Health Trends

Resolution: How to Effectively Set Goals for the Next Year

A health major explains a method to better set goals.

Sometimes these puns come easy, such as talking about new year’s resolutions, and listening to “Resolution” by Emigrate.  Almost like it was meant to be.

Anyway, according to Statistics Brain, the top resolution for 2015 was weight loss oriented.  However, only 8% are successful in attaining the resolution, and 24% never succeed and fail their goals.  Why is this?  I think a lot of people simply do not know how to set goals.  “I resolve to lose weight, what is this Nutrition Punk talking about?  I just made a goal, this asshole does not know what he is talking about,” some might be thinking upon reading my statement.  But that is not an effective goal.  To set an effective one, you need to be SMART.  Fortunately for you, getting smart does not require several thousand dollars being spent on a degree.  SMART is simply an acronym for setting an effective goal.

Specific: This essentially means that your goal has direction.  “Eating healthy” is not specific, since there is no real direction set.  How do you plan on eating healthy?  If you can ask that question, then the answer is the specific part.  “Losing weight” is more specific, since it does have direction to it.

Measurable:  This is how you track progress.  For the goal of “losing weight,” this is easy to measure by using a bathroom scale.  “Eating healthy” can be modified to “Increasing produce consumption,” which is measurable by a number of cups consumed.

Action-Oriented:  This is how your goal “moves.”  The question to ask here is “am I doing anything to make a change?”  If the goal is to lose weight, then how are you?  This can be increasing exercise by going to the gym, or reducing Calories consumed.  This is the part of the goal that should require a change in some way.

Realistic:  Goals should actually be attainable, and not some “pipe dream.”  Continuing with the weight loss theme, the goal should be done in a healthy manner, so the goal of losing “10 pounds a day” is not realistic, since that requires a great deal of metabolic changes that would result in negative health effects.

Time-Oriented:  Good goals have an “end point.”  This gives a chance to evaluate and make changes as needed.  That way, if something is not working, you can change it to make it work.  Usually smaller goals set leading to a larger goal is ideal.

So, why don’t I make an example resolution following the SMART method.  Were I to attempt to lose weight (despite the fact I am fucking skinny), my goal look like this: “I resolve to lose two pounds a week by reducing the amount of junk food I eat until the end of February, then I will evaluate to see if I met my goal.”  It is specific because I have direction for losing weight, measurable because I can use a scale to see my weight change, action-oriented because I am purposely changing my diet to be healthier, realistic because this is a satisfactory amount of weight to lose in a healthy way, and has an end-point to see the effectiveness of the goal setting.

Hopefully this helps out some of you!  Feel free to share what your resolutions in the comments if you feel like it!

By The Nutrition Punk

I am a dietitian living in Portland, Oregon. I write about a variety of nutrition and heath topics, with the goal of improving people's understanding of food and nutrition so they may be empowered against all the misinformation that is out there.

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