Setting your nutrition and physical activity goal

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) goals can lead to behavior change in your life such as losing weight.

Like many Americans, is your goal to lose weight? Research shows that focusing on both diet and physical activity goals can be more effective than only working on weight loss. Evidence also shows that when people assess their actual behavior and select specific personal goals for fruits and vegetables, fat consumption or physical activity; they will have a higher likelihood of achieving their goals. This can be done through the following steps.

First, recognize a need for change. When you set a New Year’s resolution or make a goal to lose weight, you have recognized a need for change. Perhaps you have had an external source let you know of that need, such as feedback from a visit to the doctor. 

Second, establish a goal. An effective goal is one that will describe standards such as the S.M.A.R.T. acronym described by Paul Meyer:

  • Specific: The goal should identify a specific action or event that will take place.
  • Measurable: The goal and its benefits should be something you can quantify.  
  • Achievable: The goal should be attainable given available resources.
  • Timely: The goal should state the time period in which it will be accomplished.
  • Realistic: The goal should require you to stretch some, but allow the likelihood of success.

Examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals may include:

  • I will eat two cups of fruits and vegetables with lunch and dinner five out of seven days for the next week.
  • I will engage in physical activity by walking the recommended time of 150 minutes per week for the next four weeks.

Third, adopt a goal-directed activity. Ask what steps are needed to reach the goal. Identify and write down strategies that will help to overcome a known barrier, such as environment (work, home, neighborhood), social support (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, community) and resources (financial, spiritual, physical).

Fourth, share your goal with someone else. This simple act will help to make it more real and livable. That person you share with may even hold you accountable by checking in on the status of your goal every so often. 

The fifth and final is to self-reward. Examples of rewards might include a manicure, pedicure, spa visit, new golf clubs, fishing gear, a vacation, new clothes or purse, a night out, a new book, a new gadget, a day off, or any other nonfood rewards that will motivate you to continue your goal or set another one!

To sign up for an Eating Right is Basic or I Know MI Numbers class to learn more about goal setting to change your life, contact your local MSU Extension Office.

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