The new year usually marks a time for new goals and resolutions. Many resolutions tend to involve health such as exercise more, eating healthier or maybe quitting smoking. It is great to have an idea of your long term goals for the year, but what small steps can you take to get there? We have asked our Family Food dietitians for their advice on setting goals and meeting resolutions this year.
Make SMART goals for the New Year:
1. Specific. It is better to make specific goals versus general goals. An example of a general goal might be: “I want to eat healthier this year” or “I want to get in better shape.”
2. Measurable. Making measurable goals ensures you have specific criteria established for achieving the goal. Include a quantitative measurement when possible.
3. Attainable. The goal should challenge you a little without making you feel overwhelmed or being too difficult to achieve.
4. Realistic. Make goals realistic by setting an objective that you are capable of doing and willing to work towards!
5. Timely. Provide a time frame to achieve the goal. Instead of “this year” or “someday” set a specific date such as by May 31st. This can also help you stay on track 🙂
SMART goal example: My goal is to join the gym this weekend and go three days a week to work out.
Stephanie Biggs, RD, LDN, CLC
I like to identify the overall long term goal, then develop short term goals to support it. For example, losing 20 lbs by the summer might be the overall goal and the short term goal to support it would be, exercising twice a week for 20 minutes over the next month. Starting off small and breaking these goals down into smaller “bites” can help to make things more manageable and realistic. Also, don’t get down on yourself if you don’t meet your goals. Just be sure to get back on track when possible. Remember that the journey is the reward.
Anthony Tassoni, RD, LDN
I also love the SMART goals approach and use that often with clients. I also like to mention to clients that lifestyle changes are not “all or nothing” things. Many people feel that if they do not go to the gym or do some other program for an hour every day, that it is not worth doing and therefore they never start. I talk to these clients about “exercise snacks” – and how fitting in 10 minutes here, 10 minutes later and then 10 minutes later still, adds up to 30 minutes at the end of the day and that still counts toward your goal.(It is also perhaps 30 minutes more than you did yesterday.) And as for nutrition goals, some clients feel that if they have gone off track at breakfast, then the whole day is off track. I always remind them that the beautiful thing about food is that we eat several times a day so that if breakfast goes off-track, we get to make a different choice and get back on track next time we eat.
Another great tip is that I like “tagging” for helping a new goal or lifestyle change stick. Think of the new behavior you would like to develop and “tag” it to something you already do. Such as, if my goal is to eat two pieces of fruit every day, place the fruit next to the coffee pot because I already drink coffee every morning – I grab my coffee and the fruit as I head out the door every day. Or, if I like to watch some news program or entertainment show every evening after work, I “tag” my goal to walk on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes to watching that show every night and I am meeting that goal while doing what I already like to do.
Stefanie Williams, RD, LDN
When creating SMART goals, constantly ask yourself questions (HOW? WHEN? HOW MANY DAYS PER WEEK, etc.) to make the goal as specific as you can so there is structure and no gray area.
Over the past month, I have heard many clients say “I might”, “If I have time I will”, “Maybe I will” start going to the gym after work or eating fruit after dinner instead of ice cream. I quickly respond with changing their statements to “You will”.
Start your statements with “I will” (Ex: I will eat a green vegetable every day, I will walk for 15 minutes during my lunch break) to commit to making healthy changes NOW rather than LATER. If you aren’t certain you will meet the goal then it is not an appropriate SMART goal for you. Makes goals that you will commit to, but at the same time are still a challenge and will help you reach your long term health goals.
In addition to SMART goals, I like doing trying at least 1 new thing every year to create variety in my exercise and diet. Ex: Take a barre method class for the first time, sign up for the zumba class everyone at the gym raves about, go for walk on a different trail than you usually do, make a smoothie with green leafy vegetables, order sushi with brown rice vs. white rice, buy low sodium soups and canned beans, make a batch of chicken noodle soup and freezing it into indv. containers instead of buying it, learn how to open a pomegranate.
Alyson Heller, MS, RDN, LDN, ACSM
In addition to regular follow ups with Family Food RD’s, I always encourage clients to utilize a tool that will help keep them accountable on a day to day basis. While this is different for everyone, many choose to keep a food journal (using an app such as My Fitness Pal, or just old fashioned pen and paper). It is important to reflect on each day to note what was done well, and what are areas for improvement for the next day. Another effective method is having a support system (a friend or a support group) with whom you share similar goals and can report to. Many people don’t realize how well they are doing with small changes until they hear themselves say it, or see it written down, and that is important for motivation to continue with healthy lifestyle changes!
Emma Donnelly, MA, RD, LDN