Suggestions help define goals, avoid pitfalls with resolutions

Originally published on February 10, 2016

The New Year always brings a sense of a new beginnings, hope for positive changes, and inspiration toward goals.

Improving one’s health is usually high on the list of New Year’s resolutions for most of us. It can be a daunting though especially if we are not feeling well, stressed for time or unsure where to begin.

Here are seven suggestions to help a person define their goals and avoid pitfalls that can kill resolutions.

1.          Set SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timebound.

“I’m going to eat healthier and lose weight” may sound good, but it doesn’t fit the SMART criteria.

A better goal would be “I’m going to eat a green salad with sugar-free dressing for lunch three times per week for the next month.”

2.         Write down why a goal should be achieved.

It is important to have concrete reasons for why a particular change needs to happen. If a person wants to lose weight, is it because they want to be able to play with grandkids, wear a favorite pair of jeans, or get off of high blood pressure medicine?

Does a person want to quit smoking so their breathing is better, they can save money or to be a good role model for their children?

Write down all the “whys” on paper and post them where they can be seen every day.

They will serve to as encouragement when feeling that the sacrifice is not worth it. Don’t say “no” to the negatives, say “yes” to something better.

3.         Identify unhealthy triggers.

Studies show that most of people who choose negative health behaviors such as overeating, smoking or overindulgence in drinking alcohol tend to have specific circumstances that trigger the behavior.

If every time a person gets off the phone with their mother, they find themselves putting chocolate in their mouth that is a trigger.

Also certain routines are triggers, such as arriving home from work and feeling the need for a reward such as a glass of wine. What about finishing dinner and needing to have that smoke?

Take an inventory of the entire day and write down the events, persons or circumstances that are triggers.

4.         Change your routine.

After identifying trigger times, choose new activities to replace the negative behavior.

A glass of lemon water after work might be better than wine. What about deep breathing after getting off the phone with mom? Or going for a walk after dinner?

5.         Have a support and accountability system.

Engage the family and friends in helping to obtain goals. Be specific as to how they can help.

Joining a support group, working with a health coach or using free online accountability programs can help a person stay motivated and give tangible feedback.

If measuring progress daily, there is more of a likelihood of reaching goals.

 If a person wants to lose 25 pounds, then weighing daily, logging your food and exercise into a fitness app, and meeting weekly with a health coach or accountability partner will enhance success.

6.         Be prepared for the challenges.

If traveling while on a diet, plan ahead to find nutritious food, or bring some along.

Is there a birthday party next week? Plan how much to eat at the party and perhaps have a healthy protein shake prior to going.

It’s break time and everyone is going out for a cigarette, trying calling a friend or find a nonsmoking coworker to chat with?

The idea here is to have thought out the plan before getting caught in the situation and acting on emotion.

7.         Persevere.

Change worth doing is seldom easy.

Setbacks are mere temporary stumbles; expect them. It is in the daily discipline that old habits are broken and new, better habits are formed.

Following these suggestions will hopefully empower you on your journey to healthy living. Wishing you a healthy and successful 2016.

Dr. Christa O’Leary is board-certified in family medicine and integrative and holistic medicine. 

Fredericksburg Standard

P.O. Box 1639
Fredericksburg, TX 78624-4228