Learning how to feel feelings again when you have/had an eating disorder

When we have an eating disorder, we typically become disconnected from our feelings. Instead of moving through feelings and processing them naturally, we resist our feelings, seeking numbing behaviors out of a misguided instinct to protect ourselves from the danger of feeling.

When our children are in the healing process from an eating disorder, they need new tools to learn how to process the feelings that their eating disorder has been hiding from them. This can be a painful process. When we first start to have genuine feelings without the benefit of our coping mechanisms, we can feel deeply afraid and get triggered to act out our eating disorder or other destructive coping behavior.

Here is a printable PDF that you can use to help your child learn how to process feelings. This takes practice. It is not easy. But it is well worth it.


If you prefer to print out a small piece of paper for your child, here are the steps in a copy-and-paste format:

I’m having a feeling.

My head is pounding.
My lungs feel restricted.
My eyes are scrunching up.

I’m feeling lonely and scared.

I feel so alone right now.
This totally sucks for me.
I hate this.

I know this is hard for me right now, but I also know that feelings pass, and I don’t have to believe all of my feelings. This feeling is real, but it won’t always be here, and I don’t have to stay stuck in it forever.

I can soothe myself by touching my own skin lovingly – on my arm, my leg, my face. My skin will transmit my love to my heart and mind.

I’m going to sit here for a while and feel this feeling. I’m going to keep talking to myself and touching my skin to remember that I’m here, and I’m safe, and this feeling will pass.

Ginny Jones is the editor of More-Love.org. She writes about parenting, body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Ginny is also a Parent Coach who helps parents handle their kids’ food and body issues.

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