Alyssa Cohen, MS, RD
Oftentimes, patients think that the loftiest goal is the best goal. However, in order for goals to be attainable, they have to be realistic. For example, if a patient doesn’t exercise at all, and then tells me they will exercise every day, I get wary. Setting yourself up to be disappointed with your progress only sets you up for failure. Instead, it is best to accept where you currently are and incrementally make small, realistic changes from there in order to move forward with overall goals. For instance, a more realistic goal would be “I am going to go for a walk for 15 minutes 2-3 times per week”. This goal is specific, quantifiable and less intimidating. Once this goal is reached, it is time to reevaluate and set another (realistic goal) – such as going for a walk 4 times per week, or increasing the time or distance of the walk and maintaining the frequency at 2-3 times per week. Goal setting should always be evolving to meet your needs at that specific time.
What happens when goals are too lofty? They become intimidating, and oftentimes this creates an all-or-nothing mentality. Using the example above, someone may think they aren’t ready for 30-minute sweat session at the gym and skip any physical activity altogether (instead of going for a 10-15 minute walk one day). This is more detrimental to the overall goal of increasing exercise than simply planning to walk and build on an exercise regimen from that goal. Remember, goal setting and weight loss is not a sprint – it’s a marathon! Focusing on small lifestyle habits can make a big difference in overall goals, such as weight loss.
Examples of specific, realistic goals are below:
- Instead of “I am going to eat healthier”, try “I am going to eat at least one vegetable with my lunch and dinner each day”.
- Instead of “I am going to drink less soda”, try “I am going to replace one soda each day with a glass of water”.
- Instead of “I am going to avoid all desserts”, try “I am going to skip dessert 3 nights this week”.
These goals are simple, straightforward, and help to address behaviors that may be hindering an overall goal of weight loss, or lowering blood sugar, etc. Meeting with a registered dietitian can help you to identify which goals are most important to you, how to overcome perceived obstacles and barriers and assist you in planning and goal-setting so that you can achieve your overarching goal(s), whatever it (or they) may be.
Alyssa Cohen, MS, RD
While individual nutrition counseling is certainly beneficial for weight management, many people discount the effectiveness of group nutrition counseling. Although a personal meal plan and one-on-one time with a registered dietitian can help to identify barriers to your goals and overcome obstacles, there are many instances when group counseling can enhance your individualized counseling experience and/or may be a better option for you depending on your individual situation.
Curious about how group counseling works? It usually goes something like this: A small group of people with a similar interest or goal gather together. This goal can be broad for a wide array of individuals (such as weight loss) or it can be a specific goal for a particular group (such as decreasing blood pressure in those with hypertension). The registered dietitian acts as the group facilitator and introduces a topic. The floor remains open for contribution by anyone in the group and as people contribute, they find that they are able to learn from others regarding their goal, or can teach others (or both)! This counseling technique has been shown by research to be an effective method of weight management and/or coping with various stressors, conditions and habits. Also, it is fun! At Caruso, our group counseling puts speak into practice when we go to restaurants (to practice ordering from a menu), supermarkets (to give tours and demonstrate what to look for in a nutrition label), and when we have special guests visit to lead yoga, promote positive psychology, and utilize their many specific skills!
In reference to our blog last week, group counseling can be a less expensive alternative to out-of-pocket nutrition counseling if your insurance benefits have run dry, since typically each group counseling session is less expensive than each individual counseling session. Also, it is great to try new approaches, because each approach offers different benefits.
Group nutrition counseling may be for you if:
- You have run out of insurance-covered individual nutrition counseling sessions and would like a less expensive alternative
- You would like to combine the benefits of group counseling with your individualized counseling
- You would like social support from others to help you reach your health goals
- You would like to meet other people with similar goals and interests
- You like to learn from others and their personal experiences, while ensuring information is accurate (which a registered dietitian, acting as a facilitator, can ensure)
- You like to teach others and share your personal experiences
Interested? We offer a weekly group counseling session every Tuesday evening at Caruso Physical Therapy and Nutrition and would love to learn from your experiences and help you through your journey to health and weight management.