NUTRITION: Be specific with your New Year's resolution
We're a week into the New Year. How is that New Year's resolution going? Maybe this week, your resolution should be to re-evaluate your resolution. Take time to evaluate your current health and nutritional status. Often when I ask someone to write his or her own nutrition- and health-related goals, I find the goals are too general. "Get healthy" or "lose weight" are two of the most common examples. Ask yourself: How are you going to accomplish that?
After taking some time to evaluate your current status, think about setting your goal. Remember to keep your goal SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.
Specific. Examples of specific nutrition-related goals are: cooking more meals at home, consuming more vegetables or replacing refined grain products with whole grain products.
Measurable. Put an actual number in your goal. If your goal is to consume more vegetables, how many servings of vegetables will you consume per day?
Achievable. Do not set yourself up for failure. If you are able to consume only one vegetable serving per day, it is probably not realistic to try for five servings of vegetables every day. Try for two or three.
Relevant. Make sure your goal is relevant to you. This is why it is important to take some time to assess your personal diet pattern.
Time-related. When will you achieve this goal? Will you consume two servings of vegetables every day for the next month and then reevaluate?
Every day, I work with patients on SMART goals, and I have written many articles on the subject because I think it is a really beneficial way to help shape how you plan to achieve a specific goal. However, this week I encourage you to think a bit more outside the box when it comes to your nutrition-related goals and really focus on how you're going to achieve them.
If you are stuck in the "get healthy" or "lose weight" mindset, here are some examples for you.
It is likely that my most prescribed goal is to consume more fruits and vegetables. Maybe your goal is to eat one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables per day or maybe it is two servings at every meal. How are you going to accomplish this? Maybe one day a week you clean, prep and bag multiple servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. Try a new vegetarian recipe once per week. Buy a pretty fruit bowl and keep it visible and filled. Watch for sales on frozen and canned fruits and veggies so your pantry is set for success.
Try to get more physical activity. A more specific goal is to get 10,000 steps each day. Then write out multiple ways to increase your steps throughout the day; take the stairs, park at the end of the parking lot, have walking meetings, hike outside, and walk or take public transportation instead of your private car. Another example would be to try at least one new workout style each month; yoga, HIIT, Pilates, swimming, dance, hiking, buy a resistance band, take a dance class or join a volleyball league.
Don't forget about your mental health when thinking about ways to "get healthy" or "lose weight." Try to incorporate some positive mental health goals into your resolution. Give yourself a daily compliment. Clean up your social media by avoiding sites that have obsessive talk about diets and weight. Try to regulate self-shaming, acknowledge these thoughts and try to spin them in a positive way. Meditate, or at least set time aside for some self-reflection or relaxation. Don't compare but celebrate differences.
If you have a setback, do not give up. One aspect about nutrition that I like the best is that we eat multiple times per day. Each meal is a chance to start anew. You have all year to work toward your goal and your goal can always be modified to meet you current needs.
Brenda Schwerdt, RDN, LD, CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s hospital. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.