Article By: Rachel Ignomirello, MS, RDN, CSOWM, LDN
Rachel Ignomirello is a Bariatric Dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management.
When it comes to setting goals, the best advice I ever received was, “You can’t run before you walk.” In other words, start with an achievable, basic goal. When we give ourselves unrealistic expectations or goals, it often leads to disappointment and feelings of failure – not the best motivator for change. If you dove into 2022 with huge resolutions, you may find yourself now struggling to maintain recent changes. Realistic goal setting will help you turn your resolutions into reality. It means having a practical and rational idea of what can be anticipated or accomplished. Here are some tips!
1) Focus on small steps. Break down your overall goal into smaller steps. If your goal is to quit drinking soda, it may be smarter to reduce your intake rather than quitting cold turkey. Another slow but steady example involves transitioning from regular soda to diet soda and then moving to sparkling water and finally regular water. If going to the gym every day does not seem doable, you could start by going 2-3 days per week. Modify and intensify your goals as improve.
2) Make achieving your goal enjoyable. Brainstorm ways to make your goal fun and doable. Buy new workout clothes, a fitness tracker, a colorful reusable water bottle, or a smart food scale. Invite your family, friends, and co-workers to join in. Remember to reward positives with non-food things such as a pedicure or spa day, TV or reading time, a new outfit, etc.
3) Make sure your lifestyle fits the goal. Consider your personal limitations when setting realistic goals. Let’s say your resolution is to walk more. This would be realistic if you liked walking outside or had access to a treadmill. It would not be realistic if you did not have access to a safe, walkable neighborhood or you did not even enjoy being outside.
4) Avoid the “all-or-nothing" mentality. When we see our choices as “good” or “bad,” it can make us feel like a failure if we mess up. If you eat a piece of candy, it does not mean you failed. However, eating the whole bag of candy because you already ate one piece may lead to continued challenges. Instead of seeing goals through the lens of “success” or “failure,” try shifting to a mindset of moderation and balance. We can always start fresh at our next meal or the next day.
5) Be barrier ready. Anticipate struggles and obstacles. Barriers are normal, and bariatric surgery is not a magic fix. The most important thing is how you manage setbacks. What will you do in difficult situations to get back on track? When you slip up, remember to forgive yourself.
6) Consider NSVs. NSVs (non-scale victories) are meaningful improvements that are not related to the number on the scale. Your weight is not the only measure of success. Instead of focusing on losing a certain amount of weight, focus on NSV goals such as crossing your legs, getting off insulin, playing with your kids on the floor, fitting into a restaurant booth, and many more.