The New Year often comes with new goal setting, and often one of the biggest and most important goals people can set for themselves is trying to start (or restart) a healthy lifestyle. Vanessa Carter, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist with Nutrition Therapy and Wellness, offers insight for anyone trying to get back on track with their health in 2024.

If you want to improve your health but aren’t sure where to start, you can start by asking yourself, “Why do I want to improve my health?” What do you want to improve and how will your life be different if you improve your health?  Will you save money by reducing medications?  Will you have more energy and be more productive with your daily activities?  Is there an activity you want to do but your weight prevents you from doing it (hiking a certain trail, climbing a 14-er, playing a sport, keeping up with kids or grandkids, etc).  Will you save money on diabetes supplies if your diabetes is under control?  How will your quality of life improve?  By eating better and exercising more, will your depression improve?  There are so many reasons why we should all improve our health but listing our unique reasons will keep us motivated during the tough times.  I strongly recommend making a list of “reasons to improve health” and continuing to add to it as you come up with new reasons.  When we struggle with motivation, we can refer back to our list to remind us why we are working so hard.

Once you have your reasons, you can then start with what needs to improve.  Start by writing down everything you eat and drink for 2-3 days.  Record how much exercise and sleep you are getting. What did you learn? After you have this information, you can then make a list of possible improvements in specific areas. These can include but aren’t limited to: eating breakfast daily, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, reducing portion sizes, reducing liquid calories (coffee drinks, soda, energy drinks, alcohol), eating dinner earlier in the evenings, eating out less, increasing exercise, adding resistance training, reducing stress or coping with stress in a healthier way, sleeping more, etc. Pick one to start with and set a SMART goal.

SMART stands for:

Specific: what exactly are you going to do?

Measurable: can you track and measure this goal?

Achievable: is this a realistic goal?

Relevant: related to your overall goal? Remember your list of reasons to improve health.

Time-bound: what is the end date to this goal?  How long are you going to work on it?

An example of a SMART goal is:

“For this coming week (time-bound), I am going to walk on my lunch hour (specific) for 15 minutes (measurable, achievable) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (time-bound).”

Set alarms or reminders to get started.  Place your walking shoes in plain sight so it’s easy to slip them on.  Verbalize this goal to a friend, co-worker, or family member, as this will help you commit to it.  Keep track of your progress as this improves your confidence with meeting goals.  Assess your progress at the end of the week and set a new goal.  You may want to add 5 minutes to your walk or add another day.  You may want to keep this same goal and start with a new nutrition goal.  Be patient, changing behaviors can take time and repetition but your investment will have a huge payout later on.

If you still feel stuck, consider consulting with a registered dietitian who can assess your eating and exercise habits to help you get started. Nutrition Therapy and Wellness is here to help. A dietitian consultation requires a provider referral – make an appointment with your Primary Care Partners Provider today to see if Nutrition Therapy and Wellness can help you achieve your health goals.

For adults with a BMI of 30 or greater, BreakThroughs is a great place to start. This program offers support for making improvements in your health as it incorporates nutrition education with behavioral health to create lifelong healthy eating behaviors. For more information on BreakThroughs or please call 970-255-1576.