Setting sustainable SMART targets for your mental health.

SMART targets can be used anywhere and can help us in setting achievable goals.

[Gifted] Products featured in this post are gifted however, all information and words are my own.

Do you know what sustainable S.M.A.R.T targets are, and how they can be used to boost your mental health? 

When you finally decide to take the plunge into eating disorder recovery you’ll more than likely be assigned to a therapist. If you’re familiar with therapy then you’ll be all too familiar with the age-old questions of “What do you want to get out of therapy?” or “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 and I want to live a full life. Is that too much to ask?

But the problem with these statements is that they’re a blanket over too many possibilities. They’re much too vague. And that’s exactly what sustainable SMART targets aim to address.

Image from Bich Tran.

What are sustainable SMART targets?

Sustainable SMART targets can be used in all areas of life from the workplace to your own personal goals. That includes recovery! They’re highly motivating, help provide clarity, keep you organised, and even help instill focus and purpose. There’s nothing better than ticking off your to-do list, and SMART targets can contribute to making that a reality!

The SMART target structure as we know it today was created by George T. Doran in 1981. The model first appeared in the journal “Management Review” titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.

Although the original set out SMART as meaning Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related, there have since been a variety of versions. In the context of this article, we’ll be replacing Assignable with Achievable and Time-related with Timely.

Journal gifted by Mal Paper.

S . M . A . R . T


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! But 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.


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 as 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.


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 is far more achievable in a short space of time than becoming less weight/body obsessed.


The ‘R’ 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 three 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.


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.

What better way to start, or continue, your journey into recovery than to set sustainable SMART targets?

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


  1. I always love reading your advice and yes that’s my problem sometimes! I do set higher goals and sometimes there’s not enough time to do it. I will be cramming trying to do everything! Great point!

  2. I like when you brought out the point about Risks because often times Im nervous to take risks.

  3. Great way to set up new goals! I think the key is to start with something accessible, and go from there.

  4. I love the SMART approach in terms of reaching goals! I have the Mal planner too and I use it everyday and since using it, I have found I have achieved my daily goals quicker and have tackled my to do list everyday too! x

    Lucy |

  5. I love people who set up goals in life. And yes, they have to be specific to become realistic and achievable. Way to go!

  6. Setting goals is not easy but knowing what you want can help you achieve things! I really liked how you have hit on the points here!

  7. This is really good advice and interesting to read. Setting targets is something I like to do. It keeps me focused and on target.

  8. You are right setting goals are not easy because knowing exactly what you want is the hardest question any one can be challenged to answer. I do enjoy making SMART goals.

  9. This is very valuable information for anybody wanting to set goals. Personally, I find “measurable” the hardest. Should you be optimistic or realistic while deciding the measure?

  10. This is the first I’ve heard of SMART targets and it’s very interesting. I can see where you can apply this to many different areas of life.

  11. Great post. I love using the SMART method to reach those goals. It is a great time to evaluate before year’s end.

  12. Oh nice, what great advice. I hadn’t heard about SMART targets before, but it makes total sense!

  13. I think SMART goals are so important and can be applied to many aspects of life, including recovery. I’ve been using them during my CBT and RBT (repetitive behavioural therapy), and have found them very effective so far.

  14. We use the idea of SMART goals a lot in my job but I’d never really thought about how it could it could be used in other areas of life.

  15. Great post. 🙂

    I’ve been trying to set SMART goals recently, but in regards to work projects and am finding them really beneficial. Hopefully, you continue to feel better as you work toward your own goals. x

  16. The wooly-ness of recovery always gets to me and I just need more organisation than that. Vague does not cut it when you’re focusing on self-improvement! Thank you for stopping by and showing your support 😀

  17. SMART targets can be effective when applied to almost anything, it seems! I’d never considered them in relation to eating disorder recovery though- it’s great that you’ve shared this 🙂 Recovery (in my own experience at least) could feel very woolly and overwhelming at times, so having the structure of logical, attainable SMART goals would’ve been really helpful, I think. Thank you ♥︎

  18. This is a great alternative way to use the SMART analogy! What great advice!

    – Laura //

  19. i did not know any of this, and this is very good advice.
    ill be sharing this on my facebook page <3

    thank you for posting this as well.

  20. Great post! It’s so inspiring and can help people with more than eating disorders in opinion it can to help to understand one’s self. I hope more people read this I learned a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  21. I think so too. I’m done being stuck in my comfort zone. It’s never gotten me anything but shame, heartache and constant anxiety!

  22. I never thought of switching ‘R’ to risk, but that is such a great spin on the original ‘SMART’ breakdown. Honestly, pushing ourselves to step out of our comfort zones and take a risk is often the hardest step to take, but SO worth it!

  23. This is so good about just for those in recovery but in general! Very detailed and well said I’m trying to figure out my eating habits now and not try to beat myself up on the days in which I eat bad ! As mentioned by other commenters I also used smart before just not in this form so very helpful.

  24. Lovely post! Thank you for revisiting this issue, I had literally forgotten about it. Thanks for reminding me, I could really use some SMART targets in my life at this point.

  25. Great post really informative, I’d never heard of SMART targets before in terms of eating disorders. I’ve learnt something knew today. Your posts are so informative keep it up !!

  26. I love SMART goals! But, I’d never thought of using them as part of my work on my mental health, so this is still a really informative and motivating post for me. I think it’s so so important to be specific with goals, otherwise they’re less goals and more vague wishes. It was wonderful how you broke it down and gave examples too 🙂

  27. Great post! I had never heard of SMART until reading this post. I think it’s extremely useful by providing details on how to approach certain goals. Like you said, it allows people to move away from the vague to the specific. Well done.


  28. Awesome use of SMART goals, I’ve only ever applied them in business and corporate situations so this is enlightening, glad its working for you!

  29. I remember these SMART goals when I was in psych care for years (months as an inpatient). I didn’t have anorexia but I did lose a lot of weight due to severe depression. Just seeing how sick and old looking other women were made me realise that I had to make a conscious effort to gain the weight back. Gosh it’s aging and they had to give up their careers and relationships???? I hope you get better soon, Nyx. A happier and healthier future lies ahead of you❤️

  30. I use SMART goals at work for my annual goal setting project that I’m evaluated on. Thanks for sharing the worksheet link and for explaining the SMART acronym so well!

  31. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words! I hope I’m able to reach a lot of people through this post, and that they can use SMART targets to their advantage!

  32. I haven’t tried SMART targets before but my daughter uses them a lot. What a great way to aid recovery in mental health and eating disorders! I’ll definitely be trying this out, thank you for sharing xxx

  33. Great post! I never would have thought of using SMART goals for recovery. I’ll definitely be doing this with my therapists next week!

  34. These really are SMART targets!

    If you can help make a goal easier by making it more realistic then I’m all for it! ????
    Thanks so much for sharing this! I think it will benefit a lot of people!

    Love Lozza xo

  35. It’s amazing! And the best thing is that the SMART targets sheet is free. But I would really recommend having a look at It’s All You Boo’s other material 🙂

  36. I’m done setting unrealistic goals – they have only managed to make me feel like more of a failure when I can’t uphold them.

  37. Nor did I until I actually came across it out of curiosity. I figured that I’m setting goals every week, so I might as well incorporate the smart method.

  38. Great post and I can imagine SMART targets are really helpful when it comes to recovery. In fact, I know it’s not mental health related but I do a lot of the same in my day-to-day and monthly goals too. I never set anything too unrealistic or un-achievable.

  39. Many people present to therapy or their psychiatrist the first time and are not sure what they need, just that they need something. Even though I know about SMART goals I too catch myself saying i dont know or I’m just stressed lol it is hard

  40. This is such a motivating post. I have used and learned about smart targets at work and also unintentionally used them with my to-do list goals! You have shared some great tips! Such a helpful post for other people who feel like they need support in there recovery. Thank you for sharing xx

  41. I actually really do – I hadn’t realised how much my PT had been setting little SMART goals to help me with weight restoration and recovery.

  42. I set myself up or too much a win, and when I didn’t reach it I just felt like a failure. Honestly, I was too ambitious. Thank you very much pet, I hope you find these helpful in recovery/maintenance of recovery 😀 Or even if everyday life!

  43. I was convinced I could recover 10+ years of eating disordered behaviors in a month! How delusional is that? 6 months later and that thinking has done me more harm than good!

  44. I wish I’d known what smart was when I first tried recovery (but at the time I was also doing it wkthowi professional help). I felt pressure to be fully recovered before starting college (which was two or three months away when I decided I couldn’t live like that anymore), and it was definitely not achievable in that time frame.

    Ash |

  45. Liked it, though it will be a little bit difficult at earlier stages, rewards are great

  46. This is so important! Recovery can be incredibly overwhelming and by setting measurable goals, you allow yourself to actually see clearly that you’re making progress. Thank you for sharing!

  47. Some really good tips here that I’m going to take on board! I’ve noticed myself slipping a bit with a few of my OCD behaviours over the last few months so I think this would be a great way to get me back on track. Thank you for sharing and best of luck with your goals! Xx

  48. These are excellent and specific examples of how to set smart goals to recover Nyxie! I wish you well with re-introducing milk 🙂
    I’m sorry to hear that you felt guilty at not managing to be back at work in February – I often find that I need to be fluid with the timing of my goals when it comes to the big ones because it is so difficult to predict the trajectory of recovery.

  49. Hi, I liked your post. Good advice which I see being used for many goals. Have a great day.

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