Make a SMART Resolution

Post by Paula Jahn, Registered dietitian and Co-owner at Nourish Northwest

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I used to be a New Year’s resolutions naysayer. I have witnessed too many friends and family members make grand proclamations about how this is the year they are going to lose that extra 20 pounds. Recent research indicates that over 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions and only 8 percent achieve them. Most people’s resolutions are broken and forgotten by Valentine’s Day.

I have softened my view on New Year’s resolutions. I think that the end of the year can be a great time to reflect and make changes. Use that momentum to make some positive changes in your health behaviors.

If you are making a health-related resolution for 2015, here are some suggestions for making New Year’s resolutions to improve your health not just for the coming year, but for years to come!

Suggested resolution: Eat more vegetables!
Suggested resolution: Eat more vegetables!


Make it SMART

As a dietitian, I often guide clients through the goal-setting process. I like to use the SMART model and put each goal through the test. Start simple and limit resolutions to one or two. I encourage making just one nutrition goal and one fitness goal to start. When those are incorporated into your lifestyle and feel effortless, layer on more goals.

Specific: State exactly what you want to accomplish. “I’m going to get fit in the new year,” or “I’m going to eat better,” are not as meaningful as “I am going to start walking 30 minutes per day, 4 times per week,” or “I am going to eat two extra servings of vegetables every day.”

Measurable: The goal needs to have parameters in order to know if it is being achieved. This is also important for tracking purposes. I always encourage my clients to tally if they have met a goal fully, partially or not at all. There is no way to do this if there is nothing objective to measure.

Attainable: The ideal goal should be challenging but also realistic. You must believe that it is something you can achieve in the set time frame.

Relevant: It may take some research or talking to an expert to determine if the steps you are taking to reach your goals are going to produce the result. For example, a person who wants to lose weight may make a goal to switch to a low fat diet, when that may not actually produce weight loss.

Time-based: All goals should be set in a time frame for completion. This can produce a motivating sense of urgency. It is best to treat a New Year’s resolution just like any other goal and break the steps into realistic time frames. The end of 2015 is a long way away; gradually increasing your fitness or improving your diet by setting goals grounded in a shorter time frame will set you up for success!

This is  a personal example of a SMART goal (or, maybe my first New Year’s Resolution ever). Back story: My husband and I both grew up eating dinner with the family most nights of the week, at a table, with conversation, and no screens. Until we got a dining room table recently, we were eating on the couches, phones usually perched on the armrest, frantically and messily shoving bites of food into our wandering toddler’s mouth. That is not the dinnertime scene I want our son to remember. So, here’s my SMART Resolution:

“We will make and eat dinner as a family, at the table, with no screens (specific), three times per week (measurable), for one month (time-based).”

This is a challenging and realistic goal that will steer my family in the direction I envision for family dinner. After one month, if all is going well, I can add a day of the week until dinnertime is a routine.


Give Yourself Somewhere to Go

Making lofty goals sets you up for failure and destroys self-confidence. It is important to make your resolution not only sustainable but something you can build on. That way, you are making small goals that you are reaching throughout the year that lead you to the overall goal.


Make it Action-Oriented vs. Results-Oriented

I still dislike weight loss resolutions. It sets the person up for failure and disappointment from the beginning. It is a goal that has no obvious action attached to it. I prefer goals that change health behaviors. Eating less process food, reducing sugar intake, and exercising more are all actionable behaviors that will improve health (and most likely produce weight loss).

What is your SMART Resolution?


Have a wonderful beginning to 2015 and Happy New Year!


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