Ask Transylvania Cooperative Extension: New Years Resolutions

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Ask Transylvania Cooperative Extension

Question: Do you have any tips for something I can change to help me lose weight this year? It needs to be something that I can easily put in my day to day routine/ Every year I set a new year’s resolution and it goes really well for a few weeks and then I go back to doing what I did before. I would like to hear what a Dietitian has to say. 

Answer: I would wager that many individuals share your struggle. I have plenty of tips that can help achieve weight loss, but perhaps the most helpful tip of all is to know how to set a SMART goal. Instead of offering general advice, a SMART goal is individualized and fits into your routine, primarily because you must set it yourself. You might have heard of goal setting before. Just saying “goal setting” may even make you want to stop reading,  but as a nutritional counselor I find that many individuals fail in their attempts to lose weight because they do not know how to properly set a goal.

Each letter in a SMART goal represents different criteria. 

S- Specific: Goals should identify an action or event that will take place. Many people have a goal to lose weight, but they do not specify WHAT they are going to do to achieve this. For example, riding a bike, walking on the treadmill, and gardening are all actions that one can incorporate into a goal. Saying one will lose weight is not setting a goal, not even if a number is attached to that statement. We cannot make the scale move., but there are other things we can control. 

M- Measurable: The goal should be something that can be quantified. For example, if the specific goal you set to lose weight is bike riding, plan to ride a bike for 15 minutes a day to add a time frame to  your action-oriented goal. Saying that  you will lose 5 pounds by Christmas is quantifiable, but again the weight loss is the by-product of something physically done to make this happen. 

A- Achievable: Goals should be attainable and able to be accomplished within a person’s established routine. The statement “start small” may ring a bell. That ideology fits into a SMART goal because small changes can lead to permanent weight loss overtime. Large changes that happen over a short period of time may not be permanent and may even cause weight gain over time. Fad diets, which may encourage drastic changes in what a person eats, may even lead to weight gain over time. To make a goal achievable, consider how a new activity will fit into your own routine. For example, if you would like to take a walk daily, consider walking at a time that fits into your existing schedule. Maybe you check the mail everyday after work or walk the dog for 5 minutes.? Consider adding 10-20 minutes of walking onto one of these already existing activities, which will help increase calorie expenditure.

T- Timely: The goal should state a time period in which it can be completed. This goes along with what is achievable. Scheduling a time for this new action or event should coincide with your already established routine. But that time frame ideally should be written down, stated, or simply considered as part of the goal. For example, I am going to walk 15 minutes everyday after dinner. 

R- Realistic: The goal should actually be achievable.. I would not advise picking a goal that decreases the likelihood of success. For example, I personally would not take up kick boxing daily for an hour in 2024. Kick boxing is fun, sure, but that just is not feasible for someone like me who is a mom of 2 little boys. Find a goal that is realistic and fits into your schedule. 

See some SMART goal options below: 

  1. Fill half my plate with non-starchy vegetables at dinner time nightly
  2. Limit drinking soda or sweet tea to two servings per week
  3. Run on the track for 30 minutes 3 days per week
  4. Eat breakfast daily served with protein and some carbohydrates.
  5. Decrease my dessert intake to 1 serving per day, 1 cookie, 1 piece of chocolate, 1 3 oz brownie, ect. 

Once you have set a SMART goal, plan your rewards. I recommend picking rewards that are not food related if weight loss is the overarching theme. Pick rewards like movie night, new clothes, a new book, or maybe a spa visit. Pick rewards that will motivate you to continue your goal rather than stray away from success. Happy goal setting, and Happy New Year!