Implementing SMART Goals

Reece Dawson
June 23, 2021
SMART goals

What motivated you to begin the process of preparing and following through with bariatric surgery? Maybe you were looking to regain mobility, stop taking some medications, or just feel more comfortable in your body. Whatever your motivation was, your journey began with a goal. If you're just beginning on this journey or considering bariatric surgery, maybe you have a goal as well.

Our goals give us something to work towards and provide a sense of accomplishment when they are achieved. When considering surgery with the MUSC Bariatric Surgery Program, patients meet with a registered dietitian in the program to develop baseline goals to create healthy habits in order to optimize long-term success. You may have already had this meeting, set these goals, and crushed them. Or maybe you made these goals but are now struggling to achieve them. Or maybe you are just considering surgery and want to begin planning some goals for yourself now.

Wherever you may be in your journey, we want to give you the tools you need to set realistic goals for yourself.

When beginning to set goals for yourself, it is best to think of SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely:


When making a grocery list, do you write "dinner" as something you need to purchase or do you write the ingredients to dinner such as chicken, green beans, and squash? If you only write "dinner" on your grocery list, how will you know what items are included in dinner? Similarly, we don' want to set vague goals for ourselves that have no specific activity to be completed.


Measures ensure that we will know when we have reached our goals. A measure may be a length of time or a time frame given to certain activities or food habits. For example, if I wanted to start a walking regimen, it would be appropriate to set a goal of walking 30 min 4 times weekly. The time limit to this activity is measurable thus making it more realistic.


Attainable goals are smaller goals that build upon one another to help achieve a larger goal. If your larger goal is to walk a 5k (3.1 miles), you would want to set smaller, more attainable goals to help you reach that distance, such as starting with walking one mile daily.


Unrealistic goals are a pathway to disappointment because they are not reasonable to be completed. For example, it might be unrealistic for you expect to be able to completely remove soda from your diet when you have been drinking 3-4 cans of soda a day for the past year. However, it would be realistic to set a goal of limiting yourself to one soda a day for 2 weeks. This realistic goal would allow you to move closer and closer to your larger goal of cutting sodas from your diet all together.


SMART goals will have a time limit associated with their success. Timeliness can contribute to realistic goals. For example, an untimely goal would be to only eat one cookie. Is this goal for one cookie per day? Per week? There is no way to know unless a timeframe is specified. Placing a timeframe on goals increases the achievability of a goal, because it provides a foreseeable end to the goal.

SMART goals can be beneficial to set at any point in your journey with bariatric surgery or weight loss. Whether you had surgery years ago or are considering it now, your goals are important motivators for the lifestyle and diet changes that accompany bariatric surgery.

About the Author

Reece Dawson
Reece is a senior at the University of Alabama where she will graduate with a BS in Food and Nutrition in May 2022. She looks forward to one day using her experiences and education to improve the health of her patients.
MUSC Bariatric Surgery Program

Keywords: Bariatric, Diet, Nutrition, Weight Loss