It’s that time of year, where many make resolutions related to diet and health, and unfortunately some impossible to keep. Research has shown that although 45% of Americans make a New Year’s Resolution, only 8% succeed. How do we make resolutions for ourselves and our families that are realistic but also those we can stick to?
Keep it SIMPLE. While it is ambitious to set many goals, the truth is that the smaller and more specific the goals, the better. I often use S.M.A.R.T goal setting with patients and families. Check out an example below.
A busy, working mom comes in to see me in hopes that her family can “eat better” in the New Year. How can we make this goal successful?
Is this goal specific? Can this goal be broken down into smaller steps? After probing a bit further, it seems like veggies at dinner are the point of contention (she’s not alone)! Making the goal more specific allows us to set a more targeted treatment plan and focus all of our energy towards this goal. Once this goal is mastered we can move forward with previous successes on board.
Is this goal measurable? How will we know when we are done? Making measurable nutrition goals allows one to gauge success and identify roadblocks. Knowing that Mom has a specific goal, to increase veggies at dinner, we decide how often we will institute this goal. Mom initially decides on introducing a new veggie every night.
Then we get to perhaps the most difficult part of goal setting, asking ourselves if our goals are attainable. Vegetables are often the most disliked food among children with intake of vegetables among children in this country falling short of the dietary guidelines. Further, multiple sources note that it may take up to 15-20 times for some children to be exposed to a food before they decide if they like it or not. Research has also shown that the rejection of foods such as vegetables is widespread and a significant cause of anxiety to parents, with problematic eating patterns a common reason for consulting health professionals. Perhaps offering vegetables daily may be ambitious at first. Starting with 1-2 times per week and working upwards may make Mom more likely to succeed. The next question to ask is, is this relevant goal? Can this fit into your life? Often times goal are more relevant once they have been made more specific, measurable and realistic.
The last question to ask yourself is what does your timing look like? Timing is crucial, and a start and finish date takes away the worrying that you will lose track. For our Mom here, when would she like to have the kids eating veggies 1-2 times per week at dinner? Set long and short term goals. Perhaps in 2 weeks Mom’s goal is to record the veggies the kids have tried and in 2 months Mom will know what worked and what didn’t. In 2 months, we can set a more ambitious goal moving forward with experience under our belts.
-Plan for setbacks, these are just a part of behavior change. Identifying roadblocks means you are able to brainstorm specific strategies to overcome challenges and stay on course.
-Don’t be to Type A (believe me, I get it!) Expect that there will be changes to your goals overtime, there are no absolutes, just what works best for you, your family and your lifestyle.
Skylar’s Bottom Line: Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up. You are MUCH more likely to stick to goals if you have a cheerleader or a coach, and someone you are accountable too.
Here are some fun New Year’s examples for you and your family:
- Sit down at meal time. Allow at least 15-20 minutes to eat, free from distraction.
- No fasting! Studies show that eating every 3-4 hours helps to boost metabolism. Plan ahead by keeping healthy snacks on hand.
- Eat more protein in the morning. Filling up on breakfasts heavy in carbohydrates mean blood sugar crashes later in the day. Add some hard boiled egg, Greek yogurt or string cheese to your breakfast routine.
- Be good to your gut. As long as it is OK’ed by your primary care provider, take a probiotic. You can also fill up on dietary sources of good bacteria such as yogurt, sauerkraut, soft cheese, kefir, sour pickles, and tempeh.