Many disregulated eaters are highly
focused on goals, not just around eating or weight, but in many aspects of their
lives. In truth, the how and why of your pursuit of goals can either work for or
against you. If you’re going to use them well, you’ll want to understand how
they can cause you problems and how they can be used effectively.
For instance, troubled eaters often
obsess about goals. There’s a difference between setting and planning for them,
then going on to think about other things versus obsessing about them and feeling
like a total failure if you don’t meet them. If you’re working toward, say,
getting a college degree, you would want to do a great deal of research and
exploration, make a flexible plan, then start taking steps forward. You’d want
to consider whether you could get a decent job in the field you’re studying,
but don’t need to plan out what clothes you’ll need for work or how you’re
going to decorate your new office. You’d want to avoid locking yourself into a
future that is many years away that may turn out far differently than you
expect but equally fine.
In terms of evolution (as you know,
a forceful underpinning of human behavior), people who were the most flexible flourished
better than their cohorts who were more rigid. So, questions to ask yourself:
When I make goals, do I go all perfectionistic and insist everything be mapped
out far ahead? Do I refuse to waver from the game plan even when it’s in my
best interest to do so? Do I push to reach my goals to my detriment?
Not only does effective goal-setting include flexible thinking and
problem-solving, but you don’t want to put too much energy into going overboard
planning your future. Some people truly have
their entire lives—or the lives of their children—mapped out mentally, and are totally
bummed when things don’t turn out as they expect. It’s fine to have a general
long-term plan, but you don’t need to nail down specifics for a future that will
inevitably have its own twists and turns. Rather
than dread any change in plans, view changes with curiosity and know that you’ll
be fine no matter what happens.
Disregulated eaters get into
trouble when they try to control the future, which no one can do. They
over-plan in order to reduce anxiety that something might go wrong. But
remember, just because things don’t go according to your (very detailed and
long-term) plans, doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that your life is now a
wreck. Reduce frustration and anxiety—and unwanted eating—by being in charge of
your goals rather than having them be in charge of you.