Eating disorder recovery and using "to do" lists


atom_structurePeople with a history of eating disorders have a history of not recognizing or being able to create necessary boundaries. Have you learned to appreciate boundaries? 

If not you may sometimes feel lost and bereft without a holding structure that provides you with emotional or physical security. You may lose your sense of direction.  You may grasp for control but don't know how to use it to move toward important personal goals. You need a sturdy underlying structure to hold your project together.

Would making a "to do list" help? Or do your "to do lists" follow the pattern of your eating disorder and result in too much or too little action?

A reader just asked this question, and I'm thinking about how it applies to my own situation. When I have many tasks to complete within a specific time frame it's easy for me to create a "to do list." But the challenge is to evaluate, based on Stephen Covey's teachings in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, whether the items on my pressing list of demands are important or simply urgent but not important. 

So rather than make a "to do list" and checking off items as I complete them (if I do) I prefer to create a written structure based on the needs of each project. This helps me to see priorities.

Once that is done I can still make a "to do list" based on my personal needs and the requirements of each project. Knowing myself the way I do I recognize my "false starts" and make several versions before I settle on the one I will follow. As I think through my priorities I used the Mindful Brain Stress Reduction technique of STOP.


Take a breath.

Observe what's going on in my body.


Without eating disorder recovery the tension of creating an effective structure based on genuine priorities propel a person to a binge or binge/purge episode. Or she might head for the treadmill and attempt to run and sweat that anxiety off her body along with pounds that seem to give the anxiety a home.

STOP is better.  Don’t you agree?

Eventually, after a few anxiety and STOP experiences I rally myself and get a grip. That's when I take another look at my situation and start building structure that can hold me, my projects and my "to do lists."  When my "to do lists" are in the service of a structure designed to carry me through a situation, a job or even a life, then the items on the list are personally relevant.  They help keep me focused on what's important. I'm better able to make wise choices.

This was especially relevant for me when I was writing my eating disorder recovery book, Healing Your Hungry Heart, with a deadline relentlessly descending on me 

If I didn't stay on target I can get lost in fascinating, inspiring and irrelevant details.

What is your experience with “to do lists,” planned structure or lack of it?
Do you see a connection between your anxiety and lack of relevant structure?


0 # I have definitely had a lot of anxiety sJakki 2009-12-18 17:20
I have definitely had a lot of anxiety surrounding my "to do lists" in the past. I think that it has helped to break down larger projects into smaller sections. Like you said, some projects take a few "false starts" to really get going.

Knowing that, you can say that "today I will do a trial run start on a project," and you will not have to feel as much pressure or anxiety about starting it. Instead of saying I will get x amount done. When things look and sound vauge on paper it can almost make you feel paralized and at a loss of where to begin.

And of course anytime one feels lost, it's a perfect time for eating disordered behaviors to take over and give you back that false feeling of control.

I agree STOP and BREATH is much better!
0 # I think for me, "to do" lists or "don'tKymL 2011-02-01 12:33
I think for me, "to do" lists or "don't do" lists provided structure. While in my ED I was very rigid with everything! I think not having something "rigid" or with structure, would have left me hanging with nothing to hold on to. I believe that's why I meal planned for 8 months, not missing a single day even when I had no intention of eating it all. Recovery gives a lot more freedoms, but I for one would not have been ready to be structure-less. Having said that, you've talked before about not "bingeing" on recovery and too many lists could lead to that; so it's all about moderation and realistic goals or lists. Keep it simple!

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