Eating Disorders

SMART Goals in Eating Disorder Recovery

Leave behind the vague, unachievable ideals and start setting yourself SMART goals that will boost your help confidence in eating disorder recovery.

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Do you know what SMART goals are, and how they can be used in recovery?

When you finally decide to take the plunge into recovery you’ll more than likely be assigned a therapist. If you’ve ever had a therapist before then you’ll be all too familiar with the age-old questions of: “What do you want to get out of therapy? What are your goals?“

No matter how many times I’m asked these questions I always manage to fall over my words unable to come up with what I actually want.

I want recovery, I want to be better, isn’t that enough?

The problem with these statements is that they’re a blanket over too many possibilities. They are much too vague.

This is where the use of SMART goals come in.

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals can be used in all areas of life and can help us in setting specific, achievable goals.

“S” for Specific

You can’t get anywhere or accomplish anything without first knowing what you want to achieve. It’s like planning a vacation and not knowing where you want to go. It’s a no-brainer!

Don’t be too vague when setting your goals.

“I want to be less obsessed by my weight/body shape” is far too vague and can easily go astray if you let it.

“I will decrease body checking and weighing to once a week” is far more manageable and specific, therefore more likely to be achieved.

“M” for Measurable

How are you going to measure your achievement of the goal? You need guidelines to measure your progress, and this is a lot easier to do in the latter statement.

You can easily determine if you are weighing yourself less than if you are becoming less obsessed with your weight/ body shape. It makes it easier to see how well you are doing, or if you are going off course a bit.

For example, if you want to reduce weighing to once a week opposed to daily then you can mark on your calendar every day that you achieve this. You can’t visibly or easily mark how much less obsessed you are with your weight.

To break it down even further, by adding a goal with a number you can make your goal more measurable.

“A” for Achievable

Are the goals that you’re setting within the achievable realms? For the above I know plenty of people who don’t weigh themselves on a daily basis, maybe not even on a weekly basis and have lived to tell the tale.

Better yet, I know recovered anorexics who have left the scales and body checking behind them.

I can conclude from this that cutting down on weighing myself if far more achievable in a short space of time than become less weight/body obsessed.

“R” for Realistic (or Risks)

The R part of SMART can also be used to describe ‘realistic‘ or ‘relevant‘ but in regards to eating disorder recovery, I think ‘risk’ fits better.

We don’t want to get stuck in the safety zone in recovery, we want to challenge ourselves to leave the eating disorder voice behind and let in the more positive voices. This could be in the realm of challenging fear foods and starting to reintroduce them into your diet again.

For example:

  • “This week I am going to eat bread 3 times.”
  • ” I’m going to have ice cream.”
  • “I definitely want some chocolate.”

Perfectly obtainable but, in the mind of an anorexic, risky and challenging.

“T” for Timely

Sometimes time limits are good. In regards to full recovery, they aren’t. I set myself a goal of being weight restored and ready to go back to work by the beginning of February but it didn’t happen and it left me extremely guilty.

But you can set time limits to achieve smaller goals like the ones above. I set myself goals each week in therapy that are very similar to the ones I mentioned. This week my goal is to reintroduce milk into my diet before my next appointment with the eating disorder therapist, which happens to be a week away.

The goal is to drink milk at least once, the time-frame is one week. Is it specific? Yes. Is this achievable? Yes. Is it risky? Yes, it is for me at least.

Each week I come out of therapy I am given specific goals to follow.

They were often jotted down in the back of my journal and forgotten about among a flurry of other haphazard notes.

Then I came across It’s All You Boo and decided to sign up to receive their free SMART goals worksheet to help me better organise my targets in recovery. I’ve been using these printable worksheets to better understand what it is that I want to get out of recovery. Rather than setting unrealistic goals, they are now far specific and therefore easily obtainable. The worksheet is also fully customisable on screen, which helps as I know not everyone has access to a printer at all times.

Leave behind the vague, unachievable ideals and start setting yourself SMART goals that, when met, will boost your help confidence in eating disorder recovery.

What are your SMART goals? I encourage you to take a minute to write them down!


My name is Chloe. I write about eating disorders and mental health (among other topics) over on my blog. I've suffered from anorexia for over 13 years and spent about 7 of those in quasi-recovery. It was only after a recent burnout in December of 2018 that I relapsed and decided, once and for all, to get the help I needed. I believe that each and every sufferer has it inside them to reach that point where food is no longer the enemy, and that full recovery is an obtainable goal.

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