It’s that time of year again…are you setting a weight loss goal for 2018? If so, let’s talk about how to set SMART goals to help you succeed this time around. You can do it! SMART stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Let’s break that down with some real examples.
A specific goal is never vague. “Eat healthier” is not a specific goal. It doesn’t call out how you’re going to eat healthier. Here are a few specific goals you might consider for the new year. I will eat at least one serving of fruits/vegetables with each meal. I will eat eggs for breakfast twice a week. I will have a produce and protein snack every afternoon so I’m not starving by the time dinner rolls around.
Measurable goals include something you can count or measure. “Eat healthier” is not a measurable goal. There’s no metric by which you’re going to measure the healthiness of your food in that goal. Here are a few measurable goals for you. I will track my food at least 5 days per week. I will eat a total of five servings of produce each day. I will take a brisk walk for 15 minutes at least three days per week. You can measure these and check a box with yes or no to indicate if you hit this goal or not.
Achievable goals are within your reach. If you’re not getting any deliberate physical activity today, it wouldn’t be particularly achievable to say you’re going to go to the gym for an hour long spin class five days per week. If you have arthritis in your knees, and are not a runner, planning to run the Chicago marathon may not be achievable for you today. Here are some achievable goals for 2018. I will have fruit instead of chocolate or ice cream after dinner six days per week. AND I will allow myself a reasonable splurge for dessert once a week. I will get on my home treadmill at least once during the week, and once on the weekend for at least ten minutes. AND I’ll do this with the plan to set a more aggressive goal once I achieve that for two weeks in a row. I will bring my lunch to work at least twice a week.
Realistic goals are similar to achievable goals. If you are a night owl, it wouldn’t be realistic to set a goal of getting up at 5:30 AM every morning to exercise. It might make more sense to set a time flexible goal that allows for exercise later in the day. Here are some realistic goals. I will make (or assemble) dinner at home five nights per week. (And I will allow myself to order out one night and to go out one night per week.) I will pick up lunch from the grocery store pre-made section, rather than picking up fast food for lunch during the work week. I will go out for breakfast as a splurge once a month, but I will eat breakfast at home the rest of the time.
Timely goals are not set too far into the future. Rather than saying I’m going to exercise more in 2018, which is neither specific, nor time sensitive, I am going to state exactly when my goal is going to happen, and it WILL happen soon! Here are a few time sensitive goals. Starting tomorrow before work, I’m going to pack my lunch and bring it with me on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Starting tonight, I’m going to take a brisk walk with the dog after dinner. Today I will sign up for a tai chi class at the park district that starts on January 4th.
You may have noticed that none of my goals were about a number on the scale. People! I wouldn’t do that to you! I am never a fan of “pounds of weight loss by this date” goals. Why? Because you can’t predict your body’s response to your goals and healthy lifestyle changes. Believe me, if you make healthy changes in your nutrition, the weight will eventually follow. If you make healthy changes in your physical activity, it will help you MAINTAIN your weight loss. Resist the urge to say, I’ll lose 20 pounds by my high school reunion. Instead, set some SMART goals that will help you move the scale in the downward direction. It’s time to get started on those SMART goals TODAY!
Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best of health!
Lisa Oldson MD
Northwestern Faculty Profile: http://www.feinberg.northwestern.edu/faculty-profiles/az/profile.html?xid=15403