Setting S.M.A.R.T. Health Goals

If you have a project you are working on, it is always easier to have benchmarks or goals you want set for yourself. This keeps you accountable and on course. You’ve probably heard the classic acronym of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. This practice has worked for ages in the business world to help clarify and strategize company goals; but have you ever considered applying this age-old adage to your health and wellness goals?

Specific: It’s important to be very clear on what you’d like to accomplish. Rather than just “lose weight”, how about a specific body fat percentage? Instead of “get healthier,” perhaps “reduce disease risk factors” or “less dependent on medication”? Fit into a size 8? Complete a triathlon? Be as clear and accurate as possible.

Measurable: You must be able to measure your progress. This could be through self-checkpoints along the way such as body composition tests, happiness self-inventory (rating your moods/confidence on a 1-10 scale), pant size, pictures, an outfit, a 5k. Try to leave scale weight out of this one, as this can be a very unreliable measure of success. For example, if you combine healthy eating habits with strength training, muscle is built and fat is lost, yielding a negative net change in weight which can do some pretty destructive psychological damage.

Attainable & Realistic: Some goals are attainable but perhaps realistic right now. It’s important to be realistic about your goals and sure that they are reachable. For example, it might be attainable to run a marathon…but not in 6 weeks if you haven’t ran in ages (unrealistic). That is why setting short and long-term goals are a constructive and helpful strategy.

Typically, we have our clients set goals for the year and/or race season for athletes. There is almost always a cycle for ideal body composition/mobility work/foundations, a preparation phase, a competition phase, and a recovery phase. This is a great way to allow the body to heal and cycle through diverse elements of fitness that cannot be done all together (it’s not always feasible to expect body fat loss and strength gains or muscle mass gain while training for an Ironman, for example).

Along those lines, implement smaller strategies and goals to aid in your journey toward the larger goals (see: setting specific goals). For example, plan to meal prep and write about meal plans weekly; set a phone alarm to get up and move, stretch, and drink water or have a snack multiple times a day; set reminders to journal about things you’re grateful for and love about yourself should confidence be a risk factor for your success.

Timely: Again, be realistic about your goals and set multiple smaller goals or phases to get to those larger ones. If weight loss is your primary goal, do not expect miracles in the first month (and expect a few slip-ups as well). A realistic and sustainable weight loss goal would be 1 lb. lost per week.

Remember, you are 100% capable of setting the goals you set for yourself this year; a failure to plan is a plan to failure—so get to planning and see those S.M.A.R.T. goals through to the end. You don’t need a perfect start, it just matters that you start!

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