In a previous blog we discussed avoiding the all or nothing approach and setting goals that set you up for success rather than failure. We may think of a goal as setting the highest expectations for ourselves and working hard to achieve that. This might not be the best approach and could lead to feeling defeated and unmotivated if we aren’t making progress. In fact, there is a specific strategy to goal setting that should in theory, yield the best results. This type of goal is called a SMART goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Time-bound.
Specific: How will you reach this goal and what will you do? Use action words or phrases, include type and amount
Measurable: The goal should be easily measured using a number, percent or a standard unit for tracking progress
Achievable/Attainable: The goal should be attainable for your lifestyle, resources and barriers
Realistic/Relevant: The goal should not be so unrealistic that you are left feeling defeated if you are not able to live up to unachievable standards. The goal should also be relevant, meaning the targeted behavior change should result in your desired outcome.
Time-bound: The goal should have a clear start and end date
Here is an example:
Let’s say your overarching goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables.
While that is a great goal, there isn’t a way to measure your progress or keep you accountable.
Let's make this goal a SMART goal!
Specific: I will eat vegetables with dinner and fruit with breakfast.
Measurable: I will eat 1 serving of vegetables at dinner and 1 serving of fruit with breakfast
Achievable/Attainable: I will purchase some frozen/canned fruits and vegetables to stay within my budget and make sure I do not waste food.
Realistic/Relevant: As an initial goal I will add 1 serving of vegetables and 1 serving of fruit as I currently do not eat any fruits or vegetables, and this is a good place to start even though eventually I would like to eat more.
Time-bound: I will add a serving of vegetables to my dinner tonight and 1 serving of fruit to my breakfast tomorrow morning and continue with this goal for 1 week until my next appointment with a registered dietitian.
A SMART goal can be reconfigured based on outcomes. It is best to start with the most attainable goal and build up to something more challenging once you are making progress.
If you’d like help setting and reaching your nutrition or lifestyle goals, consider speaking with a registered dietitian.