Goal Setting in Nutrition: think SMALL changes for BIG results

In the early days of January, tips on achieving your new goals, making big changes and creating  a “new you” seem to swirl everywhere as folks set their expectations for the new year. It seems that many of these goals center on healthy eating and weight loss, and while making a lifestyle change seems like a wonderful idea now, it may not be sustainable for the long haul – and so what’s the point?

I came across some wonderful recommendations from Meridan Zerner, a sports dietician at the Cooper Clinic, focusing on how to actually make healthy eating a part of your daily habit – because that’s the real challenge – but the only way that these changes can keep having an effect on your for the next few years, rather than the next few weeks!

Zerner’s focus is on easing healthier habits into your lifestyle in a way that will stick. Because that’s the tricky thing – it’s relatively easy to begin the year eating healthy, dreaming of our lofty goals…but as time passes, lifestyle overhauls become more and more difficult to maintain. Zerner’s solution? Ease into it slowly – do not focus on a lifestyle overhaul, but rather small changes that you know you can stick to – that will then add up.

With regard to your nutrition goal setting, Zerner recommends choosing one specific thing to change, not on overhauling your life. If you can get one reasonable change to be made in your habits, it could end up making much more of a difference in the long term than an unsustainable lifestyle overhaul (think: no carbs! no sweets! …not sustainable for most people!) – and these changes should be about the long term, after all.

There are two routes to go here:
1. You could think about reductions to your current habits, and choose just one!

For example, could you leave the cheese off your sandwich at lunch? If so, this could compound to a substantial decrease in fat and calories over the course of a year, and you really are not changing anything too drastically.

Or, could you have one soda per week instead of two? Or one glass of wine at dinner instead of two? These can also start to add up to considerable savings.

2. If reductions are not your style – go for making healthy additions, a shift in focus that will actually achieve the same result:

For example, could you say: “I am going to eat 5 fruits and vegetables per day.” You may not want to spend time and energy thinking about calories, so instead, a shift in focus to adding healthy foods into your diet could slowly swing the pendulum to healthier eating without you even realizing it. In order to fit in 5 fruits/veggies per day, you’ll likely be swapping a snack or side that was probably higher in calories and lower in fiber, and gaining the health benefits of fruits and veggies, to boot!

Zerner recommends focusing on sticking to whichever small change it is you commit to for 8-10 weeks – because that is usually about how long it takes to establish something as a habit in your life. If you are able to make just one or two of these small changes (or anything else you can think up that is reasonable, and attainable for you!) just through the end of February or early March – you may find yourself with a shift in lifestyle through just that small change – and some aspect of healthy eating could be a part of your everyday life!

I definitely recommend checking out Zerner’s video on the topic here on Cooper Aerobics Health & Wellness site – it’s only 3 minutes!

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