Setting Goals That Last

jansaleYou may have noticed your YMCA branch being a bit busier than usual these last few days. That should be no surprise since we all know that losing weight, getting fit, and improving health top the list for most common resolutions.

But did you know that nearly a fourth of people set the same resolution each year, and fail at it each year? Only eight percent of people who make a New Year’s resolution actually see it through the entire year.

There are ways to make sure you’re in that successful eight percent. It’s not too late to alter your resolution to make it more attainable, or to make one to improve your health.

An ever-popular resolution has to do with improving your diet. It’s no wonder—by the time we hit New Year’s, we are shaking off the effects of over a month of festivities including rich foods and rationalizations that “I’ll just have one because it’s the holidays.”

It’s easy to resolve on January 1 that you’ll never touch sugar again, because you’ve just had so much of it your body is crying out for a salad.

Unfortunately, after a few days recovering from that sugar hangover, your resolve begins to weaken. The dark cold days have you crying out for comfort foods. This is when those resolutions begin to crumble. But we’re going to change up those resolutions to make this the year you can follow through.

Make your resolutions SMART

Every goal you set should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. There’s really no way to know if you’ve succeed if you have vague statements like “I’m going to eat more cleanly”. Goals like “I’m going to lose 20 pounds this month” may not be entirely realistic, despite what you see on The Biggest Loser. Instead, make sure the goal is specific and realistic, with statements like “I will eat a salad for lunch 4 days a week.” The goals should be actionable things you have complete control over (attainable) that you can very easily measure, and set a time frame for them.

Make it visible

Write your goals down, on paper. Write your motivation to reach those goals —how your life will be better when as you attain it. Post that paper in your kitchen, on your bathroom mirror, or by your computer. Wherever it needs to be, to be a continuous visual reminder.

Avoid words like “never” and “always”

“I’m never going to have another cookie, I’m always going to eat a salad for lunch.” These are just setting yourself up for disaster. The minute you slip a tiny bit, you’ve failed. Nobody’s perfect, so don’t resolve to be. Instead, plan for little treats every now and then, but keep them out of sight to avoid mindless noshing.

Plan for success

Make sure that you have everything set up to support your goals. If your goals involve eating more vegetables, make sure your fridge is stocked. If you are always rushing to get dinner on the table, be sure those vegetables are washed, prepped, and ready to go. If you rush out the door every morning, your lunch salad ready the night before. Making positive changes will require organization and forethought. Brainstorm the challenges to your success, and figure out ways around them.

Be accountable

Set up an account on a free diet tracker like MyFitnessPal. Enlist the help of friends and family members to keep you honest. Use social media to tell your intentions. If you say on Facebook you are going to be passing on the break room doughnuts, you’re far less likely to grab one and let people see you cave.


“Well, I’ve already messed up today, I might as well eat that cake and just start over tomorrow.” Sound familiar? It’s one of our most common—and most flawed—ideas. If you mess up, brush yourself off and recommit to those goals…NOW. Not after cake. Everyone slips, but how you respond to a slip will define your progress. Just keep on going and remember why you’re on this journey.


…just not with food. Treat yourself to a new pair of sunglasses, a pedicure, or a new game once you hit a certain milestone. Or just go and and brag about it on Facebook! Take some time to acknowledge the hard work you’ve done and how far you’ve come. Nobody said accomplishing goals was easy. But it’s always worth it.

Nourishing Thoughts is written by Julie Miller, an expert on nutrition and fitness instructor at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA.

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