Disregulated eaters do best when they have some, but not too much, structure. We all need a certain amount of routine, and discovering what is absolutely necessary and what you can do without will help you feel more stable, centered and satisfied. Toward that end, it pays to know what activities or behaviors are non-negotiable in your life, that is, which ones are so crucial to your well-being that you refuse to live without them.

Here are some things that are non-negotiable to people: finding a date or mate who loves nature or staying active, attending parent-teacher conferences or a child’s school performances, making dinner for the family every night and eating together, getting a good night sleep every night, visiting Mom in the nursing home weekly, eating a healthy breakfast, leaving work at five o’clock sharp, or cleaning the house weekly.

When something is non-negotiable, you don’t sit around debating or hemming and hawing about whether or not you want to do it or not. Do you think about breathing or do you just do it? We are adamant about doing certain activities because they bring us enormous pleasure or because they’re in our best interest. We don’t let other people talk us out of doing activities which are non-negotiable because these actions are firmly imbedded in our values and life enhancement.

To say we’d be lost or at sea without them is not far from the truth. When we think of an action or activity as non-negotiable we do so because we recognize that it is as essential as air and water. We know from experience how necessary it is to our health and welfare. Here are examples of non-negotiable activities practiced by my clients: meditating for 15 minutes upon awakening, having oatmeal and an egg for breakfast, getting to bed by 10:30 p.m., doing some sort of exercise from 8:30-9:00 each morning, food shopping Saturday afternoon, having a date night with a spouse one night a week.

The only thing that might (might) get in the way of following through with these activities are emergencies. Folks build their lives around these non-negotiables and consider them unmovable and sacrosanct. However, for many disregulated eaters, establishing this kind of structure feels selfish or excessively self-focused. But, truth is, people function much better with certain routines that become the glue that holds their lives together. Having non-negotiables says I matter, I care about me, I put myself first, I’m serious about self-care, your needs matter and mine do too, I love myself. Make a list of five non-negotiable activities you will stick to, do them, and see how good you feel.