We can learn from the past, but the hope of a better tomorrow is what drives us forward in life. Most of us become reflective at this time of year and set many new goals for the coming year. Health related goals such as losing weight, exercising more and eating better are probably some of the most common New Year resolutions. This article is meant to help you set more specific and achievable health goals so your likelihood of success is much greater.
Merely resolving to have a healthy lifestyle is often not enough. It is helpful to set clear steps that you can refer to, such as not eating potato chips after dinner or walking to the corner store instead of driving.
Personally, I remind myself how to set goals by referring to the acronym S.M.A.R.T. – meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding and Timely. The more we include these aspects there is a higher probability of achieving or even remembering our goals. I have taken the most typical health goals and provided examples of how to make them SMART.
Typical health goal #1: “Start Working Out”
Many of us make this resolution year after year without success. Don’t plan on purchasing equipment or just joining a gym since these goals in themselves are not exercise. Make one specific goal, write it down, make a wall poster of it and stick to it until you achieve it. After that make another goal. Having one goal at a time makes change clear and achievable. Here are some sample goals to get you started. Don’t forget write your goal down!
- “I will go walk 30 minutes after dinner, Monday , Wednesday and Friday”
- “I will take the stairs instead of the elevator when going to work.”
- “I will jump on a rebounder for 10 minutes each weekday in the morning.”
Typical health goal #2: “Lose Weight”
Again many people make this New Year resolution year after year often with minimal success! Losing weight is the objective but the goal should be to change habits that are not allowing your body to lose weight. For assured success weight loss goals have to be bite-sized and easy to achieve lifestyle or eating habit changes like:
- “I will substantially reduce my fat intake by eating fewer or no fried foods.”
- “I will not eat anything after dinner”
- “I will pack a lunch instead of eating out for lunch”
- “I will stop snacking between meals”
If you focus on changing your habits then your weight will go down gradually as long as you keep changing habits. Remember, after you have achieved one new habit, then work on another one. With good eating habits and more physical activity you will see improvement. (I must say however, that detoxification particularly of the colon and liver along with proper nutrition are also essential to reach a healthy weight.)
Typical health goal #3: “Eat Better”
Instead of thinking “I’m going on a diet” think more in terms of “I’m going to change some of my eating habits.” Then list specific habits you would like to replace. Replacing a habit is more effective than trying to remove old habits.
Try one of these:
- Replace coffee with green tea.
- Replace sweets with fruits.
- Replace chips with nuts.
- Replace fast food with homemade meals.
- Replace juice with herbal teas .
Other specific action steps can include:
- “I will stop eating sweets and eat fruit instead”
- “I will stop eating fast food and find other more healthier restaurants.”
- “I will eat 2 pieces of fruit a day in-between meals instead of snaking.”
- “I will eat meat just 2 times a week and have bean dishes instead.”
Tip: Consider keeping a food journal to find specific areas you can change. Remember, drinking water and herbal teas in-between meals helps with food cravings.
Typical health goal #4: “Quit Smoking.”
Set a realistic quit date and give yourself time. Make sure you are not setting yourself up for failure by trying to quit during an especially stressful time. Of course, first of all clear your home of all smoking-related paraphernalia (cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, etc.). Other effective methods include writing down all the reason you want to quit smoking on a small card, carry it with you every day and read it regularly.
Set action steps to reduce your tobacco intake slowly, like:
- “I will cut back by one cigarette every two days over the next two weeks.”
- “I will eat fruit (or nuts) each time I feel like smoking a cigarette” (Dried fruit seems to work best for this purpose)
- “I will stop buy cartons of cigarettes and only by a pack at a time until I quit”
- I will completely stop smoking by the 1st of next month.”
Also think about a plan to deal with cravings and stressful situations. Start caring dried fruit or nuts with you and eat some each time you crave a cigarette.
Additionally, it is important to not spend time with other smokers and find new social environments which are smoke free. Ask your family and friends to support you and even encourage you to stop. Many people have found that replacing tobacco cigarettes with clove cigarettes is an effective way to kick the nicotine addiction.
I always, educate my clients who wish to stop smoking on the many harmful health effects of smoking not only to the respiratory system but the long-term carcinogenic effects and the high cancer rate for those who smoke, etc. Do some online research about the harm of cigarette smoking to further motivate yourself to stop.
One study found that, taking at 1 milliliters of Avena sativa (oat) extract four times daily, helps habitual tobacco smokers significantly decrease the number of cigarettes smoked. (Personally, I cannot confirm this but Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine does have herbal formulas that support the withdrawal from tobacco/nicotine addiction.
Typical health goal #5: “Reduce Stress.”
Reducing stress is an elusive process at times but it can be achieved with small but consistent life-style changes. Identify and write down your stressors. Identify positive steps you can take and what sources of support you have when you are stressed.
Here are some suggestions:
- “During times of stress, I will practice deep breathing techniques or go for a walk.”
- “I will get a massage once a week” (that’s an easy one if you can afford it!)
- “I will stop watching TV particularly the news.” (Better yet, get rid of the TV!)
- “I will drink herbal teas to relax when I am stressed.”
- “I will remain silent for 10 minutes each morning when I first get up and meditate.
Typical health goal #6: “Give Up Fast Food.”
It is not easy give up all fast food because it’s really a physical addiction to fat, salt and/or sugar. Begin by familiarizing yourself with healthier options when eating out like good Mexican, Indian, Chinese and health food restaurants. Instead of the old fast-food places try these new places until you find new favorites. Personally, I pack nutritious and delicious meals and snacks wherever I go to completely avoid eating out unless I know where I’m going to eat.
Set a specific, achievable action steps like:
- “I will eat in healthier restaurants (instead of fast-food places)”.
- “I will pack my lunch when I go to work”.
Typical health goal #7: “Stop Drinking Soda.”
It may be difficult to cut out all sugar drinks from your diet at once. Think about ways to decrease the amount of soda you are drinking. For example, drink sweet fruit juices instead to develop new tastes or try substitutions like flavored water, honey sweetened tea or green tea. Slowly replace soda with juice and then eventually replace juice with water and herbal teas.
An example of a solid goal is:
- “I will stop purchasing soda when I shop and start purchasing juices and other natural beverages.”
Typical health goal #8: “Drink More Water.”
Ask yourself how you can increase your water intake. One of the easiest ways to keep hydrated particularly if you have dry skin is to eliminate dried fruits and even dry vegetables like mushrooms and eat more soups and wet dishes. For most people drinking herbal teas and green tea is easier and even healthier than just drinking water all day: Set realistic, specific steps you can achieve, like:
- “I will get a refillable water bottle to carry with me.”
- “I will replace calorie-laden beverages with water or flavored water.”
- “I will drink a full glass of water upon waking before eating breakfast”
- “I will drink green tea while at work.”
Typical health goal #9: “Get More Sleep.”
Sleep is essential for good health. Conditions like anxiety, stress and fatigue are exasperated by lack of sleep. Think about ways you can reach this goal. An example of an action step might be:
- “I will go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual and avoid caffeine in the day.”
- “I will take herbal teas each night with hops, chamomile, passion flower and valerian root.”
- “I will stop watching TV at night and just read.”
- “I will get in bed at the same time each night.”
Set a specific bedtime, and stick to a consistent schedule to enable your body’s internal clock to get in into a sleeping rhythm. Children can especially benefit from having a consistent routine for getting to bed at the same time each night.
Typical health goal #10: “Get Healthy.”
Forget this goal! It’s just not specific enough unless you really define it in some tangible terms such as:
I will talk to Khabir and pick a holistic wellness plan