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This article comes from EDV’s Recovery Newsletter, Sending Hope. Sending Hope is sent every two weeks, and provides subscribers with recovery support directly to their inbox. To subscribe to this newsletter, please see here.

Have you tried pre-meal goal setting?

My name’s Alison, I’m one of the Telehealth Nurses at here EDV. For this edition of Sending Hope, I’ll be talking about pre-meal goal setting, a practice that can increase self-efficacy during your recovery journey, no matter what stage!  

So, why is goal setting a worthy tool? 

Put simply; we feel good when we achieve goals, whether long term, short term, or daily goals. Goals help us see the progress we are making in recovery.   

It can be really hard to set goals. Lots of us set broad, hard or idealistic goals that we are unable to achieve which can leave us feeling worse. It is really important when thinking about goals to take some time to reflect on what is going to be achievable and important for us.     

The SMART goal setting tool is a great tool to help create goals that are meaningful and achievable. It enables us to set a goal within any aspects of life and can also help us refocus and move away from the urge to create goals focused on numbers and eating.  

Setting SMART goals can help us move from unhelpful coping mechanisms to more helpful coping mechanisms. These enable us to foster positive change in life in a measurable way where we can see the progress we are making.  

What are SMART goals? 

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant + Realistic and Timely. It helps provide a framework for us to achieve larger goals by breaking them down into smaller, easier to achieve goals.  

Specific: The goal should be clear and well defined. Breaking down a larger goal, for example, managing my anxiety at meals, can be broken down into a clear, practical goal, like practicing mindfulness before lunch to ease anxiety. 

Measurable: By making the goal measurable it enables us to track any kind of progress (even if the goal is not completely achieved) and motivate further for recovery. Use some sort of rating to measure if you are meeting your goal or reflection on how that technique is working for you.  

Achievable: Make sure the goal is achievable, so think about what is realistic for you at this time in your recovery, what supports you may need, what distractions you may need and what you need after. 

Relevant + Realistic: Goals targeted towards recovery help us feel good about ourselves and maintain a positive stance with recovery. Goals that are relevant + realistic can help tackle specific disordered behaviors and thoughts. 

Timely: How long will you practice the above steps? Goals should be timely and have a date you want to reflect or achieve them.  

Why Pre-Meal Goal Setting? 

On thing we know can be helpful in eating disorder recovery can be breaking down our daily goals into even smaller goals. We are going to focus on ‘pre-meal’ goals.  

Pre meal goals can be really important in recovery. Meal times are often one of the most distressing and hardest moments in recovery so setting a pre-meal goal can provide something to focus on, help us get through these moments and if achieved attach a positive association with meal times.  

In the same way we would set a daily goal, we can set a pre-meal goal, one that is targeted towards eating disorders behaviors, when a meal is presented and consumed. This can be as simple as practicing mindfulness before lunch to ease anxiety, consuming adequate fluids at this meal, or starting my meal without delay. Think about what is most distressing or important in your recovery when thinking about meal times and find a small goal that is going to be helpful or work for you in this moment.  

Here I will give a quick example of a pre-meal goal of practicing mindfulness before lunch (part of a larger non-specific goal of managing my anxiety before meals). 

Specific: 10 mins of mindfulness meditation outside before lunch for 1 week  

Measurable: Rate my anxiety from 1-10 before meditation and after meditation. I will also rate my overall anxiety on the Sunday (when I start) and Saturday (when I have finished). Hopefully, Saturday is lower than Sunday 

Achievable: I will do the mindfulness and meal with a support person at first (4 days), then by myself (for 3) 

Realistic: Mindfulness works for me as a relaxation technique before bed, so will likely work again 

Timely: Will do this for a week and see if this practice eases my anxiety and helps me cope better at lunch 

It is really important to remember that if you don’t manage to achieve the goal that is ok.  Try to be kind and gentle to yourself. Everybody has experiences of not achieving their goals. If this happens, it can give us useful information too. If it is not too overwhelming, take some time to reflect on what happened, was it other things on that day or maybe a need to slightly adjust the goal.  

I hope this has given you some inspiration on goal setting or even pre-meal goal setting! 

Take care,


Remember, if you need to talk to someone, EDV has a range of helpful services available. For general information and support, please give our Hub a call during business hours on 1300 550 236, fill out an online form, or email

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