Chew on This

SMART New Year’s goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely

New Year’s Eve is champagne and kisses. Jan. 1 is better health wishes.

Sheah Rarback.jpg
Sheah Rarback

Half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The top three resolutions are eating healthier, getting more exercise and saving more money. The literature says only about 8 percent of people achieve their goals and I know why. These are not good goals. How do you measure eating healthier? When do you know when you are getting enough exercise? Developing and wording a resolution correctly can be as important as making it.

The goal-making technique I recommend is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals.

I want to eat healthier — not SMART. I will eat a green vegetable five days a week — SMART. This goal is specific, measurable and has a time frame.

It is easy to identify success with SMART goals. I will drink more water this year — not SMART. I will drink 36 ounces of water while at work — SMART.

Another resolution I frequently hear is “I want to lose 10 pounds in the next six months.” This is not a realistic goal since no one can control how much weight they lose in a specific time period. Is losing 8 pounds a failure? Focus on health promoting behaviors that are completely in your control.

Another technique for success is having immediate vs. long-term rewards with goals. Eating green vegetables because you think they improve health is a long-term reward and less likely to find success. Find a few vegetables or preparation styles that taste delicious and eat them five days a week for an immediate reward. Good taste will bring you back. Our brains are wired to repeat behaviors that provide immediate reward.

The other resolutions Americans make for New Year’s are get more sleep, read more, make new friends and learn a new skill or hobby. All are terrific and all can be made SMART.

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.
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