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Tips for Setting Health GoalsTips for Setting Health Goals


Tips for Setting Health Goals

Goals are an important part of adopting a healthier lifestyle, because they help us measure our progress. By breaking down your goals into manageable steps, you can stay motivated and set achievable goals.

Start by thinking long term.

What would you like to accomplish this year? Maybe you want to be 30 pounds lighter, run your first half marathon, or get off blood pressure medication. Make a list of everything you can think of. You will use this list to create short-term goals.

Identify what is most important right now.

Make a short list of health priorities. What must change immediately? Maybe your doctor has said you are prehypertensive, and you need to lower your blood pressure. Perhaps you have an old injury that needs to heal and strengthen before you can start a training program. Your stress levels might be through the roof, and you need to exercise and meditate to control the effect this stress has on your health. Write down your top two priorities for the month.

Consider how your goals are related.

We often overlook how closely related our goals can be. Most changes in one area of health will also improve another area. For example, if you begin training for a half marathon and you are currently overweight, the extra calories burned through more activity will help you drop pounds. Improving your nutrition by eating more plant-based foods can also help lower cholesterol levels. If a goal like losing 50 pounds feels overwhelming, take your focus off the scale, and concentrate on other changes that will influence this long-term challenge. Setting small goals to cook more at home, switching from soda to water, or taking lessons to learn a new sport will all influence your body weight in a positive way. Weight loss then becomes more natural and won’t feel like hard work.

Set regular short-term goals.

Once you’ve identified your long-term goals and health priorities, begin to outline your short-term goals. During the first month, set two goals per week. These goals should be related to your health priorities. Choose goals that motivate you to change your daily habits but that are achievable. You don’t need to go from no exercise to hitting the gym six times a week. Getting there three times the first week might be a more achievable goal. Set two new goals each week, and then build on the goals you’ve already accomplished. For example, if you used to put three teaspoons of sugar in your morning coffee, and last week you used two teaspoons, this week try using only one teaspoon.

These minor adjustments may seem insignificant, but the gradual changes will be less of a shock and will prevent burnout. A more gradual method leads to lifestyle changes that are permanent. For example, in a month your tastebuds can adjust to having only ¼ teaspoon of sugar in your coffee, cutting 44 calories every morning. These small savings add up over time to improve your health and initiate weight loss. Of course, it will take more than changing your morning coffee to lose weight, but by tackling the small things, you will gain confidence to face bigger challenges down the road.

Regularly re-evaluate your goals.

Don’t stick with a goal that makes you miserable. If you thought you wanted to run distance races only to begin training and find you dislike every workout, set a new goal. There are plenty of activities that can keep you fit. Choose one you enjoy. The same goes for healthy eating. Not everyone has to love kale and broccoli. If you are trying to increase your vegetable intake, experiment with vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and mustard greens until you find foods and ways of preparing them that appeal to you.

Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
Eat better. Feel better. MyFoodDiary Categories Exercise
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