Goals…… Baby Steps or Cliff Jumping???

It seems like if you want to get anywhere, or anything accomplished, you have to have a goal of some sort. They give us focus and they allow us to maintain motivation. I’ve noticed that goals come in all shapes and sizes… large, small, short-term, long-term. What I’ve noticed is that we set goals and want them to be accomplished, but I think we sometimes forget what it takes to make them happen. I don’t ever really remember a time when I was told how to make a goal happen. I guess we just “figure it out” and we just do it. I think it might be just known that we constantly revisit goals over and over and that is how we reach them.

Recovery from this eating disorder is filled with endless goals. I feel like all I am doing is working at something. There is always a goal and always something to work on. If I’m not working on my meal plan, then I’m working on my feelings or how I can change a way to deal with something. The end goal is “full recovery” but we can’t set that goal and say, “go get ‘em!” The goal is just too big for something like this. So, we set little goals for little baby steps that look like baby steps to you (changing up a piece of fruit) that winds up feeling like cliff jumping to us! 🙂

baby steps? no….. cliff jumping!

Okay, so maybe this is a slight exaggeration! 🙂 but it does feel this way sometimes. (I should probably state that I often try to “break up” with my treatment team when I want to run away from the difficulty of treatment… somehow these poor people have figured out how to deal with me 🙂 ) Often, the feelings we get when jumping into a new goal can be overwhelming. They are unknown and hard to deal with! They are scary and they make you want to turn and run away. When something is unknown, scary, anxiety filled, frightening, difficult etc…. our natural instinct is fight or flight….. if we can’t fight… we just want to run! We would love for each new goal to look like this, but it’s just not the case:

Recovering from an eating disorder is almost like trying to learn how to write with the opposite hand – perfectly! We could all manage to make something legible with our opposite hand, and that wouldn’t take too much hard work. The work would come when we would have to write with equal grace as we do now with our dominate hand. To reach this goal we would have to practice daily, endure frustration of mistakes, constantly regroup because we feel like our hand isn’t cooperating with what our brain is saying what we want it to do, and we would have to really fight hard. We know what has to be done, but everything has a hard time working together correctly. That’s kind of how eating disorder recovery is. Our brain knows exactly what to do (follow the meal plan) but those pesky feelings get in the way and force us off track the cooperation just doesn’t happen.

I would imagine that a person would be in a constant state of frustration if they were trying to learn to write with the opposite hand. Your brain is telling your hand to perform in a certain manner, but it just can’t do it because it feels unnatural. That’s how recovery feels. We are working to try to retrain our brain and body into a new way of thinking and working – essentially living and coping. Some of us have not had to cope with negative feelings for years upon years!!!! It’s a constant state of uncomfortable work. Always uncomfortable with food, yourself and figuring out how to be “normal”…. Truthfully, what is normal anymore?

I thought I could tackle this in chunks and just beat this thing fast! When these professionals had me working on baby steps and tiny goals I thought they were crazy! I thought I could handle more and that they were making this process slower! NOPE…. They were right! Holy cow…. I was overwhelmed! Baby steps were needed! Small goals lead to small victories and from there you can have larger wins! The 30 day meal plan challenge was hard! Very hard! It doesn’t seem as scary when I do it for 2 weeks – maybe because the length of time is shorter—who knows…. Either way, the smaller goal is less scary!

In treatment we learned a great way of setting goals – we would set SMART goals. Our goals had to fit into these areas.

Specific – concise and to the point – “I will follow my meal plan”

Measurable – “I will follow my meal plan at breakfast

Attainable – Is this something that can be achieved? Or is it too far out of reach?

Realistic – Is this doable? What do you have to do to get it done?

Timely – What time frame are you working with? 1 week? 2 weeks?

Here is a great site that gives an awesome overview of what I learned in treatment…. And this is so close to what I learned as well:


Now, I would be a liar if I said I didn’t screw up here and there! I have, and I probably still might. In fact, I screwed up pretty badly recently. The stress of the school year got to me and so did the furlough. As I fell back into the eating disorder I started to feel powerful. I really thought I was feeling control again as I was restricting meals…. and then it hit me…. Restricting my meals will NOT bring back my job! It is not going to pay my mortgage, and it is not going to take away the fact that I’m upset that I’m being laid off because of seniority and my performance as a teacher means nothing. The only thing that it was doing for me, in that moment, was giving me this feeling of power…. Great! I have this feeling of power… what the hell is this power going to do for me? NOTHING! Absolutely nothing! It’s not giving me my job back and it’s not making my situation right! I was just sitting there thinking to myself, ”I have this power and I am strong because I restricted!”  What wasted energy!! I spent all of that time and energy focused on restricting my food for the day, and all I was doing was expelling energy into nothing! Welcome to the mind of an anorexic!!

The problem with this power is that it is addicting. It is a great way to not think about what’s really going on. When the world is overwhelming and “too big” this feeling of power can be a “saving grace” to us. The hard thing to learn is that there really isn’t any power at all. It’s really just a distraction from something that we feel we can’t handle at that moment so we push our feelings onto the food that is near us and we throw those feelings away and feel like we are in control of our emotions and self.

So, the Cliff-Diving-Baby-Steps come at times like tonight…. when I threw my meal plan out the window and realized what I was doing was wrong, I knew I had to make a goal….. I had to send the dreaded email to my dietitian for accountability saying that I will eat 100% of my dinner. I don’t have to say “Tomorrow I’ll start over”… tomorrow is too big of a chunk of time… I’ll start with one meal, right now…. I took it one item at a time and I did it! I can say I’m back on track!

One of my favorite quotes for recovery is:

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

But you don’t always have to wait for tomorrow. You can pause, take a deep break, reorganize and go back to it at any moment. Every meal is a new start. I could have waited until tomorrow to “try again,” but that would have just given Ed just a little more time in my head to grow stronger. I’m not going to pretend that this is easy …. But I am going to challenge myself and say that I know I need a goal. Without a goal I leave room for mistakes, so… I will follow my meal plan 100% for a week when I go back to see my medical doctor again! At that appointment, I will set a new goal.

So, with all this talk of goals – How do you set goals for yourself? Do you find that you make set them too high or too low? Are they attainable? What are some goals you have for the near future?


4 thoughts on “Goals…… Baby Steps or Cliff Jumping???

  1. I really like the ‘writing with the other hand’ analogy, that makes perfect sense.

    I like both big and little goals. Little goals (changing fruit etc) give you lots of little mini victories along the way and can keep the motivation up, bigger goals (eating a major fear food or doubling snack or something) always give me a massive boost and I feel proud :). Sometimes I do put too much pressure on myself by setting huge massive goals which generally aren’t realistic and then beat myself up for not getting there, which is why attainable goals are the most important!

    You definitely have the right mind set, don’t wait until tomorrow to change. I’ll remember that 🙂 x

    • Thanks – I always try to think of something so people can understand what it’s like to try to retrain your brain and it’s so hard to find an analogy!

      I think given everything right now, I’m going for a lot of little victories! I like the big ones, but realistically, the little ones might be all I have at the moment. What is really frustrating is the day your challenge feels like a cliff jump when it just felt like a baby step the day before! I figure…. it has to happen some day…. whatever… take the plunge!!!! 🙂

  2. Yes! Or, when you build yourself up to a challenge so so so much, stress and anxiety levels to the max, you finally do it AAAAAAND…meh. Not so scary after all? Haha! I hate that. I always build things up to be WAY worse than they actually are, and I’m underwhelmed when it actually comes to it.

    P.S I’m sorry about your job, that is really really crappy. I hope you find something soon 🙂

  3. i love this post and totally agree that every day in recovery is such a challenge, but i also think goals are SO helpful. without motivation, constant, short term (and long term) motivation, it all seems pointless. right now i’m hanging on to the fact that i’m FINALLY being allowed to go abroad this summer, if only for a week, and want to be able to enjoy that. i don’t want to have to leave school AGAIN. it’s really the little things that keep be going i think.

    also, the picture on this post… hilarious. i love it. you’re so great!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s