Creating SMART Goals to Help You Succeed in Your Diet

Science by Dr. Ben Bikman

As January 1st approaches, it’s natural for us to reflect upon our successes and opportunities over the past year and imagine how we may accomplish more in the next. This leads us to reevaluate our habits and goals in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. More than half of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions will focus those goals on improving their health [1]. 

Whether you are looking to lose weight, get more sleep, or train for a triathlon, you should create a thoughtful plan that makes sense for you on an individual level, rather than simply joining in on the office’s latest Biggest Loser challenge. Your emotional connection to your goal will help you succeed long after the excitement of the New Year fades.

Because goals are so commonly about replacing bad habits with good ones, it’s important that your plan sets you up for long-term success. Using the SMART method is a common staple in goal-setting for this very reason. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

So how can you apply these elements to your goals? Let’s imagine that my goal is to adopt a keto diet for weight loss or overall health. My goal may look like this: Lose 15 pounds by March 31st by eating a ketogenic diet so that I can become insulin sensitive and have improved health and energy for myself and my family.

  1. Specific – The goal above is specific because it states what my goal is, how I plan to achieve it, and why I want to achieve it. I could narrow the goal down even further by saying that I plan to replace two meals a day with a healthy meal replacement or protein shake like HLTH Code, and I plan to have a low carb meal for dinner (a plan I commonly follow, in fact). If I want to incorporate exercise and time-restricted eating, I might add that I plan to walk for thirty minutes, five times a week, and that my eating window is 10 AM – 6 PM, for example. 
  2. Measurable – A goal must be measurable for you to determine your success towards it. The goal I shared above states the number of pounds I want to lose and the date I want to lose it by, but rather than waiting until the end of the 90 days to measure, I’ll likely have frequent check-ins on my progress. Losing 15 pounds in roughly 13 weeks means I only need to lose a little over a pound a week. I’ll gauge my weekly progress against that measurable.
  3. Attainable – A good goal should take your specific situation into consideration. Do you have the information and resources to make low carb foods? Do you have a plan to avoid stopping for fast-food after a long day of work? Now that I’ve drilled my goal down further and evaluated more of the steps to achieve it, success becomes even more tangible. My goal may look something like this:

Lose 15 pounds by March 31st by:

  • Eating a ketogenic diet through:
    • Replacing two meals with two HLTH Code shakes a day
    • Eating one low carb meal
    • Keeping keto snacks or extra HLTH Code powder on hand for late nights/long commutes/office lunches
  • Walking for thirty minutes a day, five days a week
  • Shrinking my eating window to between 10 AM and 6 PM  

I want to achieve this goal to become insulin sensitive so that I can have improved health and energy for myself and for my family.

  1. Realistic – Creating a realistic goal means considering your unique needs and situation. Will an aggressive weight loss goal energize or overwhelm you? Will a goal that’s too easy make you give up, because the results aren’t significant enough? Is your healthcare provider on board with your weight loss goal? Is your motivation for the goal a strong enough enticement to keep you at it when things get extra hard? When you set realistic goals, you’re more likely to continue your progress beyond your end date.
  2. Time-bound – Goals with a time limit create a sense of urgency in us, and urgency is good for achieving goals. Working against a ticking clock (or calendar) motivates us to keep going. Set a start and end date so you can keep yourself on a firm, clear schedule. 

Above all, remember that any resolutions you make should fit in with the kind of lifestyle you want to live long term. By focusing on the reasons behind your goals, you’ll more easily find the drive and commitment to succeed.  

References

  1. United States: New Year’s resolution for 2021.” Statista, 5 May 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/378105/new-years-resolution/. Accessed 21 December 2021.