January is prime time for people to examine the year that just passed and think about what they want differently in the upcoming year. This can be inspiring and productive, or it can be a chance to set yourself up for failure. Many folks set goals based on weight rather than health, and this can be a mistake. Weight is often not something we have direct control over. If it were, we would all be our ‘ideal’ weights, and your bariatric surgery team would be out of work!
This year, rather than focus on weight, focus your goal setting on something you can control, which is your BEHAVIOR! When you work to improve behavior, you can improve your health and therefore improve your weight (if that is your end goal).
To set goals you can actually meet, consider making SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-Bound).
SPECIFIC: Instead of setting broad goals like “I need to lose weight” or “I really should exercise”, focus in on the behavior that you need to work on, like “I want to improve my health by eating 2 servings of veggies everyday”
MEASURABLE: If you can’t measure it, it will be difficult to manage. If your goal is to eat more veggies, try “I will eat 1 serving of veggies at both lunch and dinner. I will record my intake on an app on my phone” (apps make measurement easy!)
ACTION ORIENTED: Action is the key to success! Just thinking about it doesn’t make it happen. How will you accomplish eating 2 servings of veggies every day in YOUR life? You may need to look up recipes for ideas, write them down on a grocery list, chop them up the day they come home from the store, and put them into individual baggies so they are accessible. Develop an action plan!
REALISTIC: Lifestyle changes mean that you take a specific behavior and move one step healthier from where you are, PERMANENTLY. So, if this 2 veggies per day thing is to become permanent, you need to be sure it can happen within the context of your life. If you haven’t eaten veggies in years, 2 per day may be overshooting, so try for 2 per week first and when that’s automatic, bump it up!
TIME-BOUND: How long are you going to spend your energy focusing on this specific goal? Keep in mind that once you accomplish one SMART goal, you set another, and another! This is the process of improving health and making changes stick! Work on your initial goal for a definite time-period, and then reassess. Make the effort to eat 2 veggies per day for 4 weeks, reevaluate and repeat!
About the Author
Nina Crowley Ph.D. RDN
Nina Crowley is the Program Coordinator for the MUSC Health Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program. She started with the program in 2007 as a dietitian, and she was promoted to program coordinator in 2016. She is also nationally recognized for her work in the field of bariatrics and weight management.
MUSC Health Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program