How to Set Realistic Health Goals for the New Year

Each year, we express our hopes for the new year with grand resolutions, such as losing 40 pounds by summer or spending 90 minutes a day at the gym. Yet, after a month or so, those big dreams prove to be impossible to carry out.

Often times, life gets in the way, and work and activities consume your time. Discouragement sets in, followed by inaction, guilt, avoiding thinking about our goal, and eating lots of chocolate (or chips) for consolation.

Don’t be discouraged! You can set realistic, achievable goals for a more healthful life in 2018. What’s more, those targets—whether for weight loss, exercise or both—will produce results that help you look and feel better.

To set and achieve your goal, research shows it helps to follow this process.

Recognize what you need to change;

  1. Establish a goal;
  2. Begin a goal-directed activity;
  3. Track your progress;
  4. Reward yourself.

If it’s so simple, you may ask why January’s good intentions often end up discarded by March. Many goals start out being too difficult and too general. That’s a set up for failure. Here’s some things you can do to help your goal-setting be more successful:

  1. Before deciding on your goal, keep a food or exercise diary for a week to get a clear view of your current lifestyle. Every day, write down what you eat and your physical activity. Then use that snapshot of your life to choose an area to focus on. You may see that you’re spending hours on the living room couch at night or having fast-food lunches most days of the week. By looking at what you’re currently doing, you can set a goal and know where you started.
  2. Be specific and choose a precise, positive goal for a short period of time. Make it challenging enough to motivate you, without being beyond your capabilities. If you haven’t exercised in years, don’t plan on running 20 miles a week—it’ll never happen. Instead, think of your goal as, “I’ll take a walk with the dog three times this week.”
  3. Be realistic and reasonable. For instance, if you are fighting extra weight, instead of saying, “I want to drop 50 pounds,” state your goal as “I will lose one pound this week.” You’ll probably be able to meet that goal successfully, and even repeat it the following week. Remember, recommended weight loss for most people is only about one pound per week.

Realistic goals might not seem exciting, but grander plans are often self-defeating. By achieving a smaller goal, you see what you’ve done, then you can tackle the next goal.

Before starting a diet or exercise plan, it’s a good idea to check with a doctor. Please call us at Prosperity Internal Medicine at 703-876-9300 for an appointment. Our group uses the latest advances in medicine, offering our patients access to innovative health management technologies, proactive team-based care, and an evidenced-based, patient-centered approach.