Happy New Year 2016! Cue the celebrations…and the resolution-making! One year has come and gone, and now is the perfect time to adopt healthier habits. However, in all honesty, goal-setting can be a tricky task. To set yourself up for success, make sure that you choose goals that are SMART and process-oriented, and share your intentions with others. By accounting for these factors when making New Years’ resolutions, you can come up with a reasonable and achievable nutrition goal.
Set a SMART goal.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Specific goals provide you with details of what and how changes should be accomplished to be successful. While you could set a general goal to “eat more fruits or vegetables,” you would have better understanding of how to meet the specific goal to “eat 5 servings of fruits or vegetables per day on 3 days per week.”
Make your goals measurable by stating how much or how often you will practice your behavior change (e.g. “3 times per week” or “5 servings per day”). By setting measurable goals, you can monitor your progress toward your desired end result. Seeing how far you have come since you first started can keep you motivated and committed to your new healthy habits.
To achieve your goals, you must ensure that the goals that you set are personally attainable. Allow adequate time to implement and get used to changes. It takes time to become accustomed to new habits, and you don’t want to lose your motivation to change by demanding too much from yourself too soon! If you have never exercised regularly before, do not make your goal to exercise daily for the next year. You need time to ease into this new habit both to avoid injury and discouragement. A more attainable goal would be to start exercising 1-2 days per week increasing in exercise frequency and duration as tolerated.
Realistic goals are changes that you believe you would be able to accomplish based on personal relevance and available resources. Set goals based on changes that you would consider worthwhile as they will be easier to accomplish and maintain than ones that you consider unimportant.
Establishing a time frame for accomplishing your goals creates a sense of urgency that drives you toward completion. Decide either a target date (e.g. February 20th) or a time frame (e.g. one month) by which you want to achieve your goal, and mark this time on your calendar to keep yourself on track with your self-imposed deadline.
SMART goal example
Eat 5 servings of fruits or vegetables 3 days per week within one month following the New Year.
Choose process-oriented goals.
Even if you set a SMART goal to lose 10 pounds over the next 3 months, you may still be left feeling overwhelmed at how to achieve it. How will you be losing this weight? What changes will need to be made to reach your desired end result? This type of goal specifying your desired end result is called an outcome goal. To ultimately reach an outcome goal, you must also have process goals, which define the intermediate steps needed before the outcome can be achieved. Healthy intermediate goals (e.g. “Eat 5 servings of veggies or fruit per day on 3 days per week.” or “Exercise at the fitness center for 60 minutes 3 times per week.”) get you moving in the right direction and will help you reach your ultimate desired outcome.
Share your goals with others.
Don’t be afraid to tell your health goals to friends and family. These people can hold you accountable for your behaviors and motivate you to stick with your changes. When times get tough, they can remind you of the reasons why you decided to make smarter diet and activity choices to begin with.