by Kathy Ebert RD, LD
Setting goals is one of the best things you can do when on a journey towards making lifestyle changes. Of course, we tend to set broad goals, ones that encompass a finish-line mentality such as “lose weight”, “eat healthy”, “exercise more” etc. It’s important to break these larger goals into smaller goals to help the main goal more achievable.
A common view on goal setting is that goals should be SMART:
Here’s an example: For someone wanting to lose weight they might meet with their Registered Dietitian who suggests food journaling. Tracking meal intake has been proven to help people lose weight and maintain their weight loss. My example goal is going to center on committing to keeping a food journal.
A good place to start with specific goals is to address the W’s: who, what, where, when, and why.
For our goal this means me (who), track my food (what), on my phone and computer via a meal tracking app (where), after each meal (when), so I can stay accountable for what I am choosing to eat (why). When I clean it up it looks like this:
I will track my meals via a meal tracking app on my phone after each meal in order to be accountable for my food choices.
In order for a goal to be measurable, it needs to have a time or amount assigned to it. For example, “I will go to the gym 3 times this week”, “I will lift 10% more weight in 3 weeks”, “I will run 1 mile in 10 minutes”. It’s all about the numbers! The concept here is to have a clear answer for when your goal has been achieved. The measurable portion of our example goal is “after each meal” however after reviewing the criteria for measurable goals I think I’ll tweak it to read:
I will track my meals daily via myfitnesspal after each meal in order to be accountable for my food choices.
The reason I want to add daily to my goal is to add a level of measurability.
It is great to have “sky is the limit” goals however it’s equally important to make sure that the goals we set are within our reach lest we get discouraged on our journey! The goal of tracking meals daily after each meal is attainable since we are usually tied to our phones!
When you have a big goal that may not be immediately attainable it can be helpful to break it down into smaller, more attainable goals. A good example of this is training for a marathon. The big goal may be “finish a marathon”. A good training plan for a marathon includes many weeks of training where mileage is slowly added.
Is the goal one that is realistic? When I was working on this post I had a hard time distingushing between attainable and realistic- they seem very similar! The difference between the two is that an attainable goal is something you can do and a realistic goal is something you will do.
Roadblocks that may make this goal difficult to achieve include being busy and not having the time right after a meal to enter it. After a few days of not tracking meal intake, you may find yourself out of the habit. How can this goal be more realistic? Account for obstacles- set a reminder alarm, write yourself a note, take a photo. These changes make the goal more realistic.
You need to have a reference point for when you will know you have achieved your goal. Some goals may be open ended or have a specific end date. In the case of our marathon runner above, the timely factor of the goal would be the date of the marathon. For our goal of keeping a food journal daily, it is an ongoing goal- it doesn’t really have an expiration date. Since our goal has the specified time of journaling daily we can assume this is a goal that will be met or not met daily.
Now that you have set your goals make them visible! Write them in your day planner, have them on a reminder on your phone, tell them to your family or my new favorite- on my mirror! It’s the first thing I see in the morning and one of the last I see in the evening.
Need some help identifying what to change to live your healthiest life and identifying SMART goals? Contact an iLiveWell Registered Dietitian. To help you start your healthiest year we have a special on our 30-minute Nutrition Checkup for $20 (normally $80)!
Adrien Paczosa is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian practicing in Austin, Texas and the surrounding counties.
She is the owner and founder of I Live Well Nutrition her Dietitian practice which started in 2007 and serves clients in the Austin, Texas area in two locations. Fearless Practitioners, the division of her business that offers training to dietitians and wellness professionals.