|Christine Pellegrini, Post-Doctoral Research Associate|
If you are looking to lose weight, your goals should focus on changing your physical activity and eating behaviors, rather than aiming for a specific body weight. Many different factors can influence your body weight in the short term, such as fluid, salt, or humidity, which can be deceiving and discouraging. Furthermore, body weight is the outcome, not the behavior. In order to get to an outcome, you need to change the behavior. Therefore, aim to set behavior-related goals that will help you adopt healthier eating habits and increase your physical activity. The weight loss will be the indirect result of your new healthy behaviors.
When you are setting goals, try to focus primarily on short-term goals (<6 months). Keeping the end in sight will help you stay more focused on the goal the entire time. If you want to set a long-term goal, be sure to combine it with some short-term goals that will help you work up to reaching the long-term goal. In addition, follow the SMART Goal guidelines listed below:
- Specific - Set a goal that is specific and focused on a behavior. Example: I will walk 100 minutes this week or I will eat 3 servings of fruit and vegetables 5 out of 7 days/week.
- Measurable - Be sure that you can measure your behavior to see if you've accomplished your goal. You should be able to answer the questions: How much? How often? Did I reach my goal?
- Attainable - Choose a goal that is challenging, but also realistic. Set yourself up for success and don't aim for perfection. Be sure the goal is doable!
- Reward - Plan a reward (for if and only if you reach your goal!). Avoid setting food-related rewards and instead find a different type of treat, such as a manicure, new magazine, or a relaxing bath.
- Timely - Having a designated time frame for accomplishing your goal allows you to track your progress as well as modify your goal if you were unable to reach it the first time.
|Non-SMART Goal||SMART Goal|
|I will exercise more||I will walk 3 days/week for 20 minutes|
|I will never eat pizza again||I will limit my pizza intake to 1-2 slice(s) every 2 weeks|
|I will watch less TV at night||I will limit my TV time to 1 hour on 5 nights/week|
|I will watch what I eat||I will track the total number of calories that I eat at least 6 days/week|
|I will eat less junk food||I will only have 1 snack-size bag of potato chips on Tuesdays and Thursdays|
Now it's your turn! Set a goal for both physical activity and an eating behavior to work on over the next month. Don't forget to follow the SMART Goal guidelines!
My Physical Activity SMART Goal: ______________________________________
My Eating Behaviors SMART Goal: ______________________________________
Nothwehr, F., & Yang, J. (Aug. 2007). Goal setting frequency and the use of behavioral strategies related to diet and physical activity. Health Educ Res., 22(4), 532-538.
Shilts, M. K., Horowitz, M., & Townsend, M. S. (Nov-Dec 2004). Goal setting as a strategy for dietary and physical activity behavior change: A review of the literature. Am J Health Promot., 19(2), 81-93.
For more information, questions on weight management, or to provide feedback, please contact Christine Pellegrini at firstname.lastname@example.org.