Setting SMART Goals, a way to gain healthy habits after Mardi Gras
By Kelly Davis - Tulane dietetic intern
The New Year hits and while most of the county is setting new year’s resolutions or “goals” to start healthy habits, for the people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region, it is the start of carnival season filled with king cake, festive libations, and rich food. It can be hard to set goals during a time of the year when “anything goes.” However, it’s never too late to set goals around healthy habits. Setting goals can keep you motivated and is an exciting way to improve your life and overall health.
What does it mean to set goals?
Setting goals should not be complicated. Too often people set unattainable goals or ones that are too vague. To create achievable goals, use a strategy such as “SMART,” which provides a format for setting realistic goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Be specific in what you want to accomplish and have a plan in place to get you there. For example, if you are interested in reducing alcohol use, instead of saying, “I’m going to drink less,” say “I want to reduce my alcohol consumption by implementing mocktails and only drinking two nights a week for at least 8 weeks.”
The goal should be measurable. With the example provided above, the goal was limited to drinking 2 nights a week. This can be measured by writing the days and number of drinks down on a calendar. Another tool to measure and keep track of your goals especially if they are habits based is an App you can store on any device. “Strides: Goal & Habit Tracker” is a free app that has built-in templates to measure habits like sleep, meals, water, stretching, and many more. It also is customizable with reminders and progress reports. Having a measurable tool is motivating to see progress.
Goals should be realistic. If you are drinking 7 nights a week, reducing your consumption to only two nights may be too steep of a goal. It’s okay to reevaluate. Small steps lead to more attainable results.
Your goal should be relevant to your life. There needs to be a why behind the goal. It should add to your life and make it better. If your goal is to decrease your consumption of alcohol it may have a significant positive impact on your health!
In a 2018 report reviewing 28 million people published in The Lancet Medical Journal, it concluded that only just one drink a day was linked to a higher risk of health issues, such as breast, colon, rectal, and throat cancer. With whatever goal you have, find your why.
Having a time frame is a great way to keep yourself accountable. Having a set start date and an end date will create a clear expectation for yourself. In the example provided, setting the time frame of 8 weeks is attainable and leaves room to reevaluate your goals.
Examples of health-oriented SMART goals
General Goal- I want to get more sleep
SMART Goal - By May 1st, 2022 I want to get 8 hours of sleep a night between Sunday and Thursday by starting my bedtime routine at 9 pm and eliminating distractions at night.
S= 8 hours of sleep Sunday-Thursday.
M= Time asleep can be measured and tracked.
A= Creating a bedtime routine that starts an hour before bed eliminating distractions.
R= I get home from work at 5 pm which gives me plenty of time to get the things I need to be done and to start setting a bedtime routine at 9 pm. I wake up at 6 am.
T= I will start on April 1st, follow this routine until May 1st, and reevaluate my progress.
General Goal- I want to eat more vegetables
SMART Goal - I will increase my vegetable intake by one serving each day in the next 6 weeks by tracking my servings and keeping my pantry stocked with options.
S= I will increase my vegetable intake by one serving each day
M= I will use an app to track my vegetable consumption
A= I will pack an extra serving of vegetables as a snack in my lunch bag.
R= When I am at the grocery store I will buy a variety of fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables that I enjoy so that I always have something on hand.
T= This week I will start and reevaluate after completing 6 weeks of incorporating an additional serving of vegetables in my diet.
Using the SMART method can be used in creating any goals you may have in your health this year. Remember, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to!