By Morgan Rettig
Clinical Nutritionist Educator
With 2019 just around the corner, many of us will be making resolutions and setting goals for the coming year. Resolutions related to health improvements are often at the top of the list with popular picks including losing weight, eating better and exercising more. Unfortunately, only about 8 percent of people stick to their resolution. Why the low success rate? Well, New Year’s resolutions are often vague and may include unrealistic expectations. Also, the steps to reach the resolutions are usually not planned out.
So, how can you reach your goal? The resolutions themselves are the first step to New Year’s resolution success! This year try making “SMART” resolutions; that is make your resolution Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.
Specific: A good goal is specific. It tells you not only what you would like to achieve, but includes what is needed to get there. Examples of this might include: who else might be involved, where it will take place and why you want to accomplish it. People tend to do better with specific goals compared to vague ones. That’s because when a goal is specific it leaves little wiggle room; you either did it or you didn’t. This holds us more accountable, and accountability is key!
Measurable: When a goal includes a measurable unit, it is easier to track and to determine progress. This also lets you know when you have succeeded in reaching your goal. Take a subjective goal like “I will lose weight” and improve it by adding a measurement. For example, “I will lose 10 pounds.”
Attainable: It’s important to set a goal that can be achieved. Feel free to challenge yourself, but at the end of the day, you want your goal to remain possible. Setting an ambitious goal is okay, but be sure to break it down into attainable milestones. Your ultimate goal could be to lose 50 pounds in a year, but you can have smaller goals along the way such as losing 10 pounds every 2 months.
Realistic: Goals should not only be attainable, they should also be realistic. Your life doesn’t just stop because you are working on a new goal. When setting a goal, consider obligations, time constraints and finances. Say you set a goal to workout at the gym five times per week, but the membership is out of your budget. This is a financial barrier for that goal, so it would be unrealistic. It is best to set goals that can fit into your life so they can actually be achieved. So in the example above, setting a goal to walk in the park instead of going to the gym would fit in your budget.
Time-bound: An effective goal is time-limited. Giving yourself a timeframe for when you would like to reach your goal will increase your motivation. This is where using dates or events as milestones to check in on progress can be helpful by keeping you focused and enthused. You also want to be sure you give yourself enough time to achieve your goal, but not so much time you lose interest.
Here are some traditional New Year’s resolutions made “SMART”:
|Traditional Resolution||SMART Resolution|
|I will lose weight.||I will lose 15 pounds by April 1 by exercising 3 days per week and reducing my calorie intake by 500 calories per day.
|I will exercise more.||I will walk for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the park in my neighborhood for the month of January.
|I will eat better.||I will eat 2½ cups of vegetables at least three days per week for the next two weeks.
Remember, resolutions aren’t about trying to do it all at once, but instead taking small steps toward a big change. It is important to check-in at each milestone so you can track and evaluate progress. If you have met your initial goal, recognize that accomplishment and celebrate! For some it helps to have a reward system set up; as each milestone is met, you can do something nice for yourself. It is best to reward yourself with nonfood items, such as buying an outfit, going to a concert or getting a massage. If you are not where you set out to be at your check-in, it’s okay. Don’t get discouraged! This is the time to reflect on why you got off track and make any necessary adjustments to your “SMART” resolution.
Morgan Rettig, RDN, LDN, is a Clinical Nutritionist Educator with Mission Diabetes Center.