By: Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD LDN CPT
“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?” Robert Burns set these poetic words to tune in 1755, and they still ring strong today. The New Year prompts us to take a closer look at our lives and often times our habits. What if we considered our unhealthy habits as old acquaintances, never to be forgotten but to be learned from? New Year’s resolutions can come and go, but by taking sensible steps to declare S.M.A.R.T. goals you can make resolutions that you will want to keep.
Change is composed of several small steps and begins with one small step in a different direction than how we are currently acting. Goals are these smaller steps, and it is important for goals to be S.M.A.R.T, or specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely. Take note of how the following common health and wellness New Year’s resolutions are transformed by these principals.
• Exercise more.
Be SPECIFIC- I will walk briskly outside or on a treadmill for 10 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
This new goal helps to identify what, when, where, and how, while leaving little room for interpretation, and excuses.
• Lose weight.
Make it MEASUREABLE- I will lose 1lb every week by making water my primary beverage and limiting Caloric beverages to one serving one time per month.
Measureable goals are easier to track and thus mark your progress as time goes on, because the long-term goal is progress not perfection.
• Quit smoking.
Make it ATTAINABLE- I will call my friend, ___, when I have the urge to smoke a cigarette, and limit myself to ___ cigarette(s) per day with the desire to quit smoking by February 1, 2011.
Many people are able to quit smoking “cold turkey,” but many more need assistance in the process. Since addictive substances often are a way to cope with a stressful situation, a more positive coping mechanism is necessary, in order to make this goal attainable. Genuine relationships are an important part of a healthy lifestyle and provide the social support that is key to making resolutions a success.
• Stop eating fried foods.
Be REALISTIC- I will choose fried foods sparingly by limiting them to one serving one time per week.
Fried foods can add a lot of unnecessary Calories and fat to our meal plans. We can usually enjoy the same food baked, broiled or grilled with less of an energy burden. It is not realistic to say that one will never eat fried foods ever again, because most foods can be enjoyed in moderation. In order to make this goal realistic we can allow ourselves one serving of fried foods (IE: 1 small fry, 1 piece of fried chicken or fish), one time per week, month, every 2 months, etc. The time period will vary based on how much we are consuming when we start.
• Learn something new.
Be TIMELY- I will learn how to cook a new food every week for 10 weeks.
When we are choosing our New Year’s resolutions it is important to provide a time-frame so, that we can assess our progress later. This resolution goal was also not very specific; remember being specific helps us to focus our efforts and thus create better results.
The S.M.A.R.T. framework can be very helpful in pursuing all life changes and is not limited to New Year’s resolutions. If you have additional questions about behavior changes related to nutrition and wellness, seek out a registered dietitian near you!