Dar Kenn għal Saħħtek offers education, support, and inspiration to eating disorder sufferers, their loved ones, and eating disorders treatment providers. Dar Kenn għal Saħħtek resources include articles on eating disorder treatment options, support groups, recovery tools and more. Whether an individual struggles with bulimia, anorexia, body image distortion, or binge-eating disorders, Dar Kenn għal Saħħtek can help.
Dar Kenn għal Saħħtek promotes ending eating disordered behavior, embracing life and pursuing recovery from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and other eating disorders. Our mission is to foster appreciation of one’s uniqueness and value in the world, unrelated to appearance, achievement or applause.
Goal setting as part of the recovery process of an eating disorder
Treatment for eating disorders involves many aspects. There are many types of therapy that is applied at Dar Kenn Ghal Sahhtek to the residents. Treatment can be provided through provision of individual therapy with psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors. I can also be provided on a group basis. It doesn’t matter the type of treatment, however, all good treatment plans should involve the setting of goals. In fact, goal setting is one of the tasks most therapists focus on and they emphasize constantly how important it is for each resident to set weekly, sub and long term goals.
Goal setting can be difficult for some people. Often people set goals that are too hard to achieve and therefore they end up giving up very easily.
When I entered my first session with the Occupational Therapist who facilitates the ‘Motivation Group’ At Dar Kenn Ghal Sahhtek I could not really understand the whole concept of setting goals. I wondered why the OT kept emphasizing and pushing each and every one of us to set a weekly goal which she divided into two: a mental goal and a food goal. I must admit that I found this to be stupid and to make no sense. Little did I know that by setting weekly goals and sub goals I would be a step closer to reaching my life goals.
Let us take my reason for being at Dar il-Kenn Ghal Sahhtek. My aim is to get healthy and finally stop being unhappy with my weight. This means that my long term goal would be to learn to accept myself as I am and be happy with the person I am no matter the size or weight. This goal is too broad. It sounds easy to do the things mentioned but it is far more difficult to actually do the above
I learnt during my stay in Dar Kenn Ghal Sahhtek, that I must first set weekly goals which I must be accountable for. It is easier to start doing things gradually like for example; introducing an extra snack in your meal plan that week rather than start doing things that you have dreaded all your life all at one go. By doing small tasks, unconsciously you would be working yourself towards the bigger goal. Having an eating disorder for years does not mean that it will disappear in a short span of time. Therefore the most realistic way to achieve your goal of getting rid of this disorder which is a lifetime goal is to start from the very beginning and get to the core of the problem. On the contrary to what one may think, an eating disorder does not have to do with one’s body image alone. There are different reasons why a person may start engaging in unhealthy eating patterns and these reasons mostly have to do with the person’s relationship with the others around him/her. Saying all this means that when one sets the weekly goal one must not focus solely on food goals but also on mental goals; i.e., what s/he is going to specifically work on in that week to ameliorate his/her inner self. Entering Dar il-Kenn I realised that I was carrying a much bigger baggage than I thought. I never thought that I had so many issues to deal with and so much heartache to get rid of so I can move forward. In the motivational group we are encouraged to set a goal for each week. As I initially pointed out, it may sound useless to some as it sounded to me at first but breaking down the issues you want to work on in small little tasks seems more attainable and easier to do. A simple task for the week could be to go out for a coffee with friends because a person with an eating disorder usually becomes afraid to socialise with other people and may become very isolated. Whilst for somebody else, going out is fun, for me it meant hell as I had to be around other people who I thought would be judging and criticizing me. Challenging myself to carry out these simple tasks is already a big step in recovery and therefore setting weekly goals is not only not stupid but it is necessary as it is a step away from reaching other larger goals such as finally be able to maintain a healthy weight and lead a happier life.
The professionals at Dar Kenn Ghal Sahhtek adopt the method of making SMART goals; goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
When setting goals, it helps if they are straightforward but specific. To set a good goal, you should clearly define and state what you would like to happen or what changes you want to make, and what you’re going to do to make these changes happen. This section should include the who, what, where, when, which, why and how of your goal. Whatever you choose to work on, make sure you define it with specificity.
Example: One of my first goals, on going home in the weekend during my program in Dar Kenn Ghal Sahhtek, was to follow the same meal plan at home that I was following in the residence. Since before entering this program I engaged myself in very unhealthy patterns my first goal for the week was to eat in the same manner as I was at the residence. I had a clear definition of how much food intake I was going to take on the contrary to what I used to do before entering the program and that is either to starve, binge an purge or both. Being specific allowed me to have a full understanding of what I wanted to change and how to go about doing it.
In order to set a good goal, it must be measurable. “If you can’t measure it, you won’t be able to manage it.” In this aspect of goal setting, numbers and measurements are key. In order to measure behaviors that need changing, you must be aware of the frequency and quantity of the behavior. For some this means keeping track of the behaviours in a notebook or in a chart. Then, to make the change, you must identify how many times you want this behaviour to be changed or removed from your chosen span of time. Tracking makes it possible to see that the change is actually being made, which not only helps with goal setting but also can boost morale and make the individual feel good about the healthy changes being made.
Example: When someone wants to set a goal about how much, for example, s/he weighed her/himself in a day, one first has to figure out how often s/he does this behaviour on any average day. After tracking the frequency, it was decided in my case, that to start, I would reduce this number by once a week in the clinic whilst supervised. I continued to mark off when I weighed myself in order to see if the changes were working. Once I knew that I could handle this change, I was able to reduce it further and did not feel the need to go and weigh myself alone in the weekends avoiding myself to be let down because of an insignificant number. Having a measurable goal really helps me manage it and my emotions surrounding the behaviour change. It helps me make a healthy change and hels me to feel good about it as I can actually see the measurement of change.
To make a goal SMART, it must be attainable. Like I mentioned before, if the goal is too hard, the individual may become overwhelmed and end up not completing the goal. When goals are too high, people are more likely to give up trying to achieve them in the first place and will procrastinate and make excuses, which isn’t helpful to recovery. People usually make unattainable goals with good intentions but as they realize the difficulty of such goals, they start to fear that huge change they are committed to making involves too much and they end up giving up. This un-attainability also can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and failure when they do not complete the goal. They then will blame themselves or their treatment plan, when in reality, the problem is that the expectations they set for themselves were too high.
Example: When I decided that it is time that I have to stop chewing my food and then end up throwing it away, the first step I decided to take was not to abolish this food from my diet completely. The goal I set was to have less of this food and actually commit myself to eat the whole amount rather than spit it out. In this way I felt less guilty as I knew I was not wasting food and at the meantime I would not be doing anything wrong or be afraid to gain an excessive amount of weight by treating myself to let us say two sweets a day. This of course was done with the help of the professionals at Dar Kenn Ghal Sahhtek as if I did not have the support and encouragement I would never have managed.
Realistic goal setting goes hand in hand with attainability. Just as you shouldn’t make goals too out of reach, they should also not be too easy. Goals should be challenging but do-able. Goals should also be relevant to the behaviors and disorder you want to change. Realistic goals require effort, but only to the point of attainability.
Example: Sometimes I was tempted to set goals that were either irrelevant or too easy, in order to avoid having to deal with difficult feelings and behaviours. It was easier to set over simplistic goals than to face the music that is recovery. However, this type of thinking leads to no change, so I had to start setting realistic goals. Instead of saying I would add one snack per day when I am at home, I said I would add two snacks like I am used to do in the residence . Adding the snack made the goal more challenging but still do-able for me, which made it more realistic.
Good goal setting involves setting a timeframe for when you will complete this goal. Specify whether you want to complete it in one week, month, or by next year. Remember, as I stated above, goals can be short term or long term. I would recommend setting many smaller goals to help you reach your long-term goal. Not setting a time limit on a goal reduces the urgency and often leads to people not working on the goal at all. Setting a realistic time frame gives people a target to work towards and will help set the individual into action.
Example: Throughout my treatment at Dar Kenn Ghal Sahhtek , I have been setting many smaller weekly goals during my motivation group. All of these small goals are helping me work towards my long-term goal of adopting a healthy lifestyle by gradually end up getting rid of this disorder once and for all. I have set this goal for a few number of months from now. It may seem a long time, but the smaller goals are helping me to reach it. It also is a realistic and specific time frame, since the body can take a considerable amount of time to get back to normal. By setting weekly goals, it helps me to stay on track and to stay active in my recovery.
SMART goal setting is the backbone in eating disorder recovery. In order to set goals that will help you work towards your own recovery, you must set goals that are SMART. Setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely will help individuals with eating disorders work towards their goal of being eating disorder free. If you follow your SMART goals, recovery will still be a hard road, but it will help you stay on the right road: the road to recovery.