Setting Achievable New Year's Resolutions

By Kary Woodruff

We're one month into 2014, and like many of you, I have been trying to come up with a few goals in hopes of achieving a more healthful lifestyle. As I started thinking about what I could do this year, I thought back to the goals I had set in previous years and realized there were many of them I hadn’t completed. While I easily could have chosen one of my previous goals to work towards this year, I began to wonder – what prevented me from achieving these goals in the past? I soon recognized a common theme among the goals I had yet to accomplish, they were all vague. 

Unfortunately, many people fail to achieve their goals simply because the goals are not well defined. For example, a vague goal might include ‘eating better’ or ‘losing weight’. But, what does that mean? What does eating better look like? How much weight do you want to lose? Let’s look at some key elements of a well-defined goal. 

Specific: The goal identifies a specific action or event that will take place
Measurable: The description of the goal will allow you to track your progress toward completion
Attainable: The goal should be achievable given available resources
Realistic: The goal should be challenging, but allow for success based on your skills and time available
Timely: The goal should state the specific time period in which it will be accomplished

*Use the SMART acronym to help you remember the key elements of creating well-defined goals.

Since nutrition is my area of expertise, let’s practice using the SMART acronym by turning vague nutrition-related goals into well-defined goals.  Below each goal, I will provide ideas of how to achieve them.

Eat one fruit and vegetable with every meal for 1 month
 - Keep chopped up fruits and vegetables in the fridge
 - Add vegetables to sandwiches/pizza/eggs
 - Choose hummus and vegetables or an apple and nut butter as a snack vs. chips and dip
 - Add spinach to your fruit smoothies

Limit eating out to 2 times per week for 3 months
 - Make a meal plan for each week and prepare the meals ahead of time
 - Keep food at your workplace just in case you forget to bring lunch or snacks

Eat one fruit and vegetable with every meal for 1 month (same as that listed for #1)
 - Include a protein and carbohydrate source in every snack for 3 months
 - Snack ideas: String cheese with whole grain crackers; Piece of fruit (e.g. banana, apple) with nut butter; Low-fat yogurt with berries

Eat meals and snacks away from distractions (i.e. TV, computer) for 1 month
 - At home, sit down and eat your food at the dinner table
 - At work, eat away from your desk or office (e.g. cafeteria or other designated eating space)

A few other things to keep in mind when trying to achieve your New Year’s resolutions are to take it slow and be prepared for lapses. Only attempt to achieve 1-2 goals at a time. Once the behavior has become a habit, try adding a few more goals to your list. 

Remember: the overall goal is to make permanent changes which will take time to implement. Also, falling back to old behaviors is a normal part of the process and is not a reason to get discouraged.  Every day is a new day and with it comes a chance to start over.