Achieving Your Health Goals

Runner for 2019

It is that time of year again…. the New Year! The time of year where we reflect back on the past to help ourselves become better in the future. We capture these changes as goals with our New Year’s Resolution. Reader’s Digest made a list of the top 15 most popular resolutions. The top 2 were getting in shape and losing weight. Another study shows that in 2018, 37% of people said they want to eat healthier and another 37% said they wanted to exercise more.

Year after year these ideals of eating better, exercising more, and losing weight make it to the top of many of our lists, but what can we do differently to meet these goals?

Use S.M.A.R.T Goals

S.M.A.R.T goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. They are designed to help us meet our goals.

For example, “I want to get healthy” is not a S.M.A.R.T goal. “Healthy” is an abstract concept and is not specific enough for us to meet easily. It is a big picture goal, so to make it a S.M.A.R.T goal we need to break it down.

  1. Specific: What do we see as getting healthy; is it a particular weight, eating better, exercising more, sleeping more, fewer medications? Pick a category. Even these are big-picture goals. We need to take this broad subject and once again narrow it down to a more specific idea. For example, with eating better we could be more specific, such as: eating breakfast, or eating high protein snacks, or eating more fruits. Pick a specific aspect of your greater goal. This will help you make sure your goal is achievable in a more realistic time frame.
  2. Measurable: In order to know if we have met our goal or not, we need to make it measurable. This means that there is some kind of number involved that we compare it to. Using the idea of eating more fruit, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines state the recommendation for adults is 2 cups/servings of fruit per day. So to make our goal measurable, instead of saying “increase fruit intake”, you could word it as “Consume 2 servings of fruit per day.”
  3. Achievable/Attainable: You want to set your goals based on things you can actually achieve. Otherwise, these goals are never met and discourage you from trying to make goals in the future. Ask yourself “is this goal a possibility?” While 2 servings is the recommendation it may not be the best goal for you. If you are consuming 0 servings of fruit, it may be easier to increase to 1 serving of fruit. It can be hard to go from 0 (where you are) to 2 (where you want to be) so taking baby steps can help you get there. By making goals attainable you are more likely to succeed and therefore be more likely to set new goals and continue to improve.
  4. Relevant: When making a goal you want it to be relevant to you. When you are first envisioning your goal, think of something that is important to you. The more relevant or important a topic is to you the more motivation you will have. Motivation is key in meeting our goals. You will be more likely to push through the hard parts and put in more work and effort to get there. This can be repetitive to “specific,” but if you want to be healthy pick items within that category that you see as relevant to your current situation. In this example, increasing fruit may not be relevant to someone who is already eating 2 servings or has other health factors that make other aspects of “eating healthy” more important or relevant to them.
  5. Timely: There are a couple of aspects related to time and your goal. One is “when is the goal objective worked on?” Do we plan on doing it every single day? Is this realistic or attainable? If not, perhaps every other day is more appropriate. You will want to note when to start the goal and when to meet the goal. Do you plan on finishing this goal by the end of the week, month, year? In the example we have been using, it might read as “Starting today, I will consistently consume 1 serving of fruit every day by the end of the month.”

This goal has the makings of success because, you know what the objective is, when you will start/finish the goal, how frequent you will complete the goal, how to measure it, and you took into consideration relevancy and attainability when creating it. At the end of the month, you will be able to tell if you met this goal or not.

If you have completed your goal, AWESOME, consider making another S.M.A.R.T goal on the same topic or picking another aspect of your bigger picture to work on. Create more goals to work on throughout the year. Dietitians can guide you when creating S.M.A.R.T goals and help hold you accountable. Dietitians are nutrition experts who are able to evaluate your current behaviors and help you pinpoint practical areas for improvement to help you meet your goals. From weight loss, eating healthy, controlling your diabetes, blood pressure, or lipid panel, your Avita Dietitian can help. Your dietitian will be there every step of the way, from initiation to help you track progress while supporting you as you overcome barriers and take on the task of improving yourself for another year.

By Kelly Ritchey RDN, LDN. Kelly is a registered dietician at Avita Health System.

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