Happy New Year! It’s that time again…time to reflect on the year behind us, and dream and plan for the year in front of us. I’m betting some of you are thinking, “This is the year I drop that extra 30 pounds I don’t want.” Great! If you’re struggling with some weight-related health issues, this is a logical goal…to start. You see, most of us understand WHAT needs to happen in this scenario. The question is, do we know HOW this is going to happen? To answer that question, we need to get “SMART.”
“This is the year I drop that extra 30 pounds I don’t want” is a BIG goal. It’s a good one to have if you need it, but big goals tend to also bring big failure if we don’t approach them correctly. To improve our likelihood of success, we need to break that goal down into smaller more achievable steps. And to help us with that, we’re going to talk about SMART goals.
“SMART” stands for:
Make sure your objectives and components are very well-defined and as simplified as possible. Decide when this will take place, how long it will last, and what specific actions will accomplish the task. Remember, simpler is better.
Your goal should be given concrete limitations to help you determine success. How long will you be implementing the action? How often? What measurement unit will you use?
Rather than trying to change an emotion or thought, choose a concrete action to modify. We’ll always have certain emotions and thoughts about our eating habits, it’s how we act on them that’s within our control.
This part is KEY. When writing SMART goals, we’re not trying to be overachievers. We’re purposefully selecting goals that will be an improvement, but we know for certain they can be accomplished.
By setting a specific time frame to accomplish our goals, we help to ensure that we actually reach them. We’re creating a deadline of sorts to keep us accountable. We’re also creating another way to measure our progress. The caveat here is that we keep these time measures realistic while still encouraging growth, just like the rest of our goal.
So let’s look at our original goal again.
“This is the year I drop that extra 30 pounds I don’t want.”
Is this specific? Sort of. We’re specifying what we want to achieve, but not how we’re going to do it. Is this measurable? Vaguely. We know we’re going to accomplish this “this year,” but that’s a pretty big time frame and again, lacking specificity. Action-oriented? More vagueness. We’re going to lose 30 pounds, but this isn’t really an action. It’s more of a destination. Is this realistic? That depends on the person. However, without a game plan to get there, this is a pretty lofty goal. Time-based? This one we’ve got. We’re going to accomplish this in a year.
How can we improve this? We’re going to break this down into smaller more actionable steps. For example…
I am going to stick to balanced plate portions at 2 of 3 meals daily, on at least 5 of 7 days this week.
Is this specific? Much more specific. We have a concrete topic, action, time frame. This can be as specific as you want, it depends on the person. But generally, the more specific, the better. Is this measurable? Very. We’ve broken this down into goals for each day and for the week as a whole. Is this action oriented? Yes! We’re implementing our balanced plate method for portion sizing to achieve reasonable calories. Is this realistic? Again, that depends on the person. If you’re not sure, when you get to the end of the week, if you weren’t at least 80% successful at achieving this goal, then this goal could probably be adjusted or repeated. Is this time-based? Yes, we’ve broken it down to daily and weekly goals.
You’ll probably notice this goal is not based on achieving a big outcome, it’s based on changing a habit. THIS is how we achieve those bigger goals, we chip away at habit changes that will get us there.
Now, the other part of this specific scenario is understanding what set of nutrition habits will get us to our bigger goal. This is where your Registered Dietitian comes into play. Together, you and your dietitian can come up with a plan, as well as goals, to help you reach your destination.
Why do we Need SMART Goals?
When we don’t quite know the right successful approach to achieving our big overarching goals, we tend to choose a really big hammer to make sure we’re successful at completing the job. This might be appropriate in some scenarios, but for those of you who know what I’m talking about, in the world of nutrition habits, this approach isn’t known for its sustainability. Ultimately, we want to give you more than a temporary outcome, we want healthy weight and habit sustainability.
Additional Tools and Resources
Goal writing takes practice. For some additional ideas and help with SMART goal writing, check out a few resources from our friends with EatRightOntario:
SMART Goal Writing Guide
10 Example SMART Goals for Healthy Eating
Local Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Finder