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.