Give your health and wellness goals a makeover for the New Year
Do you set the same tired health and wellness goals every year? Are these goals to lose weight and get in shape? Staying fit and healthy and losing weight were the top two New Year’s resolutions in the U.S. for 2016, according to Nielsen. But maybe you wonder why your motivation usually fizzles out around the third week of January and you never end up reaching those goals.
According to a leading authority on behavioral change and New Year’s resolutions, John C. Norcross, author of “Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions,” the way you create and write your goals makes a big difference in whether you’ll succeed in reaching them. As a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton and a board-certified clinical psychologist, Norcross has been studying and researching resolutions for over 30 years, and he advises using the SMART acronym (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-specific) for setting goals you can actually achieve.
Build specific goals
If your health and wellness goals are just to lose weight or get fit, you have nothing specific to attain and no exact sign of whether you’ve reached the goal.
Instead, make your goal much more detailed and precise, such as “I want to lose 15 pounds by March 1st” or “I want to complete an entire couch-to-5K 12-week training to run a 5K in March.” Norcross also advises phrasing your goal with positive language, using “I will” instead of “I won’t.”
Make your goals measurable
By stating the amount of pounds you want lose or adopting a specific training goal like running a 5K, you can measure your progress toward the goal and know when you’ve reached it. To make your weight loss goals measurable, figure out how many calories you need to maintain your current weight and your current (or new higher) activity level by using a calorie calculator tool (like this one, from the Mayo Clinic) and, says the CDC, make a sub-goal to eat 500 to 1000 fewer calories per day in order to lose about one to two pounds per week until you reach your ultimate weight-loss goal.
Is your goal attainable?
If you set wildly unrealistic goals, you’ll have more trouble reaching them and a greater chance of failing, according to Norcross. He considers an unattainable goal the same as an impossible dream. For example, a goal of losing 30 pounds by March 1st is unrealistic, because it doesn’t jive with the science of permanent weight loss, which points to one to two pounds per week as a healthy, realistic pace while losing weight. Unrealistic goals can also make you feel worse about yourself when you fail to reach them again and again. Keeping goals realistic means you can actually attain them.
Create relevant goals
Goals have to be highly meaningful to you and the person you want to become in order for you to push yourself to achieve them, writes Norcross. If you really don’t want to lose any weight or hate running, goals involving weight loss or staying fit will likely go unrealized. You have to have a strong reason for reaching your goal, and the goal has to be relevant to your life.
Set goals that are time-specific
When setting specific goals, you always want to add a time element to keep you focused and accountable. A time frame gives you another measure for tracking your progress while also keeping the goal practical and doable. Take time to assess every 90 days or so; if you find you’ve reached your health and wellness goals, you can build on them or set new goals.
Once you’ve come up with a smarter, more achievable goal, Norcross suggests writing down some sub-goals, which are smaller positive actions you can take every day to reach the larger goal. So, if you want to lose 15 pounds by March 1st, some sub-goals might be:
- Try three new whole-food, plant-based recipes every week
- Walk at least one mile per day with the dog
- Eat only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Eat one large salad with lots of vegetables every day
Setting SMART goals will help ensure you reach your health and wellness goals in the new year.
Related link: Reid Health Weight Management Resources
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