The New Year is here and we are feeling motivated and ready to take on new goals and challenges. We all want to accomplish our health goals but when progress does not come quick enough, frustration may cause us to quit. However, this New Year we are going to focus on resolutions that create healthy, long lasting habits, not just quick fixes. A habit is a behavior that starts with a choice and then becomes an unconscious action (1). This creation of lifelong, sustainable results is our ultimate goal. This all begins with identifying and creating specific goals. “Specific goals lead to higher performance than easy goals, no goals or even urging people to do their best”(2). Have you ever made a general goal and then forgot about it in a couple of days?
This can be very common and unfortunately very defeating. Specific goal creation allows someone to construct the clear step they will need to take on a goal piece by piece. By creating clear, achievable steps, one can stay motivated by feeling a sense of accomplishment at each step. For example, if someone’s goal is to run a 5k, it is unwise for them to try to run three miles at once. Instead set a specific task each day, like “today I will walk ½ mile”, and then “tomorrow I will walk one mile”. By accomplishing those goals you set forward each day, you will not lose sight of the goal or more importantly your motivation.
A very popular acronym for goal creation is S.M.A.R.T. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. One of my professors in graduate school had a full lesson on making S.M.A.R.T goals which is why it has remained with me to this day. We should all want to make S.M.A.R.T goals! When deciding on the specifics of your goal, think about what exactly you want to accomplish, when it should be achieved by and why do you want to achieve it. For example, a general goal would be “I want to eat more vegetables”. A specific and measurable goal would be “I will prepare vegetables every Sunday and Thursday so that I can include a vegetable with every dinner”. This eventually will become a habit, and healthy habits eventually lead to a healthy life.
When making a goal, be sure it is also achievable and realistic. This allows for a higher likelihood you will stick to it. Ask yourself, do you have the resources to achieve your goals? If not, what do you need to do to get them? If you know of others who have achieved this goal, what did they do? Do not be shy or hesitant about asking for help. There are many people out there just like you who are striving to achieve the same goals. Learn from what helped and didn’t help them, this will save you time and frustration. These are great questions to ask yourself when forming goals. These questions can help prepare you for what obstacles you may face when trying to reach goals. It is rare for anyone to not hit a roadblock or difficulty when striving to better themselves. However, it is that exact adversity that we must rise to and overcome in order to see a better us. Being prepared for this will help you keep moving towards your goal. Ask yourself what do you anticipate as an obstacle? Write it down and plan on how to either avoid it or overcome it. Do not give up on a goal just because difficulties lay ahead. If you can plan ahead, you will avoid many obstacles that could hold you back! Specific goals are effective because they will give you direction and you will have steps to follow to achieve those goals.
After creating and setting forth a plan for your goals; another step you can do is to set daily small intentions (3). This allows you to wake up each and every day with a purpose to take action toward your goal. Setting a daily intention also allows you to focus on just one thing you can do. If you create multiple steps towards your goal, it will not feel overwhelming to see everything you need to do. Simplifying your steps even further can help it feel more realistic. Let us look back at the example given above. The specific goal was “I will prepare my vegetables every Sunday and Thursday so that I can include a vegetable with every dinner”. Now let us set a daily intention to ensure we will have a vegetable at dinner. Here is an example of a day where meeting you goal may seem impossible. Today is Wednesday.
You ate all your veggies Tuesday night and now do not have any prepared for dinner tonight. You do not have time to prep tonight as you arranged your schedule to have time to prepare veggies Thursday night. In this situation it could be easy to give up on your goal of eating vegetables every night. It is just one night, what could hurt? You are right in that, one night of missing vegetables would not do great harm, but skipping your goals continuously will not help you reach them. So, if you run into this problem with one of your goals I encourage you to exhaust all options before giving up. Remember, we are trying to create healthy habits, not just a quick two week fix. For example, are you able to go buy ready-made vegetables at a store? Are there frozen or canned vegetables you can prepare tonight for dinner? Earlier we discussed preparing for potential obstacles, this is a scenario where buying some canned vegetables will help elevate the pressure of skipping a night with veggies! With all of this in mind, a great daily intention for this day could be “Today I will stop by the grocery store after work and purchase a can of vegetables to have with my dinner.” This allows you to continue to accomplish your goal even though you hit a mini road bump. The best thing to do is continue to try. If maybe going to the store after work was out of the question and you had to have a pizza dinner that night, it is ok! Just remember to set an intention the next day to continue going after your goals.
Now you know how to set specific and measurable goals and you know what you need to do every day to achieve them. If you are unsure where to start, here are some nutrition resolutions you can try this year (3),(4)!
- Eat ½ a plate of veggies at each meal. This is never a bad idea to include more vegetables in your diet. Vegetables help fill you up due to their fiber while only contributing minimal calories. Ideally, half of your plate at a meal should be vegetables.
- Eat 3-4 servings of fruit a day. Fruit is filled with nutrients that help keep you healthy.
- Drink at least 2 liters of water a day. Our body is more than half water. Water helps regulate body temperature, carries nutrients to cells and helps flush out waste.
- Choose one healthy snack a day. Do you find yourself reaching for chocolates or candies during the day? How about replacing that snack with something healthy such as an apple and peanut butter. This will help give you the proper energy you need to complete your day.
- Check in with yourself before you eat a meal or snack. This is a great step toward becoming an intuitive eater. Before you create your meal or snack, think to yourself; how hungry am I? What do I really need right now? What portion size would be appropriate for me? Sometimes we are running on automatic and just reach out for food we may not truly need or even want! Take the time to listen to how you truly feel.
- Start each day with a healthy food. Are you usually grabbing a fast food breakfast sandwich? Or are you always gravitating towards the high sugar drink at Starbucks? These foods do not help start your day off with the energy you need. In fact, these foods will most likely provide great energy for maybe a half hour and then you will crash. Choose your first foods in the day to include a veggie or fruit with protein.
- Eat protein at every meal. Protein helps build our muscles as well as provides satiety. Studies show that out of all the macronutrients, protein is the most filling. Including a protein source at each meal can help avoid mindless snacking as well as help you see more results from your gym sessions.
- Make one different recipe a week. Cooking is a great skill to have and eating at home can be very healthy for you!
- Eat one treat a day. This is a practice to help with moderation. When you choose to eliminate something completely from your diet like chocolate or chips, you are more likely to binge on it. Making no foods off limits but practicing moderation can help if you struggle with overeating. Choose one food that you feel you cannot control yourself over and start to work on portions!
- Do not fall for fad elimination diets! The last resolution I would like you to consider is to avoid those who are encouraging you to only drink juice every day or just eat protein. This year vow to create sustainable healthy habits to last you for the rest of your life! All these resolutions were written as specific and measurable as possible. Now it is up to you to tweak them to help match your lifestyle. Then create your actionable steps and daily intentions. Believe in yourself. Use daily affirmations to help keep you going.
Try “I am deserving of a healthy life”. You can do this! Try finding a friend or group that can help hold you accountable. Have you joined the Tone and Sculpt Facebook page yet? There are many women there waiting to encourage you to continue working toward your goals.
Find an accountability partner and work together. Remember to make your goal specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. You can do it!
1. Erez, M. (n.d.). Goal Setting. Goal Setting, 11. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118785317.weom110049
2. 1. Rössner, S. M., Hansen, J. V., & Rössner, S. (2011, February 18). New Year's resolutions to lose weight--dreams and reality. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6444530/.
3. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. (n.d.). Nutrition Resolutions in the New Year. Retrieved from https://www.uwhealth.org/uw-carbone-cancer-center/nutrition-therapy/nutrition-resolutions-in-the-new-year/33182.
4. Better Nutrition in the New Year: Setting Yourself up for Success : NCHPAD - Building Inclusive Communities. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nchpad.org/799/4181/Better~Nutrition~in~the~New~Year~~~Setting~Yourself~up~for~Success.