New Year Intentions for Eating Disorder Recovery

This is a powerful time of year to make changes. As the days lengthen, a sense of hope and possibility emerges. One might think about eating disorder recovery in the new year.

If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, you are probably very familiar with the process of envisioning change and setting goals–sometimes achieving them, and other times falling short. Take advantage of the energy right now in both nature and society to reconnect with what you want of your life in recovery. Consider the following tips from eating disorder recovery experts about how to seize this time of year, so ripe for change, to strengthen your recovery.

Tip #1: Set your unique recovery intention. A “resolution” is defined as a firm decision to do or not do something–which is kind of a trap! Manifesting change, especially if you are struggling with eating disordered behaviors, is often not as simple as identifying what you do not want to do and ‘firmly deciding’ to do the opposite. Consider reframing the concept of resolution from a firm decision to an expression of your intention. Setting an intention entails first turning your attention towards what truly matters to you, and then taking actions that correspond with that.

Take some quiet time to meditate on what truly matters to you, what you want for yourself, and then free-write until you find the words that best capture your intention. For instance, a recovery intention may be: “I intend to respect and honor my body’s needs.”

Tip #2: Chart your course. Once you create your unique intention statement, you will determine the path needed to make it your reality. It is critical to identify small steps, that you can really commit to taking every day. For example, if your recovery intention is “to respect and honor my body’s needs,” the steps you might take each day could be to ask your body if it wants to rest or move, what kind of food it craves, and to respond to its answers with love. Or perhaps the course entails following the meal and exercise plans you created with your dietitian and therapist. Or perhaps it involves journaling for 15 minutes every day, dialoguing between your eating disorder self and healthy self to discover what your body’s needs truly are!

Tip #3: Get specific. Once you have identified the intention that feels true to you and charted a path to follow, it’s time to get really clear! Experts advocate using the acronym SMART when setting goals: ensure they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. For example, if your intention is to honor your body’s needs and the path involves asking yourself what you sense you need, you could:

– Set an alarm every day at 8:00am, 12:00pm, and 5:00pm that reminds you to pause what you’re doing, take three deep breaths, and sense what your physical body needs.

– Get a journal for daily check-ins, and every day at 3:00pm write about what you sense you are craving socially, emotionally, intellectually, physically, and nutritionally.

Tip #4: Choose an “Intention Buddy” for accountability and support. Research shows people usually cannot make lasting change by themselves. Consider asking one of your recovery providers, a trusted family member, or a close friend to be your “Intention Buddy” (they can also have an intention they have set for themselves in their lives!). Check in each day about how you are both faring on your path. Offer and receive encouragement to get through the stumbles!
Keep in mind that you will encounter bumps along the way–that does not mean you cannot stay on course! Recovery is about resilience, picking yourself back up, realigning with your intentions–not perfection. The key to a satisfying experience with recovery intention-setting is remaining connected to your vision in the most challenging moments. Treat yourself with gentleness.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists can help. Call 1-866-525-2766 or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch with you soon.

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