Don’t eat the whole cow in one sitting!
In other words, setting small goals that are achievable will lead to more sustainable results than biting off more than you can chew and not getting anywhere. And success breeds success. So, before you know it, you'll be living a healthier lifestyle and feeling great about your achievements. The best way to make sure you are starting a eating or exercise plan that will be successful is to make sure your goals are SMART. SMART is an acronym that stands for:
What do you plan to do? You may plan to walk more. But be even more specific so the plan is clear. For example, you plan to walk 20 minutes at lunchtime Monday through Thursday.
You need to be able to measure your goals to see your progress. For example, you may want to eat a serving of fruit or vegetable at each meal for one week. If you can mark it on your calendar or a chart, you can measure it at the end of the week to see how you were able to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.
Don't make your goals too hard to reach. Make your goals a series of small steps so that the end goal is easier to achieve. For example, you may want to lose 10kg, but that takes a lot of hard work and time. You may get discouraged if you have to wait that long to see any positive results. Instead, you might set an attainable goal of losing 0.5 to 1kg in one week by increasing your exercise to 30 minutes 4 times per week and cutting out softdrink. Then build on this goal's success with other goals to reach the 10kg weight loss.
Only set goals you know you will be able to achieve. That makes them realistic. You may like dessert and feel you should set a goal that you'll never eat dessert again. But that's not a realistic goal. Instead try eating a ½ cup of ice cream only on weekends.
Pick a time frame for completing your goal. It helps to have an end in sight, and preferably a short one. For example, you know you have to keep a food record to figure out what you are eating. Set a goal of writing down everything you eat and drink for 2 weeks. Knowing it's not forever may help motivate you to see it through.
Here are examples of simple, heart-healthy changes you can use to set SMART goals:
Reduce your portion size and simply eat less than you usually do. This is a great first change to make because it allows you to enjoy the foods you usually eat while still making a healthy change. Keep in mind though, it may only get you so far until you eventually will need to make some other changes to make your eating behaviours more healthy.
Sample Goal: I will use a salad plate to limit my portions (with no second helpings) at dinnertime for 2 weeks.
Snack on a piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts, or another sensible snack, instead of a packaged snack food. This snack is just as convenient as typical snack foods. And the fiber, protein and healthy fats in this snack, or other healthy snacks, will sustain your hunger longer.
Sample Goal: I will pack one of these examples of sensible snacks to bring to work for a mid-morning snack Monday through Friday for one week.
Eat more fish and the white meat of turkey or chicken, which is lower in fat than dark meat and red meat. Start using lean ground sirloin, pork tenderloin or instead of high-fat cuts of meat. Animal fat is the number one dietary source of unhealthy saturated fat.
Sample goal: I will eat ground sirloin instead of ground beef for one month.
Select whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Make sure it is 100-percent whole wheat, and lists "whole-wheat flour" as the first ingredient on the ingredient list.
Sample goal: I will eat 100-percent whole-wheat bread instead of white bread for sandwiches at lunchtime for two weeks.
Drink more water. Even if you drink other beverages during the day, slowly reduce the amount of softdrink or juice you drink and replace it with herbal tea, seltzer or water.
Sample goal: I will drink only water and no other beverages with breakfast, lunch and dinner for two weeks.
Don't drink your calories. Rid your refrigerator of high-calorie, high-sugar beverages. Real food is usually more filling and more nutritious than juices, fruit drinks and other high-calorie beverages.
Sample goal: I will eat a serving of whole fruit (orange, apple, ½ grapefruit, etc.) instead of drinking a glass of juice at breakfast three times a week for two weeks.