Living Fit: How SMART are your goals for better health?

January 13, 2016

mcgoffYou are probably familiar with the acronym, SMART which has been used in the world of management since the early 1980s. Managers who ascribe to this concept by developing, implementing and re-visiting SMART goals generally realize great success in the workplace. Have you ever applied the SMART concept to your personal life, more specifically, your health?

January is the month of resolutions and profound change, as we attempt to cut the cord from the apron strings of the Sugar Plum Fairy and pull ourselves out of the pit of gingerbread man hell. We have lofty goals to eat fruits and vegetables, stay away from fast food, be nicer, limit work hours, exercise daily, lose weight, stop drinking alcohol, drink more water, sleep more/better and manage stress. Sadly, we often fail to enjoy the success of our goals because the goals are not realistic, specific, measurable or achievable. What happens next is that by the end of the month, most of us crawl back to the comforts of the Sugar Plum Fairy, who filed a petition with the court for a name change and is now the Queen of Chocolate Hearts. We also realize there was a special coziness in gingerbread man hell, now known as Cupid’s abyss. A few of us will rise above the stronghold of the Queen of Chocolate Hearts and climb out of Cupid’s abyss, only to fall prey to the world of Mardi Gras, leprechauns, Easter bunnies, Indy 500 race cars … . You get it. There is always something, someone or some reason to slide back down the slippery slope of temptation that keeps us from achieving our lofty and unrealistic New Year’s resolutions.

Make this year different! Challenge yourself to stay on track by setting SMART goals for your health and well-being.

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Realistic

T – Time-based

1. Specific. Target one area for improvement and be specific about that goal. “Lose weight” is not specific. “Lose 10 pounds in 4 months by walking on the treadmill four times a week for 30 minutes” is specific.

2. Measurable. Quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress. Progress feels good and is the fuel you need to keep you motivated to continue. If weight loss is your goal, your weight can be measured by a scale or by putting on the same tight jeans a few times every week to check if they feel looser.

3. Attainable. Assure that an end can be achieved. “Lose 60 pounds in 45 days” is not attainable for anyone, nor is it a healthy way to go. “Lose 10 pounds in three months” is.

4. Realistic. The resolution should be ambitious but not impossible. Write the goal that you are confident you can achieve but also stretch yourself a little. Don’t set yourself up for failure by thinking you will “lose 15 pounds in three months by going to the gym seven days a week, at 5 a.m. for one hour of cardio-walking at 4.5 mph” when you haven’t stepped foot in a gym since freshman year of high school. Break large goals into smaller goals. Start out slowly and gradually increase the intensity and length of your workout. “Walk 20 minutes on the treadmill Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 3.2 mph. Walk 30 minutes on the treadmill Saturday at 3.2 mph.” Slowly build on that routine so that after three months, you are walking 4.5 mph for an hour every day. This process will keep you from getting too tired and sore to go back, or worse, injured.

5. Time-based. Specify when the result will be achieved. Saying you will lose 12 pounds in three months is good, but saying “I will lose two pounds a week for the next six weeks” is better. This prevents you from delaying the goal until “tomorrow.” Tomorrow never arrives. There is only TODAY. A time-based goal allows you to focus on small steps (two pounds versus 12 pounds) and assures you will conquer your goals in a healthy way – gradual weight loss over six weeks, rather than deprivation and starvation for a week in order to lose 12 pounds.

Finally, choose an area that YOU truly want or need to change, or one that will be the easiest for YOU to change. Why did I put “YOU” in capital letters? Because it is of paramount importance that YOU choose a goal that is meaningful for YOU, not someone else. Your goal should be inspiring enough to motivate YOU to succeed. If your spouse or doctor have been nagging you to lose weight and you are not inspired by what THEY want you to do, then choose another goal that also improves your health, while you find another way to become inspired to lose weight. Be well!•

Sharon McGoff is a graduate of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, a certified personal trainer and health fitness specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine, and a certified life and wellness coach with WellCoaches Inc. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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