It’s 2:00 a.m. in the morning. The house is dark, quiet and the only sound you hear is the crunch ringing in your ears as you down a bag of potato chips whilst standing in front of your pantry. They are the Kettle kind, which is better for you, right? Or at least that’s what you tell yourself. You keep munching as a wave of guilt washes over you because you didn’t even make it to the end of January ditching carbs for good!
You may be thinking that it’s a lack of willpower or discipline that led you to the bottom of that chip bag. Having been there myself, I can assure you it’s not. Often times we fail at implementing healthy habits because we set unrealistic goals, or attempt to change too many behaviors at one time.
A proven method for implementing behavior change that sticks is the SMART goal method. A SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Let’s use the previous example of eliminating carbohydrates from the diet and transform it into a SMART goal.
Eliminating all carbohydrates from the diet is not a sustainable eating behavior. However, consuming more nutrient-dense and fiber-rich carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, while limiting processed refined carbohydrates would be a beneficial behavior that improves overall health. This is “specific” because it defines which carbohydrates are beneficial to consume regularly, and which carbohydrates should be consumed less frequently.
A vital part of implementing a healthy habit is setting a goal that is trackable. A trackable goal allows you to identify barriers that may be halting your progress. For example, telling yourself you will never touch a carbohydrate again doesn’t provide trackable data. However, determining you will consume 3-4 cups of fruits and vegetables and 1-2 cups of whole grains per day is measurable.
When setting a goal one of the most important questions to ask yourself is; “Is this something I am able to reasonably accomplish?” When reading the goal above, did you get an immense feeling of overwhelm? If you did, break up your goal into smaller goals. One way to accomplish this would be to start by adding 1/2 cup of vegetables to your breakfast meal daily for 2 weeks. Once you have successfully reached this goal, you can then set a new one that gets you closer to your big picture goal.
This may be one of the most important steps when developing a SMART goal. Be honest with yourself; Why are you implementing this goal? How will implementing this healthy habit benefit you? Without determining the why behind your goal, you may find yourself abandoning it as quick as you downed that bag of chips.
The last step is determining when you would like to accomplish your big picture goal. This keeps you on track and allows you to re-evaluate and set new goals as needed until you are successful.
Now that you have the foundation to build your own SMART goal, you may find yourself in the pantry less and instead enjoying a single serving of kettle chips alongside a turkey and vegetable sandwich, guilt-free!
Ready to create your own SMART goals? Download and complete the SMART goal worksheet. You are one step closer to implementing that new healthy habit you thought about all last year.
If you need additional support with setting nutrition or fitness goals, contact Protea Medical Center at (480) 557-9095 to book a 15-minute consultation with one of our experienced nutritionist.