How to Set Winning Health Goals

Health goals are about change and personal values

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

With New Year's resolution season just around the corner, it's time to start thinking about goals for the new year. Why not make them health goals?

Health goals can take many forms — weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking, drinking less and many others. So how do you choose? And, once you choose, how do you get there?

What Are Health Goals?

Personal trainer and wellness coach Rusty Gregory told dailyRx News that setting health goals is all about change. You may want to change your body, your lifestyle or your mindset, and health goals can help you, Gregory said.

But once you achieve your health goal, be sure you've made a change that will stick. In his personal training studio in Austin, TX, Gregory — who is also author of "Self-Care Reform: How to Discover Your Own Path to Good Health" and "Living Wheat-Free For Dummies" — helps many clients with their health goals, and he knows from experience that your plan for after you achieve your health goal is as important as the goal itself.

"I had one client who lost 200 pounds in 11 months," Gregory said. "In 11 months, he went from 420 pounds to 220, but he bounced right back up because he didn't have a plan in place for once he got to where he wanted to be. Health goals are to get people to change for good, not just the here and now."

Steps to Success

Health goals can be as big as you like, Gregory said, but they must be made up of smaller steps. Gregory outlined a few steps that can change health goals from distant dreams to reality.

First, be specific. Don't just set a vague goal to visit your doctor several times in the next year.

"Say 'I'll call my doctor and schedule an appointment at noon on Wednesday,' not just 'I'll do it,'" Gregory said.

To make your health goal specific, answer the who, what, when, where, why and how of your goals, Gregory said.

Gregory said the second step to winning health goals is to make them measurable. Instead of saying you want to start running more, say how far you want to be able to run.

Step three: Make your goal action-oriented, Gregory said. Envision yourself completing the action necessary to accomplish the goal. That means saying you will do something, not saying that you will not do something.

"If you have a bad habit that you're trying to stop, you might say 'I will not eat sugar,' but what does that look like?" Gregory said. "Instead, picture yourself doing something specific, like eating more real foods like fruits, vegetables and meats."

But what's a health goal worth if it's not realistic? That's the fourth step, Gregory said — make sure your goal is possible.

"Unrealistic goals are never met," he said. "Knowing your limits and abilities is essential to setting realistic health goals."

And, finally, your health goal should have a set start and end date, Gregory said.

"This creates a sense of urgency and encourages immediate action," he said.

How to Follow Through

Once you've set your goals, how do you follow through? Gregory said being able to follow through with your health goals starts with your values.

"Your values are what's important to you, why you're making the change," he said. "What makes this new behavior important to you? Take what's important to you and attach it to your goal."

If you make your goal important to you by matching it to your personal values, you're more likely to follow through, Gregory said.

"When you start thinking about what matters to you the most — maybe family, growing old and staying fit — you're going to have to do certain things to make sure you're able to achieve those when you're 65 or 70," he said. "Keep that in mind as you set your health goals — what are the little goals that will get you to your ultimate goal?"

Review Date: 
December 3, 2014