Resolutions to Make When Living with an Eating Disorder
It’s that time of year again! January is a month when many of us are focused on our goals for our health, our work, our relationships — and, of course, our eating disorder recovery.
If you are living with an eating disorder, what better time of year is there to refocus and set goals than the start of a new year? Setting resolutions for your recovery can help you reaffirm your commitment to overcoming your eating disorder, and give you concrete actions to work towards as you continue along on your eating disorder recovery journey.
Whether you’ve just started your recovery journey or have been in eating disorder recovery for many years, these New Year’s resolution ideas can help you become stronger as you fight back against your eating disorder.
How to Set Attainable Goals
But before we talk about creating New Year’s resolutions for ourselves, we have to talk about what makes an effective resolution in the first place. New Year’s resolutions are essentially goals, meaning the same rules also apply to making your New Year’s resolutions!
An attainable goal in recovery is a goal you can reach in a specific time frame that you make for yourself while you’re still remaining balanced in the other areas of your life.
In other words, eating disorder recovery shouldn’t have to mean giving up the rest of the wonderful life your eating disorder stole from you — that would be counterintuitive!
Another way to express this is the acronym SMART goals. Ensure that your goal meets each word in the acronym SMART to make sure it is both realistic and attainable for your recovery:
- Specific. An important part of setting realistic goals is defining the parameters for your success. You need your goal to be specific enough that you can easily determine whether or not you have met it. For example, saying “I want to eat more” is not specific enough — but saying “I want to meet my nutritionist’s recommendation of 2,000 calories per day” is plenty specific.
- Measurable. As we mentioned previously, it’s important to be able to easily determine whether or not you’ve achieved your goal. A goal that is neither specific nor measurable doesn’t meet this requirement for setting attainable goals. The goal mentioned previously is a great example of a measurable goal because you can easily determine whether or not you’ve met 2,000 calories a day by keeping track according to your nutritionist’s recommendations.
- Attainable. The acronym SMART also stresses the importance of goals that are attainable! So many of us who suffer from eating disorders also suffer from perfectionism, meaning we may hold ourselves to high standards and set goals for ourselves that we will never be able to achieve. It’s important for your recovery that you learn to recognize when a goal is and isn’t attainable.
- Realistic. The “R” in SMART continues to stress the importance of attainable goal setting. We recommend easing into recovery gradually and setting small, realistic goals to start, then working your way up to bigger, loftier ones.
- Timely. Last but not least, your goal should also be timely, meaning it has a clear deadline by which you want to achieve it. You should always specify the number of times you want to complete an action and by when. For example, the goal “I want to go out to eat with my friends” is not timely — but rephrasing it as “I want to go out to eat with my friends once a week for the rest of this month” makes it so!
Making sure your goals are SMART ensures that they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely — rendering it easier for you to achieve your goals in eating disorder recovery!
Tips for Achieving Your Goals
Did you know that 80 percent of us will fail to achieve our New Year’s resolutions? Setting SMART goals isn’t the only way to ensure that you achieve your goals in eating disorder recovery. You can also take actionable steps based on psychology to make sure you achieve your goals.
These tips will make it easier for you to achieve your goals in eating disorder recovery — and prevent you from becoming part of the majority of people who abandon their resolutions for the new year:
- Work on one goal at a time. According to Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, the biggest mistake people make while setting New Year’s resolutions is trying to achieve too many goals at once. Rachel Hollis, founder of The Hollis Co. and New York Times bestselling author, is also a proponent of working toward one goal at a time.
- Keep a journal of your goals and progress. People who are able to vividly describe their goals and picture themselves achieving them are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to actually reach them — which is why keeping a journal throughout your eating disorder recovery tracking your goals and progress is a major must!
- Break your goals down into actionable steps. If your overall goal is to eat three fear foods per week, break that down into smaller steps that ensures it’s as simple as possible for you to achieve it. For example, decide what days of the week and at what meal you want those fear foods to be — and write down which fear foods you’re planning to eat to hold yourself accountable!
- Develop a social support system to hold you accountable. Our social supports are a huge instrument to our success when achieving our goals. Telling someone else about your goal also increases the likelihood that you will achieve it. In eating disorder recovery, try sharing your goals with a loved one, with others in your therapy group or residential treatment ward or with your therapist. You can even download an online support app like Wana or 7Cups to connect with others in the eating disorder recovery community and ask your new friends to hold you accountable in working toward your goals!
Follow these goal-setting tips and you will be more likely to achieve your New Year’s resolutions in eating disorder recovery.
New Year’s Resolutions for Eating Disorder Recovery
So, what are some attainable, realistic and SMART goals to set during eating disorder recovery? When it comes to making your resolutions for the new year, the following goals stand out as important milestones to achieve as you recover from your eating disorder:
An important first goal for anyone in eating disorder recovery is to restore their bodies to a healthy weight. As uncomfortable as weight gain can feel for someone with an eating disorder, restoration to a healthy weight (and becoming comfortable with what a healthy weight looks and feels like) is an essential part of the recovery process. After all, you can’t achieve your other recovery goals if your mind and body aren’t at their optimal health!
To increase your chances of success while working toward weight restoration, meet with a qualified professional at The Meadowglade to discuss your thoughts and fears about weight gain, and ensure that you and your doctor or nutritionist set a goal for a realistic and healthy weight (and when to achieve it by).
We recommend donating clothes that no longer fit you as you gain weight, keeping a journal throughout the weight restoration process and following your meal plan as prescribed by your doctor or nutritionist to aid in your goal of achieving weight restoration.
Accepting your body.
Once you’ve attended to your physical health in eating disorder recovery, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty of your mental health. Learning to love your body is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever have to do, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
Body acceptance, rather than unconditional love, is a good place to start. Make time during your week to remember the reasons you appreciate your body and its uniqueness. For example, you might set a goal of writing down three things you like about your body at the end of every day.
Another important part of body acceptance? Agreeing that you will no longer change the body you were given. Vow to stop dieting and start living instead. Set a goal for how many fear foods you will challenge yourself to per week. Or, set a goal to stop weighing yourself at home. Throw out, or even smash, your scale and instead, use barometers like mood and physical pain levels to determine the quality of your health today.
Creating a relapse prevention plan.
If you have already been in eating disorder recovery for a while now, or if you are entering the maintenance stage of recovery, your New Year’s resolution might be to create a relapse prevention plan. A relapse prevention plan can be created in just a few hours and is an important tool to help you learn to cope with urges that could eventually lead to relapse.
We recommend creating a list of triggers that may lead you to feel the urge to engage in eating disorder behaviors. Then, create a plan for coping with each of your triggers in a healthy way: can you distract yourself with an activity you love to do? Who can you call if you need help?
Don’t forget to write down your relapse prevention plan and include important phone numbers like the National Eating Disorder Association Hotline and the number of your nearest eating disorder clinic in case of emergency.
Tools to Help You Succeed
When working toward your eating disorder recovery goals, you’ll want to engage with as many resources as possible to help you succeed and keep track of your progress. Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite tools for helping you reach your eating disorder recovery goals in the new year:
- Journal. A journal is a valuable tool for keeping track of your progress toward your goal and coping with any uncomfortable feelings that may arise during the eating disorder recovery process. Writing with pen and paper can be very cathartic, but using a journaling app like Day One Journal works just as well.
- To-do list. Do you make a daily to-do list? If you’re the type of person with a million things to do, be careful of overwhelming yourself. Keep your expectations realistic for how much you can accomplish in one day — but organizing your thoughts about what needs to get done for you to succeed can help you achieve your goals for recovery.
- Apps. These days, technology can do just about anything — including helping you achieve your goals in eating disorder recovery! Try the app Rise Up and Recover to help you keep track of your thoughts and feelings as you progress through the eating disorder recovery process. Or, use an app like Remente to help you goal-set in all areas of your life, and choose which areas you want to focus on first in the new year.
And, of course, don’t forget the importance of your treatment team in helping you achieve your eating disorder recovery goals! Here at The Meadowglade, our trained practitioners can help you set goals, break them down and work toward them little by little for a healthier, happier you in the new year.