Setting SMART New Year’s Resolutions

As a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator I have seen many individuals over the years set themselves up for failure with big health goals  (New Year’s resolutions) which they can’t achieve.  The result usually plays itself out by the first weeks of February when they can no longer keep up, or don’t see progress being made, and end up abandoning the whole “self-improvement” concept. The unfortunate consequence of this type of unrealistic goal setting is that people inevitably end up feeling worse about themselves in the process.

So what is the right approach?  Well there are many opinions on this subject but here are a few tips that may help you achieve success this year.

Setting “SMART” goals, that is setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound is an effective approach used in the business world for setting project objectives. A new term emerged recently that accompanies SMART in the goal setting process –  “DUMB” (doable, understandable, manageable & beneficial).

Let’s walk through how SMART & DUMB can help with your New Year’s resolution goal setting.

If you are setting a goal to lose weight consider how to construct your goals to achieve success. Here are 2 typical examples of goals I have seen people set in hopes of improving their health.

  • Lose weight
  • Get more exercise

These goals are too vague making success difficult to measure – and guess what, folks that set goals like these tend to fail.

If you have a resolution to lose 30 pounds and have not managed to get the scale to budge by the end of January you may give up.  If you take steps that are known to lead to successful weight loss and weight management, such as eating well and getting more exercise and set goals around these you increase our chances for success.

How to use DUMB & SMART

Use DUMB to start

Evaluate if the 30 pound goal is “doable, understandable, manageable and beneficial”. Clearly the answer to this varies person to person but if after losing 30 pounds you would end up at what is considered a healthy weight this may be an appropriate goal for YOU.

After you determine if it is doable you need to make sure it is understandable and manageable. Certainly we understand what it means to lose 30 pounds and it can be manageable using the proper tools and taking steps toward positive behavioral change.

Finally, there is no doubt that weight loss is beneficial. Losing weight improves blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and eases stress on joints and the heart. Seems like this resolution would meet the DUMB criteria.

Now use SMART goal setting to help achieve your DUMB objective

Setting specific goals to reach your DUMB objective will help you stay on track, allowing you to measure success in a concrete way and move you closer to your objective over time.

To be successful we all need to be accountable which means our goals need to be SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, relevant (they will help us reach our objective) and time-bound (they must be done in a specific time frame).

Start by identifying issues you think would help you reach your objective and set initial goals. For example:

  1. No bad food allowed in the house
  2. Eat healthier dinners
  3. Eat healthy snacks
  4. Walk for exercise
  5. Join a gym

These goals are more specific than “lose weight and get more exercise” but they still do not meet all the SMART criteria. By making some further adjustments you can make these goals SMART.

Here is an example of the previous goals written in SMART format:

  1. Throw away (if already opened) or donate all foods in the house that contain high amounts of simple sugars, syrups, refined flour, saturated fats or trans fats (throw away items that have these ingredients listed as the first items on the ingredient list of the food label).
  2. Eat three home cooked meals every week.
  3. Bring veggies to work for snacks (to replace vending machine snacks) every work day
  4. Walk a total of 150 minutes each week
  5. Go to health club to lift weights 3 times a week

Hopefully these tips will help you write New Year’s resolutions you can actually keep.

Wishing you a happy healthy new year!
Cindy Farricker, MS,RD, CDE