Setting diet goals can help in the effort to develop healthier eating habits or in successfully sticking with your weight loss plan.
Actively setting sensible diet goals increases your chances to meet those goals. Not only that, but it has also been proven that those who do set goals increase their chances of keeping the weight off.
When setting nutritional goals start first with a long-term goal. Long term may include things like:
- To be healthier
- To look better
- To feel better
- To have more energy.
It's easy to be motivated when you climb out of the shower and catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. At that moment it's simple to vow you're going to lose the extra weight you've put on. But at the end of a stressful day, it's easy to forget about that promise to yourself because you just want to relax with the comfort food of your choice.
Initial motivation is not the problem. When your pants don't want to zip, you're motivated, but slip into something a little more comfortable and the motivation wanes. It's keeping that drive and momentum going that's hard. To stay motivated, you must stay focused on your long-term goal. From the following tips, choose strategies you think will work for you:
- Post a photo on the refrigerator of what you hope to look like when you reach your long-term goal
- Write your goal down along with what you'll be able to differently-how your life will change. You can add to this list throughout your diet.
- Keep a food journal and count calories
- Take a before picture of yourself and look at it everyday
An example of a long-term goal from the Prism diet includes a promise not to place one bite of forbidden food in your mouth for the duration of the diet. When you're ready to make that commitment, you sign this agreement giving your word that you will not cheat-not even one bite.
Whatever strategy you choose, look at it everyday. Let it be a visual reminder of where you are heading.
It's easy to put off starting a diet and it can be even harder to stick with a healthy eating plan over the long term. How many times do you promise yourself "next Monday" or "after the holidays"? When setting diet goals, set your start date and your first milestone date and stick with them.
Losing weight takes time. Within your goals you may want to set up mid-way milestones. Examples of this can include weight loss goals such as measure yourself every 6-8 weeks to track inches lost. Or you can set goals like walking in the walkathon with your child in six weeks. Milestones are accomplishments to enjoy along the way to reaching your ultimate goal. Additional mid-way milestones can include things like:
- Bring cholesterol down before next doctor's visit in 6 months
- Lose 20 pounds before high school reunion
- Fit back into the clothes I wore before the baby
Base your short term goals on your long term goals. It's a way to take baby steps to reach your long-term goal. If you plan to lose 20 pounds at 2 pounds per week that means it will take 10 weeks to reach your goal. However, goals must be achievable and realistic. If they aren't, it leaves the door open for discouragement. Give yourself a few extra weeks to accommodate the weeks when you may lose only one pound or perhaps none at all.
Short term diet goals include the small things you must do each day to reach your long term goals. For example, if you're counting calories or carbs, a short term goal may be to create a menu each week with the calories figured out. Short term nutrition and fitness goals help develop healthier habits over time and ultimately see you through to reaching your long term goal.
Setting Diet Goals
As you set goals, it's important to remember that health goals need to be flexible but not loose. Don't create a reason to fail. Be sure your goals are:
- Realistic - If the goals you set are too stringent, or difficult to follow it encourages failure. Be realistic. Start with a goal that isn't too ambitious and build from there.
- Specific - A specific goal is one that can be measured and tracked.
- Achievable - An achievable goal means you have control over it. For example, counting calories every day is achievable, whereas a goal to lose three sizes may not work for your body.
- Stay focused - Whatever motivational strategy you chose at the onset of your goal setting, be sure to keep it handy and look at it everyday.
The last tip in setting diet goals is to be prepared. Prepare for success. When you have to navigate the office party, attend a neighborhood barbeque or celebrate your child's birthday-these are all part of life. Prepare ahead to know how you will navigate the temptations successfully with a contingency plan. Having a plan doesn't leave you vulnerable, and setting diet goals puts a plan in place.