Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES
Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.
It’s January, 2023, the beginning of a new year. Many of you are likely pondering upon the New Year’s resolutions you have decided to work on and have as goals for the New Year. One of the definitions of resolution is “a firm decision to do or not do something or to behave in a certain manner”. Another definition of resolution is “the ability of a device to show an image clearly and with a lot of detail”.
If your goal is to be healthier or lose weight this year, well, working on either goal involves both definitions – to be able to make a firm decision to change or not to change eating behaviors that are barriers to losing weight or keeping the excess weight off as well as to clearly see with lots of detail how you plan to achieve your goal.
One of my favorite quotes is from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a French aviator, writer, and poet. He said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Having a goal you want to reach without a plan on how to reach it will less likely get you there.
When deciding on what goals to work on, make them S.M.A.R.T. goals:
Specific: Decide on a goal that is precise and clear-cut. Saying, “My goal is to lose more weight this year” is not clear enough. Be specific in how much weight you plan to lose so that you can more easily tell if you reached your goal or not. For example, you can say, “I plan to lose one to two pounds per week for the next 4 weeks.”
Measurable: Think about how you are going to know if you have met your goal. If your goal is to increase your hydrating fluid intake to 64 ounces per day, you should keep track of how much fluids you drink daily so you know whether you are meeting your goal or not.
Achievable: Your goals have to be reasonable enough for you to achieve. Breaking down your long term goals into short term, easily attainable goals prevents frustration and giving up easily. Don’t fall into the Mount Everest Syndrome trap – creating goals that are too lofty and out of reach. Getting to your goal should be done in small steps, rather than all or nothing. For example, if your goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day but you are a self-professed couch potato, start with a smaller goal of 2,000 steps and work on achieving that smaller goal first.
Realistic: Ask yourself, “Am I committed to accomplish this goal? Am I willing to spend the time and effort it takes to reach my goal?” Be honest. If your answer is no to both questions, you may need to adjust your goal or your plan to achieve it. Avoid using imperative words that suggest finality or demand, such as “never”, “always”, “every”, or “all”. Vowing never to eat at a fast food restaurant or that you will always exercise in the morning will set you up for failure.
Time-bound: Most of us hate deadlines, but without one, we don’t feel that sense of urgency to accomplish whatever it is we need or want to do. Instead of a deadline, stay positive and set a target date instead. This will help you start to take action now and monitor your progress towards reaching your goal as you get close to your target date.
In setting realistic goals for weight loss, keep in mind these tips for success:
1) Stay positive. Use words like “I will” or “I can” rather than “I won’t” or “I can’t”. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and who will cheer you on. Avoid the negative Nellies and downer Debbies who can make you feel less able to achieve your goal.
2) Reward yourself. When you achieve a small victory towards your goal, reward yourself with a non-food reward. It keeps you motivated to continue with your plan. For example, if you reached your first goal to walk 2,000 steps a day, buy a new pair of walking shoes or workout clothes.
3) Make it a personal affair. Losing weight should be for your own personal benefit rather than to please others or because someone wants you to lose weight.
4) Write it down. When you see your goal on paper, you can read them over to make sure they continue to be realistic and achievable. This will help you revise your goals or your plan if it becomes too unreachable.
5) Buddy up. Team up with someone working on similar goals but don’t get caught up with “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome. Think of your own weight loss needs, not those of your weight loss partner. Everyone is different and it can be a source of frustration if you are not able to match the other person’s achievement towards his or her goal.
6) Check in with your dietitian regularly. Losing weight on your own is difficult without the guidance of an experienced nutrition expert. Seeing your dietitian at regular intervals keeps you accountable. Your nutrition needs may change as your physical activity and lifestyle changes.
Monitoring if you are still on the right track will help you continue to lose weight or maintain your new weight once you achieve your goal.
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.