Community Wellness: SMART goals help you meet your resolutions

Community Wellness: SMART goals help you meet your resolutions

By CAITLIN KOWNACKI

If you're like millions of Americans across the country, you may have made a resolution Jan. 1 to get back in shape, and live more healthfully in 2018.

Maybe you've made this goal year after year but fizzled out by the time March rolls around. Make this the year to buck that trend by creating a solid plan that will carry you through the year.

Start by track your normal habits for a few days. Keep a journal of what, how much and when you eat. Be sure to include any condiments, snacks and beverages that you have throughout the day. You'll also want to include any physical activity that you do. Include any activity that gets your heart rate up.

You can also make note of any extra activity you include such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther out in the parking lot to cash in on some extra steps. Remember, every little bit counts.

Next, set some SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Specific goals clearly state the what, why and how of what you are going to do. Measurable goals give you something to show what you have achieved.

For example, do you want to increase your daily step count by 1,500 steps or increase weekly exercise to three times a week? Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds or drop a pants size? These things are measurable.

Goals should also be achievable. They should push you out of your comfort zone, but not so far out as to be unrealistic, making it impossible to get where you want to be.

Lastly, make sure your goals are time-sensitive. You don't want to set goals that don't have a planned point of achievement, or ones that drag on and on. If you do, you'll never feel like you're making progress and are more likely to give up.

A good strategy for reaching your goals is to split them up into smaller ones. For example, maybe your ultimate goals is to lose 40 pounds, but thinking about all 40 pounds can feel overwhelming.

Instead, split your goal down into four smaller goals and focus only on 10 pounds at a time. If it's easier, cut it down even further and shoot for 5! Another good example would be to take the goal of "eating better" and turn it into "I will eat one more serving of vegetables per day."

Lastly, it's important to find a source of accountability so you can stay on track. Consider writing your goals down on paper or working together with a friend, spouse or co-worker. You can also consider seeking out the professional support of a registered dietitian or more formal health plan.

Before jumping into any new weight-loss program or fitness routine, make sure to do your homework. Meet with your doctor first if you have any health conditions to make sure your plan is safe.

To get started, check out choosemyplate.gov for nutrition and physical activity information, food trackers, eating plans and recipes! Best of luck; you can do it!

Caitlin Kownacki is an educator for University of Illinois Extension serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. Contact her at 217-353-0740 or caitlink@illinois.edu.

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