Making art “is a remarkable tool for recovering our right to be heard, letting go of perfectionism, and restoring self-acceptance,” according to art therapists Mindy Jacobson-Levy and Maureen Foy-Tornay in their book Finding Your Voice through Creativity: The Art and Journaling Workbook for Disordered Eating.
“And it can foster self-discovery by opening new, symbolic doors into our hearts and minds. Creativity connects us to our ‘inner voice’; healing occurs when we listen!”
Their book features a variety of interesting and valuable activities. Today, I’m sharing four artful activities to help you heal your relationship with food and with yourself.
After each activity, a journal entry follows so you can dig deeper. Because it’s better to do the activity before reading the journal entries, I’ve included those at the bottom. So if you’re interested in doing any of the activities, avoid peeking at the entries!
1. “This is Me” Collage
How often do you put yourself first? My guess would be not very often. Many of us think that doing so is selfish. It isn’t. It’s just good self-care. Taking the time to focus on yourself is healing.
According to the authors:
“Eating patterns that are chaotic and unhealthy may indicate you feel unheard or misunderstood in another area of your life that has nothing to do with food. Giving yourself the opportunity to listen within may help you figure out what might be driving your disordered eating. It may also help you feel more alive, engaged in your life, and happier.”
- To create your collage, find words and images that say something about you and that you can relate to. Glue them onto a piece of paper.
2. Your Disordered-Eating Dictator
It’s safe to say that your battered relationship with food and with yourself stems, in part, from hidden or unexpressed feelings and beliefs. The authors write:
“Somehow in order to protect or take care of yourself on your life journey, you found it necessary to hide your true beliefs (mind) and feelings (heart). Any difficult thoughts or emotions you experienced became secrets lodged within your body, only to be replaced by dissatisfaction with your hips, breasts, stomach, butt or other body parts…
Here entered the disordered-eating Dictator, a simultaneous solutions for so many things! But who is this inner Dictator that promotes feelings of self-loathing, and what would happen if you confronted the Dictator in an old-fashioned tug-of-war?”
- Look through magazines or newspapers to find three small images, which represent your heart, mind and the Dictator. Glue them onto a piece of paper. Then “write what each part would say to the other.”
3. You Are a Treasure
When we have an unhealthy relationship with food (and ourselves), the last thing that comes to mind is our wonderful qualities. Rather, we immediately think about our weaknesses and unworthiness. We feel worse and feel even more stuck in our harmful habits.
Having a better relationship with ourselves includes acknowledging that we’re good people and that we have many positive characteristics. We just might’ve forgotten.
This activity helps you see these qualities. The authors say to think of yourself as a treasure chest with precious gems just waiting to be discovered.
- Draw a treasure chest that represents you, and make it as lavish as you like. For instance, you might put stickers on it, paint it or glue glitter. “Now cut five 1” x 4′ strips of paper and jot one positive self-statement that doesn’t have to do with your appearance on each one,” and tape them to your paper.
4. My “Precious” Disaster
Even though we know that behaviors like restricting our food, bingeing, over-exercising or bashing our bodies and ourselves are harmful, we still might be afraid to let them go. They might be our only ways to cope with life.
The authors ask a powerful question: “Is perhaps your obsessions with your body size and what you eat precious to you, even though it leads you on a self-destructive course?”
- Draw a line down the middle of the page to create two columns. On one side, draw what you think your life would be like if you continued to engage in those current “precious” behaviors. On the other side, draw what you think your life would be like “if you devoted yourself to positive, life-affirming alternatives.”
By the way, be sure to check out “The Choose Love Project,”created by Lori Race and Rachel Cole. “The Choose Love Project aims to help women, both young and old, to understand that loving our bodies and healing our relationship with food and exercise are choices, that these are indeed about choosing love.”
Journal Entries (Read ONLY after you’ve done the activity)
1. Look at your “This is Me” collage, and write whatever comes to mind. “How did you feel making it? Did you have fun? Are you aware that you have that creative energy inside you, waiting to emerge?”
2.What do you notice about your conversation with the mind, heart and Dictator? What is the role of the Dictator in your life? Is it a healthy one? Do you think that disordered eating and a poor body image are your “allies”?
3. “What do you think about the riches you uncovered? Are other people aware of the treasure within the box-all the wonderful qualities you possess?”
4. What do you observe in the two drawings? What’s different about them? What’s the same? How do you think you’d feel if you relinquished these “precious” unhealthy beliefs and behaviors?