m just one of those people who hates exercise”. That’s what I used to say. And I believed it. Man, did I hate exercise. I felt angry (and guilty and ashamed) at the mention of the word and, I have to confess, I’m worried some of you may stop reading this post for the very same reason, but I hope not.

Continue reading “What’s The Big Deal About Exercise?”