Being SMART About Your 2021 Diet and Exercise Resolutions
By Kirsten Gram, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator
For many of us, January can usher in the New Year’s resolution paradox. We set goals or resolutions to become healthier with our food choices and/or exercise routines, only to find that shortly after setting them, they become distant memories. Around March, we wonder what happened to those worthwhile goals that were so important to us?
Did we set a goal, but not process an action plan to meet it? Did we set out to do too much? Was the goal unrealistic? Was it really a New Year’s wish: ( “I wish I would”) instead of something more concrete?
An effective goal encourages you to develop strategies, or actions, to meet your desired outcome. For example: the desire to lose weight, in itself, is not an action. However, engaging in routine physical activity IS an action. In working with clients over the years to achieve their goals, I’ve found that a strategic plan called SMART can really work.
SMART goal setting is an acronym that stands for:
Realistic and relevant
Here is how to set SMART goals.
- Be specific, so you know exactly what you are aiming for. What do you plan to do? Can you break it down into smaller steps? The smaller and more specific the steps you set to reach your goal, the more likely you will be successful. Instead of saying, “I’m going to eat more fruit,” say “I will eat a piece of fruit for one of my snacks every day.”
- Measure your actions to see if you’re attaining the goal. Perhaps your goal is to write down everything you eat and drink for one week. Review your food records at the end of the week and see whether you are meeting that goal.
- Make goals that are attainable so you can bask in success. While you want to push yourself, make the goal something that you can reach in a stretch rather than a huge leap. Try dividing your ultimate goal into many smaller ones so you stay on an attainable path. Instead of saying, “I’ll never eat lunch out again,” resolve to pack lunch three days a week.
- Similar to being attainable, make your goals realistic. This includes the initial goal and the number of smaller steps you plan to use to achieve it. Instead of thinking, “I’ll never have dessert again,” only eat dessert on Saturday night.
- Pick a time period, like a week or a month, when setting a goal. This will keep you focused on a starting and end point. You can then build on the goal you’re measuring by adding a new one for the next time period.
There is a phrase about New Year’s resolutions: they are easy to make and easier to break. I’ve found however, that if you use the SMART plan and take smaller and more focused steps, your chance of success is much greater.
Kirsten Gram is Cascade Health’s Manager of Diabetes & Nutrition Education