SMART Goals for Eating Disorder Recovery

Setting goals in the recovery process can be both rewarding and daunting at the same time. If you make your goals too broad, then you risk the chance of giving up early in light of not achieving what you set out to achieve. However, by implementing SMART goal techniques, you can incrementally achieve smaller, yet more achievable goals which help build your confidence and a more direct path to freedom from your eating disorder.

What is a SMART Goal?

A SMART goal provides a clear objective to help you focus on the process of recovery. SMART is an acronym that lays out the framework of what our goals should include:

Specific- Provide a clear description of what you would like to achieve.

Measurable- You can track your progress and you know when you are getting there.

Achievable- Make sure the goal is reasonable and possible.

Relevant- The goal is worthwhile and aligns with your values as something you are committed to.

Time-Limited- Your objective has a time limit to keep you focused on where you see yourself in your recovery journey.

Take a moment now to consider a goal you would like to achieve. Does defining each of the SMART steps feel possible? Below is more information, ideas, and examples on how to go about defining each component.

Specific: Make sure the goal is not too broad, such as “I want to be fully recovered from my eating disorder.” The goal should start small and be specific, such as “I would like to eat lunch 3 days a week for a month instead of skipping it.”

Measurable: Keep a calendar and mark off when you have eaten lunch, even if it is not exactly what you had set out to achieve, by making steps towards that goal and tracking your progress you are better able to build confidence in your own recovery.

Achievable: Maybe you know someone who has achieved this goal already and they can be used as a motivator for you. When we have people in our lives who can serve as role models for where we want to be, it helps us stay grounded and focused.

Relevant: Your eating disorder has clouded your views of yourself and what truly matters for so long, and now that you are on the road to recovery it is important to keep your goal appropriate to the recovery process.

Time-Limited: Keeping track of when you would like this goal to be achieved helps maintain a level of accountability throughout your path. With the lunch example, by keeping a calendar for a month that tracks how many times you were able to reach your goal during the week, you are able to visually and mentally see how far you’ve come.

Questions to Consider About Your SMART Goals:

  • What specific things are you ready to tackle in recovery?
  • Is your desire to meet them internally or externally driven?
  • Are you hoping someone close to you will notice or acknowledge your progress?
  • If these are goals you’ve had in the past, what has gotten in the way of accomplishing them?

3 Helpful Tips

  1. Keep Track of Your Progress with a Calendar
  • Have a calendar that is easily accessible to help you stay on top of your goal.
  • This will create a realistic picture of your daily/weekly/monthly commitments.
  • It helps keep yourself accountable through a visual and attainable outlet.
  1. Reflect on Your Thoughts Through Journaling
  • Keep a journal of how you see yourself moving throughout your day recovered from your eating disorder.
  • As you track your progress, describe any roadblocks and mental constraints that may be keeping you from reaching this goal today.
  • If you feel happy or content, what exactly does that look like? What would change internally or externally? What feelings would arise within you?
  1. Practice Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
  • Increase mindfulness to get out of your own head when faced with resistance to meeting a goal.
  • Ask yourself if what you are doing is out of love and compassion for yourself.
  • Put yourself in charge of your decision making instead of relying on automatic thoughts, behaviors or reflexes.

Exercise: Create Your Own SMART Goals

Knowing where to start in our SMART goal setting can be intimidating at first, which is where developing a list can be helpful.

  1. Begin by creating a list of 20 self-care-oriented activities that you would like to implement into your life.
  2. Use the SMART goals system to integrate at least one self-care activity into your daily schedule.
  3. Journal about your experience and have questions prepared that are simple and inspire a thought-provoking, yet compassionate inner dialog.
    • Did I have any setbacks?
    • What can I do differently tomorrow?
    • What benefits have I experienced so far from the goals I have set?