2012: What’s Your Resolution?
“Learning to set realistic goals and focus on small successes will spur you on: One success breads another.”
By: Kim Mueller, MS, RD, CSSD
When it comes to setting nutrition and fitness goals, keep the process simple by choosing one nutrition or fitness downfall that you are willing to work on and change for the better. Focusing on one goal at a time allows a new behavior to grow into an established habit that will help lead you on the road to optimal health and peak physical performance. The following guidelines will help you develop your personal fitness and nutrition goals:
1. Devise a behavioral goal: specific, concrete, and measureable.
Make sure that you have direct control over this goal and that you or others can actually observe your progress to ensure that you succeed. Rather than resolve, “I am going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to get in shape,” try “I’m going to switch from sugar-coated to a tasty high-fiber cereal with fruit” or “I’m going to walk on my lunch hour 3 times per week.” It helps, too, to focus on short-term goals. Rather than saying, “I’ll be thin for summer,” think about what you can do “just for now” to start moving yourself in that direction, such as having fruit and low fat Greek yogurt at coffee break rather than a Danish.
2. Base your goals on where you are now, not on some unrealistic standard.
Choose a goal with a high probability of success (85% or better chance of succeeding). If you truly don’t believe this to be the case, choose a more reasonable, realistic goal. In other words, take baby steps or break down the goal into smaller pieces. For instance, if you have been eating sweets 3 times a day, it is more realistic to cut back to once a day or 3 times a week than to replace all the sweets in your diet with fruit. Similarly, if you want to change your long-standing habit of skipping breakfast, it may help to start out having a small bowl of cereal rather than planning a hot meal that includes all of the food groups.
3. Don’t set “never” or “always” goals.
State what you will do—not what you will avoid or not do. It must be a goal of action rather than inaction. Otherwise, you will find that the newly formed habit lasts only a short time rather than being a lifestyle change. So, instead of swearing off chocolate forever, make your goal to eat it only in controlled situations, as in a restaurant where portions are predetermined or when you can split a dessert with a friend.
4. Be ready to change your goals, but be patient.
If you keep failing to meet a goal, perhaps you need to scale it down. If having dessert only 3 times per week doesn’t work for you, try having something each night, but watch the portion size and try to find lower calorie alternatives. Also, you may choose to work on some of your goals for more than one week—until you find you’ve got them down pat. Note that it generally takes a good 6-12 weeks of consistent practice with a new health-oriented behavior for it to become more of a lifestyle habit so don’t fret if things don’t happen overnight.
5. Give yourself praise for any and all accomplishments, be they large or small.
Since dieters so often focus on their shortcomings, it’s important to go back through your day and mentally note all the things you did “right”. They may be relatively big steps, such as packaging your lunch instead of giving in to the temptations of cafeteria at work. Or you may list small accomplishments, such as using skim milk instead of 2% on your cereal.
- Eat vegetables two times a day for X days this week.
- Incorporate 1 more day of cardio each week by attending spin class on Wednesday mornings.
- Take fruit to work for my afternoon snack at least X days this week.
- Preplan my dinner meal at least X days this week.
- Practice slowing down my pace of eating by making dinner meals last at least 20-30 minutes for X days this week.
- Substitute flavored bottled water for soda X time(s) a day or X days a week.
- Include a protein-rich food (beans, lean red meat, chicken, fish, tofu/soy food, yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.) at every meal for X days this week.
- Drink/eat a carbohydrate-rich beverage/food (bagel, cup of yogurt, fruit smoothie, energy bar, etc.) within 30 minutes of finishing exercise at least X times this week.
- Carry with me and drink at least 4 ounces (four gulps) of a sports drink every 15-20 minutes during my exercise sessions lasting longer than an hour.
Information adapted from Susan Girard Eberle, MS, RD article on “Healthy Habit Forming” and the book “Thin for Life” by Anne M. Fletcher, MS, RD.
Whatever you goal may be for 2012, whether it be body fat loss, sports enhancement, and/or disease prevention, Kim Mueller, a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, can help create a customized menu plan and provide the nutrition coaching you need to help conquer your fitness goals this New Year. Contact her at kim@Fuel-Factor.com or 858-337-3612 to schedule a complimentary initial 30-minute coaching session. For more information on her company, Fuel Factor, and the services she offers, please visit www.Fuel-Factor.com . Gift certificates are available and make a perfect holiday gift for the fitness buff on your list.