How to Get SMART About Your Health Goals

by | Jan 15, 2017 | Health | 2 comments

SMART health goals

Angelo & me after running our first ever 5k in 2010!

I spent most of my adult life fighting my weight. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food, and labeled everything I ate as either “good” or “bad”. As a result, I was always either “on a diet”, and being very restrictive about what I could and couldn’t eat, or I was “off my diet”, which meant that I was having a free for all and throwing all caution to the wind when it came to what I was indulging in. As you can imagine, this caused a lot of stress in my life.
When I became pregnant, I suffered from terrible morning sickness. I quickly learned that letting my body eat whatever it was in the mood for was the best way to keep my nausea away. For the first time in my life, I gave myself permission to eat salads only when I was in the mood for them, eat as many carbs as my body craved, and treat myself to dessert whenever I wanted it. This was liberating. And in the beginning of my pregnancy, after treating my body this way for several weeks, I noticed that I hadn’t gained very much weight. In fact, I had only gained 3 pounds. This was mind-blowing to me. I started to realize that I had been driving myself crazy with my diet mentality all for just 3 lbs.! That’s when I decided to change my eating habits forever. And, when I found out that I was having a daughter, it reinforced this decision, because I knew that I did not want my daughter to grow up with a mother that had an unhealthy relationship with food.
I decided that I was never going to go on a restrictive diet again. I continued doing what I had been doing throughout my pregnancy, and my body gained the weight that it needed to sustain my pregnancy. I continued to listen to my body and eat what I wanted after I gave birth, and I went back to my normal weight fairly quickly. I figured out that if I gave myself permission to eat what I naturally craved, my body would maintain its natural weight. Instead of focusing on restricting calories, or sticking to a specific diet, I’ve been focused on eating more whole foods and being more active. I’ve been more interested in feeling good and being happy than in analyzing every little thing that I’m eating. This has created a nice balance in my life.
However, recently I’ve started to notice that this relaxed attitude towards my physical health has caused me to get a little lazy. I’ve been having a lot of treats and missing a lot of my morning yoga sessions. I’ve started to feel heavier and not as comfortable as I would like to feel in my body. So, I decided that one of my goals this year is to be healthier.
My husband, Angelo, is a Strength & Conditioning Coach and one of the healthiest people I know. I turned to him for help in reaching my goal. But, when I told him that my goal was to be healthier, he suggested that this goal was very vague, and that I should set a more specific goal. He started to tell me about a method of goal setting called SMART goals. I decided to interview him so that he could describe this to all of us in detail, and help us all get on the right track to setting and achieving the right health and fitness goals. I am so excited to introduce you to him and let him share his wisdom!
Here is our interview:
What does good health mean to you?
To an extent good health means the absence of injury and disease, but once that is attained I believe good health means being the best version of yourself possible by being physically active, having a well-nourished body and an overall healthy lifestyle.
When I told you that one of my goals this year is to get healthier, you said that I need to have a SMART goal. What does SMART stand for, and what does it mean?
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed; it’s a commonly known principle of business goals that applies to health goals was well.  “Getting Healthy” is a good overall goal, but too vague to really be effective.  For example, “lose weight” is too broad to really work, to be effective it should be more specific, so a better goal is “lose 10 lbs. by March 1st” it fits all of the SMART principles and will allow you to monitor your progress. 
So instead of setting a general goal of being healthier, what are some examples of a better goal I could set following the guidelines of a SMART goal?
SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant
SMART goals apply to health/fitness as well as most aspects of life, let’s take a look at some ways to set effective wellness goals:
General: “I’d like to get in shape”
SMART:  “I’m going to run a 5k without stopping on Memorial Day Weekend”
General: “I want to get stronger”
SMART: “I will do 20 push-ups with great form by March 1st
General: “I want to eat only healthy foods this year”
SMART: “I will not eat fried foods or dessert on weekdays in January”
General: “I will try to listen to one new podcast every week”
SMART: “I will walk/jog/bike every time I listen to my favorite podcast this month”
General: “I want to improve my flexibility”
SMART: “I will master a specific yoga pose by January 31st” 
What do you think is the #1 mistake that people make when embarking on new health goals?
Early in the year a lot of people make unrealistic New Year’s Resolutions like “Work out every day this year” or “Cut my caloric intake in half” I usually tell people to set reasonable goals for a week or a month at a time and then make adjustments as the year goes on.  Start with exercising three times a week in January and see how that goes, once your body is acclimated to physical activity for a month you can move onto more aggressive goals one month at a time. 
What do you think is the #1 step anyone can take toward improving their health?
The first step is doing something physical every day, so while getting to the gym seven days a week might be unrealistic, taking a walk, using the stairs or doing some stretching/core work while watching television is completely doable for most of us.  Once your body starts to acclimate to regular physical activity you can take the next step of going to a gym, taking exercise classes or running road races. 
What are your tips for “getting back on the wagon” after having an “off” day with your health goals?
Everybody can have a “Cheat Meal” or a “Cheat Day” but the important thing is not to allow it to become a regular pattern.  After a period of not eating properly or missing workouts you should allow your body to hit the “Reset Button” with a quality training session and a full day of healthy eating (lean proteins, vegetables, plenty of water, etc.) and then continue with your previous plan. 
You saw firsthand how crazy our lives got after we had our daughter, June. What is your advice for prioritizing your health no matter how busy you are?
First you have to prioritize exercise and healthy eating like anything else you find important: work, family time, household chores, etc.  Also, work with your spouse to make it work for both of you.  Training every day with a child and a busy life is hard for most people, but you can try a system where you ask your husband to watch the baby on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays while you do yoga and then you watch the baby on Tues and Thursdays while he goes to the gym. 
The most important factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a young child in the house is to prioritize your health and work with your partner to plan a schedule that allows you both to exercise, eat and live healthy lives. 
Even if you are not a parent or in a relationship, life can get crazy and everybody’s busy, but having clearly defined goals and working with your support system to attain them will help everybody attain better health and wellness. 
Is there anything else you want to add?
Physical Activity, Good Nutrition and Healthy Living are attainable for everyone if they are willing to commit to the time and effort necessary.  Make small changes every day to make a big difference in your overall health
I hope that you found this interview helpful! Have you ever heard of setting SMART goals before? What are some ways in which you can adapt your goals to meet the SMART guidelines? Please let me know in the comments below! I am going to start to work towards my goal of being healthier by setting 2 SMART goals: I will cook nutritious dinners 3 times per week and practice yoga at home 4 times per week for the next month, then work up from there.
Wishing you a week of SMART goal setting and much success!
Be well,
Ambar Gingerelli

Hi, I’m Ambar.

I’m a mommy + me yoga instructor, writer, and life coach. I am here to help you decrease stress so that you can take good care of yourself and your family.

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