SUGGESTIONS FOR SETTING GOALS
It’s helpful to be as specific as possible about the goals you set. Making sure your goals are observable and measurable helps you know if you accomplished them, and helps others who are trying to help you know, too. Instead of writing, I will take more walks, write how many walks you want to take, for about how long, and even when and where.
The next suggestion we have is to write your goals in terms of a range instead of absolute numbers. People with eating disorders often have a complicated relationship with numbers (weight, calories, miles, etc.) so keeping your goals in terms of a range can help with any tendencies toward perfectionism or rigidity. It’s good practice to allow some leeway for things that sometimes get in the way of the plan. The goal has to be specific, but with some flexibility so you have a greater chance at being successful. So, I will take walks turns into I will take 3 or 4, 20- to 30-minute walks this week, in the morning before work.
Lastly, it is important to respect where you are in the recovery process. For example, if you are bingeing and purging every day it probably is not realistic to set a goal of not doing it ever again. It would make more sense at this stage of recovery to set a goal to delay bingeing for 15 minutes and journal, or to reach out to 3 friends before you binge or purge. Setting realistic goals is important for many reasons. If you set your goals too low you won’t progress much, and if you set them too high you might get frustrated and lose motivation to keep going. Finally, the sample Goals Sheet contains several goals for each category so you can see various ideas, but we suggest starting with only one or two in each area, or possibly even setting goals in only a few areas.
It might seem like we are telling you not to push yourself, but making changes is difficult, and losing motivation and giving up is much more problematic than going slow and steady. Staying motivated is challenging for a number of reasons. For one thing, recovery takes longer than many people realize. Also initially you will feel more like you are losing something rather than gaining your life back, making you feel worse before you feel better. We believe the biggest reason you won’t get well is if you give up and stop trying, so we do what we can to lessen frustration and feelings of defeat and increase the chances you will hang in there and succeed.
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