In a matter of a couple of days, the store shelves went from holding candy canes and chocolates to weight loss drinks and exercise videos. Now that the Christmas rush is over, stores are letting us know it is time to work on making some life changes and setting goals for the coming year.
Now, if you’re saying to yourself that you aren’t going to bother with setting goals because you never succeed, hold on for a minute. It may just be that you didn’t succeed because you didn’t go about setting your goals the right way. There is a lazy way of setting goals and a smart way of setting goals. If you really want to achieve the goals you set, consider utilizing the SMART goal approach.
One of the most common goals that people decide to work on at the beginning of the year is weight loss. What happens? You start off great on Jan. 2, and by the fifth or sixth day you’ve already forgotten about your “diet.” You may not have succeeded because you tried to change too many things at once, didn’t have a specific plan, or just weren’t looking forward to making changes, so you didn’t.
Enter the SMART goal approach. When making changes in behavior and lifestyle, creating SMART goals greatly increases your chances of being successful. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Time Dependent.
Specific means that you want to get right to the point of what you want to change. Instead of “I want to lose weight,” a specific weight loss goal might be “I want to lose 25 pounds.” If you want to improve your eating instead of just “I want to eat healthier,” a specific goal would be “I want to eat more vegetables each day.”
A specific goal has a much better chance of being accomplished than a general one. Here are some questions to ask yourself when setting your goals:
— What is it that I want to accomplish?
— Why do I want to accomplish this?
— What is my time frame?
— What constraints could get in my way?
— Is there someone that I need help from to achieve this goal?
— What are the benefits of this goal?
— What is going to help you to be successful?
Goals need to be measurable, because if you can’t measure it, how do you know if you are succeeding? If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, the saying goes. For a measurable short-term weight loss goal, a specific weight loss goal could be “I want to lose one pound of weight/week.” To measure vegetable intake, “I want to eat 3 servings of vegetables each day.” Keep track of your weight loss on a chart. Weigh yourself just once a week, same day of the week at about the same time. If you are keeping track of your food use a little notebook or other quick means of recording what you have each
Choose a goal that you can achieve. Do you really think you can weigh what you weighed in high school? Would you be happy if you could get within 10 or 20 pounds of that goal? What weight can you realistically maintain?
Making behavior changes is one of the most difficult things to do. It is best to take small steps. If you hate vegetables, is it realistic to expect that you will eat three servings per day? Perhaps you could start by adding one serving per day — or trying a new vegetable each week. Don’t set yourself up to lose three or four pounds per week when the most you have ever lost is one or two pounds per week. The weight didn’t come on overnight, and it isn’t going off overnight. A realistic goal of an average loss of one or two pounds per week is normal and realistic. You don’t want to cut your calorie intake down so low that you are hungry all of the time. A weight loss of one pound per week can be achieved by cutting back on your calorie intake each day by 500 calories.
How much time are you going to give yourself to work on your goals before your reassess and see if your plan needs to be tweaked? Your initial SMART goal is a starting place, you may not have all of the answers just right to start with. “I will lose one pound of weight for the first four weeks and then I will reassess.” “I will eat one serving of vegetables a day for the next two weeks and reassess.”
Then it is important to set up a reward system for yourself. As you succeed, how will you reward yourself? Rewards don’t have to be big, and really shouldn’t be food. Consider a bouquet of flowers to brighten your workspace, a new novel that you have wanted to buy, or give yourself time to soak in the tub with some new bubble bath.
I’m hoping that there are a lot of people out there looking to make weight loss a goal in 2014. If you are, I’d like to hear from you. Drop me an email. I’m willing to offer help and support as needed. Happy 2014.
Georgia Clark-Albert, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.