Set New Goals

How to Set and Evaluate New Goals

By Nicole Vaudrin O’Reilly, MS, RD |Nutrition Educator

A lot of us know what we could do to be healthier. The hard part is putting these ideas into practice.  One way to get motivate around new goals for a healthier life – without becoming overwhelmed or discouraged – is to treat it like a self-experiment. This turns it into a process, rather than the idea of flipping a switch. Best of all, it removes the damaging self-talk that holds many of us back, for example ‘I ate pizza and cake today. I’m no good at dieting. I might as well give up,’ because it isn’t an all-or-nothing process.

This process looks a lot like doing experiments in science class. Here’s how it works:

  1. Ask yourself some questions.
    • What area of my health do I want to improve?
    • Do I want to eat healthier?
    • Would exercising more be good for me?
    • Should I try to get more sleep and reduce my stress?
  2. Research: Take a week or more to study yourself and your habits.
    • Keep a notebook, voice memos, or something similar nearby to write or record what you do during your week.
    • Write or record what you eat, what exercise you do, what causes you stress, what time you go to sleep and wake up, and whatever else you are trying to improve.
    • Then record WHY you made these choices (if you know). For example, if you want to improve your diet, you may want to track:
      • What foods you eat, how much, and what times of day?
      • How you feel throughout the day. Were you feeling– starving, rushed, stressed, bored, anxious, depressed, restless, etc.?
      • Why did you choose those foods?
    • Look for patterns, like eating too much because you skipped a meal, or getting fast food on busy days at work/school, or running late makes you stressed, etc.
  3. Create a plan to reach your new goals: With all that great information you recorded above, think about what would help you make better choices. Choose one or more to try out, for example:
    • If boredom makes you overeat, distract yourself by taking the dog for a walk, stretching, reading, putting away the laundry, or something else not related to food.
    • Drink a glass of water when you want to snack and take that time to decide whether you’re hungry or not.
    • If the food options around are a problem, try cut-up vegetables, fruit, low-fat yogurt, nuts, whole grain crackers, lightly buttered popcorn, etc.
    • If you need more sleep, set a daily timer to head to bed at an earlier time.
  4. Experiment: Try one of your new plans for at least a week and see what happens.
    • Some plans might be ready to go, but others may need to be more specific. Like changing “I will go to sleep earlier” to “I’ll set an alarm to go to bed by 10 p.m.”
  5. Collect and Analyze Information: Keep some notes like in #2 above.
    • How often were you able to meet your goal (every day, two times a week, never)?
    • What helped you be successful? What got in your way?
      • For example, if your goal was to drink a glass of water before snacking, “This seemed to work during the day at work, but I still ate junk food at home while watching TV.”
  6. Go back to your plan and re-test.
    • If you met your goal, congratulations! Keep it going until it becomes a habit.
      • Do regular check-ins every week in the beginning and then monthly as you build new habits.
    • If you didn’t meet your goal, change your plan and try again.
      • You continue to drink water during the day when at work, and then add a new goal to only buy healthier snacks for TV time.

Whatever your new goals are, we know you can make progress! NOAH’s comprehensive team is here to support and guide you through this process. If you want to reduce stress, our behavioral health team is here for you, and if you want to make healthier choices with food and exercise, our nutrition services team can help you and review your goals regularly. By doing self-experiments, you learn more about yourself and how to work with your preferences and current habits to make healthy changes.