Setting Realistic Goals – The Do’s & Don’ts

Happy Sunday everyone! So, throughout my blog I talk a lot about weight management, positive body image, and being happy with yourself as a person. I discuss these often because all of these topics I am very passionate about and have either thought about a lot or experienced aspects of them in my personal life. Today I want to give a good foundation for change. Even if you are practicing good self body image or working more on your own personal happiness, it’s always OK to want to better yourself. There are always going to be things you want to try or want to work on. For example, one of my long term goals since I have been in college is to be a good and competitive runner. When I say competitive, I don’t mean compete in the olympics or run as my career, but I want to PR each time I compete in a race. I want to test myself and see my name crawl up the list from 500 out of 1,000 to 100 out of 1,000. These are personal goals of mine and running is something I enjoy. This brings me to my first “don’t” of setting goals…

1. Don’t compare your goals to others’. To add on to this a little…. don’t set trendy goals. 

This is probably the most important thing to remember when setting your goals. Set goals around something you are passionate about or enjoy. I would never set a goal to compete in crossfit games. I admire people who do this and think they are way stronger than I ever hope to be, but it truly is not something I am interested in. There are plenty of “fitness fads” that come around for a few months and then fade away. For me, running has and probably always will be my number one way to exercise and remain fit. Because of this, I set my fitness goals around running. When I achieve these goals it makes me feel happy, empowered, and want to push myself further!


Have you ever heard of SMART goals? SMART goals stand for simple, measurable, achievable, realistic (some people say relevant), and time bound. Using this concept is a great way to evaluate goals in your personal life and make sure you are setting yourself up to achieve them. This brings me to a “do” when setting your own goals.

 2.  Do set standards with your goals. Give yourself a time limit, and a way to            measure what you have achieved.

Whether you want to become better at meal prepping or you are training for your first half marathon, giving yourself standards is important! It helps hold you accountable and give you a way to measure your success. For example if you are really working on planning ahead and meal prepping, perhaps set a goal like “By this day next month I will try to prep at least 3 meals/week to bring for lunch at work.” If this time next month you are still dragging your butt and that grocery list never quite makes it to the store to get your supplies, maybe you need some help setting up a new plan or need to find a new motivator to complete this goal. One of my running goals has always been to decrease my half marathon time by at least 2-4 minutes each race. Believe it or not I have been running halfs (I’m not quite motived yet to complete a full) for about 5 years, and each race I have in fact decreased my time. This is something that is always in the back of my mind when training and it is very clear if I achieve it or not come race day.

3. Do set realistic goals and KNOW what is actually realistic for yourself.

Setting unrealistic goals leaves potential for you to feel unsatisfied or frustrated if you fail. It also increases the chances that you won’t follow through with the goal or will burn out early. An example of an unrealistic goal would be: “I will loose 20 lbs in 2 weeks before I go to my high school reunion.” This is unrealistic for a few reasons. The first is 20 lbs in 2 weeks is not feasible and it is not safe. Safe weight loss that remains off is about 1-2 lbs per week. If someone is telling you that you can lose 20 lbs in 2 weeks, automatically know it is a scam (just an FYI!). This goal also has an external motivator, not an internal motivator. Wanting to lose weight to feel better physically or better your health is an internal motivator. Wanting to lose weight to impress others is external. If you do not complete this goal, you are not only going to feel upset with yourself, but you will feel like you are disappointing others. Stick with internal motivators. If you feel like you need more motivation, surround yourself with positive people whom will check in with you and help hold you accountable for the right reasons. For example a friend that will attend fitness classes with you can help you meet your weight loss goal by giving you someone to exercise with and hold you accountable to actually show up to the class!


The last thing I’m going to touch on is so extremely important and should perhaps be the first thing to think about before even starting the goal-setting process.

4. Do set goals that will make you happy. Happiness is key; goals that can interfere with that should be put on the back burner or adjusted.

Sometimes I cringe when I hear people complaining about goals.

“I can’t believe I signed up for X…. it is such a waste of my time.”

“Training for X has been so stressful. I can’t wait until it is over.”

“Trying to lose 50lbs has been so depressing. I feel like I can’t eat anything on this diet.”

Stress can do so much harm to both a physical and mental state. Setting goals can be stressful, but the satisfaction and motivation of working towards something you want should eventually replace the initial stress of trying something new. If a goal is causing more frustration than satisfaction from seeing progress, you may need to re-evaluate the goal or maybe take a look at why you set it in the first place. I would never tell someone who hates to run to run a marathon. Don’t lose sign of your end results and find ways to motivate you that don’t interfere with your daily happiness!


Food for thought…

You know, sometimes I wonder if we have created our own problems with obesity, morbid obesity, the increase in Type 2 diabetes, and the high prevalence of eating disorders that torment so many teens to the point of depression.

As a practicing dietitian, I sometimes find myself slipping into the commonality of talking about “healthy eating”, what is “good or bad”, and sometimes I catch myself just soon enough to say to myself, what are you about to do? I myself have fallen into the routine of buying low-fat products or sugar-free items at points in my life, and I will slowly but surely reel myself back in to what I know is true and wholesome for my body. All of these products that are marketed for “dieting” or “cutting back on X” start to drive even those of us who are well trained in nutrition and dietetics insane with doubt or questioning of our own beliefs. When will it all stop?

As our society continues to promote the next best weight loss product, promote a new line of sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, fat-free (I mean what is it made of at that point?) products, emphasize cleansing to “start fresh and pure” (which promotes restrictive behaviors by the way), or poke at severe weight gain or weight loss through reality TV, we just keep getting worse and worse. As a country we become heavier; we become more sluggish; we become more fixated on weight; and we become less fixated on the simple joys and pleasure of life… one of those being food.

I’m waiting for a day that I don’t know will every really come, but I encourage anyone who struggles with body image, weight maintenance, would like to lose weight, or is just not happy with who they see in the mirror to dig a little deeper and realize that the first thing they need to do is go back to the beginning. Start with the basics. Enjoy the sweetness of a piece of fruit, the saltiness and richness of homemade pizza with whole milk cheese, the crispness of a salad, and enjoy something that they really like at least once a week. Maybe that’s a serving of full fat ice cream, maybe that’s a slice of pizza, maybe its a burger with all the toppings, it doesn’t really matter. I want you to go for a walk or a run, go for a swim, go hiking and take in the beauty of whats around you, not fixate on the amount of calories you burned on your Fitbit.

I hope that maybe this post sparked something in someone or effected someone in a positive way. Again, as a Registered Dietitian, I ask that whenever you have questions regarding these topics such as weight, you go to someone like myself who is truly there to resurface your best self and help you find balance and happiness, not steer you in the direction of more self-hate, discouragement, or frustration.

Have a great weekend everyone 🙂

Focus on Feeling Fantastic…

Happy November 1st everyone! November is a busy month, and now even more busy that I have additional family! Today is actually my dad’s birthday, tomorrow is my husbands, mine comes around next Friday (the 6th… for those of you wanting to send some warm wishes my way!), and my mom finishes up the start of November with her birthday on the 13th. Actually, I shouldn’t say finish, because we also have other family members with November birthdays as well… talk about a month of celebrating!

I thought I’s start out this month with some positive thinking and putting the whole concept of “healthy eating” into perspective.

I hear it on a weekly basis… “Eating healthy is boring; I want to actually enjoy my food; Vegetables don’t have any flavor; I’m just not a fruit and vegetable person.” The list could actually go on much further, but I don’t want to waste a positive post with negative thoughts. The reason I point out these comments is because people tend to lose sight of why we should eat healthy in the first place. No, I don’t wake up every morning and think “Now how am I going to get in my vegetable servings today?” or  “I wonder how many artificial flavorings or colors are in this cereal….maybe I shouldn’t eat it.” I enjoy a greasy chicken wing or a big old scoop of full-fat ice cream just as much as the next person, but with my focus being “I want to feel the best I can each day,” the chicken wings and the ice cream tend to take a back seat more often than become the driver of my meals.

Focus on feeling fantastic.

Try this. One day, eat the way you know you should, and by that I simply mean: 1. Eat a fruit or a vegetable with each meal, heck… why not have both? 2. Drink mainly water. 3 Cook your own food; use as little processed food as necessary. 4. If it comes from the ground, give it a try! 5. Choose lean protein and maintain variety. See how you feel at the end of the day. My bet would be you feel: energized; awake; light but strong; happy.

The next day, go ahead and eat what you feel “tastes good” or what you desire the most. Whether that be a big old burger, a pizza from your favorite mom and pop shop, a bowl of chips and dip during the big game, or a soda to wash down your meal. Do the same observation at the end of the day. If all goes as it should, you should feel a difference and not a great one.

When we focus on feeling fantastic, the desire to eat foods that don’t contribute to this feeling lesson. Why taint a good mood, a good feeling, or the energy to do what you need to do with your best effort? It just doesn’t seem worth it. Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber, and so much more that is like liquid gold to your body. Pair your plant-based food choices with lean, organic, or minimally processed protein choices and you’ve given your body a map to success.

Focus on feeling fantastic and focus on being your best you! That is healthy living.