Setting Health Goals and Sticking to Them

setting health goals

The New Year is just getting started, which means it’s time for everyone to set lofty self-improvement goals for themselves. Honestly ask yourself, how many times have you actually seen one of your New Year’s resolutions all the way through the year, or at least until you accomplished what you set out to do? If you have, good for you, but success for most of us is the exception rather than the norm.

If you want to make this New Year the one where you see your resolution all the way through to its victorious conclusion, there are a number of things you can do to improve your chance of success.

Strategies to Increase Your Chance of Success

Set SMART Goals

The concept of SMART goals can be applied to everything in your life, from career pathing and academic accomplishments to your health. The acronym stands for:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Time-Bound

Your health goal should ideally check off every box of the SMART goal formula.

It’s much easier to set a SMART goal than a vague goal like, “I want to be able to see my toes by swim suit season.” If you’re far off from that goal, struggle with making good food choices and can’t find the time to exercise, you’re essentially setting yourself up for failure.

A more realistic goal would be to lose 10 pounds every quarter. Losing 10 pounds every three months is achievable with dedication and significant lifestyle changes, which, depending on your current eating and exercising habits, may also be realistic. You would also be establishing clear timeline targets if you adopted this goal.

That is just one example. Any health or weight loss goals should be tailored specifically to what you want to accomplish and take into account your current health and what you can safely do to make progress toward your goal.

Before you embark upon any SMART goal relating to your health, you should probably schedule an appointment with your physician. They can provide invaluable guidance about what’s realistic, what’s in your best interest and most importantly ensure you’re not jeopardizing your health with your approach.

Be Patient

Start out the new year with the knowledge that any health goals you set can’t be accomplished overnight. Even if you faithfully stick to your plan, any changes will be incremental. You may not even begin seeing results on your scale for the first two weeks. Even when the pounds start dropping off, you likely won’t see a visible difference in your body for weeks or months after your scale tells you progress is in fact being made.

Not becoming discouraged is probably the most difficult aspect of sticking to health goals.

Imagine the positive feelings you’ll experience when you do hit your goals, though. Think about another huge accomplishment you’ve made in life, like graduating from high school or college. Remember how the warm feeling of accomplishment resonated throughout your psyche for months, maybe even years, after you accomplished that goal.

Knowing a similar feeling awaits you at the finish line for your health goal may help motivate you to stick with it during the difficult early months.

Be Smart About Social Support

There are two schools of thought when it comes to emotional support in your health journey. The first, and most commonly found in feel-good health advice columns and blogs, is that having a large support system of friends, families and coworkers is hugely important to help you meet your goals and hold you accountable.

The second school of thought, and the less popular one, is that the fewer people you tell about your goal the better. If you’ve tried and failed to lose weight in the past, you can likely relate to the feelings of embarrassment you feel after you went around telling people about your goal to lose weight and how excited you are to be skinny only to fail to make those changes.

Having a support system and people to hold you accountable is hugely important, and everyone should have at least one or two people they can turn to for strength and support on their health goal journey, but that doesn’t mean you have to inform every person in your life of your goals. If you don’t accomplish your goals now, it doesn’t mean you never will, but it’s easier to bear that disappointment when it’s not broadcast to the world.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

  • If losing weight is your goal, you should be making lifestyle changes that are sustainable. If you love pizza, it’s not realistic or fair to yourself to swear off pizza for the rest of your life. Instead, focus on things like portion control and finding healthier pizza options. Instead of the meat lovers go with veggie lovers and only have two slices instead of your normal four. Have it less frequently as a reward for good eating and exercise behavior during the week. These are just a few ideas, but the general strategy should be focused more on moderation rather than complete abstention.
  • Develop a realistic workout routine with alternatives for things like inclement weather or schedule conflicts. If it’s too cold to go for a walk, have a backup plan of weight training or spin class. Also avoid overexerting yourself. Your timeline will be significantly delayed if you push too hard and injure yourself, preventing you from working out at all until you recover.
  • Expect to experience setbacks. You’ll never reach your goals if you allow yourself to be discouraged by one or two mistakes. Having a bad day at work and going home to eat half a tub of ice cream is obviously not ideal, but it should just be looked at as a pothole on the road to your goal. The road is still there and your goal is still at the end of it. Don’t let the occasional pothole completely derail your journey.
  • Mix things up. Lifestyle changes aren’t always a bad thing. You may discover new foods you really enjoy, or new sports or exercise activities for which you have a legitimate passion. You may try yoga for the first time and discover the mind-clearing benefits are nearly as life changing as the initial goal would be if you accomplished it.

Get the Help and Support You Need at Complete Care

Our Texas and Colorado Springs urgent care physicians also act as regular family doctors for many patients who visit. If you really want to get serious about accomplishing your health goals this year, you should discuss your plan with a physician to make sure what you’re doing is safe and the approach you’re taking won’t jeopardize your health. The compassionate, helpful and friendly doctors at Complete Care would be happy to partner with you on your journey toward a healthier future.