Kim Albritton MS, RDN, LDN

Setting New Year’s Resolutions & How To Actually Accomplish Them!

As we ring in the New Year, and get ready to make our New Year’s Resolutions, many of us will resolve to eat healthier, lose weight, and exercise more frequently. Unfortunately, this goal is one of those well intentions, but too-hard-to-define goals that isn’t as easy as said done.  According to Cosmo, less than 8% actually follow through and achieve their New Year’s Resolutions! So many with this vague goal will fall off the wagon after the first several weeks. Why? They often jump into a crash diet that is unrealistic for maintaining for more than a short period of time or it is such a major life change for them it’s simply too much change at one time so they give up.  What can you do to prevent you from abandoning your New Year’s Resolution before January is even over? Make a plan to achieve those goals by setting smaller, SMART goals that will help you reach those broad goals you want to achieve. When you set one giant goal, it’s hard to know where to start and easy to lose your momentum. When establishing smaller, short term goals to reach along the way, you can see and track your progress, which can act as positive reinforcement for us that we are on the right path.

When setting a goal, we often begin with the end in mind, which makes perfect sense.  We know what we want… but how do we achieve it? A SMART goal describes the “how.” It is a statement that is structured and is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Here is an example.  Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to “be healthier.”  That’s definitely a great goal to have!  However, you are unlikely to adhere to that resolution unless you create several smaller goals that will act almost as a roadmap, telling you exactly how to be healthier.

·        Specific: What does “being healthier” actually mean to you? Maybe you want to eat more healthy foods. What foods are healthy? Alternatively, what foods are unhealthy that should perhaps be limited? You decide to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables.

·        Measurable: “Eating more fruits and vegetables” is a vague statement. How much is “more?” Think about how many you eat now. If you average one fruit and one vegetable each day, let’s go up from there.

·        Achievable: Your first instinct may be to buy one of every fruit and vegetable at the grocery store and plan to eat them all in three days, but this is likely not realistic. Think about it this way: the more goals you achieve, the more goals you set, and the more you find yourself moving toward conquering that overarching goal. What can you realistically achieve? Start by eating one extra fruit and vegetable.

·        Relevant: How important is this goal to you? The more invested you are, the more likely you are to follow through with the actions necessary to achieve the goal. Be honest with yourself and follow what interests you.

·        Time-bound: How often do you plan to eat extra servings of fruits and vegetables? Think about what is realistic. Perhaps five days a week (let’s skip the weekend for now) is doable.  Rather than thinking about your goal in terms of days, what about considering the meals themselves? Eat an extra fruit and vegetable every Monday – Friday for lunch. Choose whatever works for you.

We have now successfully re-framed a good, yet vague New Year’s resolution as a SMART goal. Instead of “being healthier,” we will actually start on the road to “being healthier” by eating one additional fruit and vegetable for lunch on weekdays. 

Now we know exactly what to do, how often, and can easily measure our success.  These measurable goals also allow us to better hold ourselves accountable.

Once you have accomplished your goal set of eating extra fruits and vegetables, choose a new goal to begin in addition to your first goal you just reached.  Maybe you want to increase the first goal into two extra fruit & veggies per day or extend the one extra piece from 5 days per week to 7 days per week.  Or perhaps you would like to drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, exercise regularly, meal prep, or want to get more sleep. Whatever you decide to pursue, make it a SMART goal. Once you have achieved that goal, add another, and so on.  Before you know it, all those small goals you have accomplished will yield BIG results.  And more importantly, turn into lifestyle behaviors that you can realistically maintain for your long term health and wellness.

Here’s to a great 2020 and happy goal-setting!