Skip to Content

Using an Eating Disorder Workbook


One of the difficulties in therapy for eating disorders is getting the treatment where it needs to be – not only in the head of the patient, but in their mind when the harmful behavior arises. Therapists cannot be around all the time. They can’t sit next to you at the dinner table or prevent you from purging (or binging) when the urge strikes. That’s where a workbook comes into play.

What they are

Workbooks are stepwise guides that attempt to retrain behavior in an ongoing, day-to-day (sometimes hour-to-hour) fashion. They rely on a combination of teaching, humor, uplifting messages and practical advice to help alter an unwanted behavior.

Typically, a workbook will be customized to a particular problem. So, for example, there might be a different one for anorectic patients and bulimic patients. Although there is a great deal of overlap in what needs to happen, patients find it more useful when reading about their own conditions.

How are they set up?

Because eating disorder workbooks are written by different therapists, they may have different methodologies. Generally, they start with a personalization section where you write down your history, your current condition and these are mixed with some useful background information on the disorder.

From there, a workbook will ask you to track your daily food intake and offer exercises to help overcome unwanted behaviors. Most of the exercises will be designed to alter inappropriate thinking, and this is usually done by accessing logic and facts. Keeping this front and center in the mind is relied on to get you to change.

Where can I find a workbook?

There are several free workbooks you can look at online. Here are two:

Eating Disorders Anonymous Workbook

There are also many sold in self-help sections of bookstores and at Amazon. Libraries will usually have a self-help section as well.

Do they work?

Yes and no. Many therapists use them in combination with other treatments. There really isn’t any data to show whether buying a book will be enough to alter an ingrained behavior. Like many things, results depend on motivation, support and the extent of the problem.

Even so, they are worthwhile as an option. There’s a saying to keep in mind however: “If the weight of your self-help books exceeds your own weight, it’s time for professional help.” There’s wisdom in that.