Functional medicine emphasizes nutrition and lifestyle treatments to address the underlying issues that lead to chronic illness. At Functional Medicine of Idaho, we ask our patients to implement specific nutritional and lifestyle modifications in order to reach optimal health.
We understand that change can be hard. As a patient, you may be feeling overwhelmed or unsure where to start with the changes being suggested by your provider or nutritionist. Even if you are highly motivated to make healthy changes in your life, doing so without a strategic plan or without support can leave you feeling burnt out and “over it” very quickly. This is why we encourage every patient to work with a health coach who can offer guidance and support as you navigate the big modifications to your lifestyle and nutrition.
Functional Medicine of Idaho health coaches use the SMART Goal Technique to help patients set and attain reasonable goals. Setting a SMART goal requires you to think about the many factors involved in achieving your goal.
If your goal is not clear, you won’t be able to distinctly focus on it. If you set a goal to eat healthier, does eating one more vegetable than yesterday mean you’ve hit your goal? Try stating your goal as specifically as possible as an activity-related objective that you would like to meet. Being specific helps you shape your goal into an instruction, telling yourself exactly what to do. By including the method, not just the outcome, within your goal, your brain is primed to see challenges or barriers as a natural part of the process and will be ready for problem-solving engagement.
General goal: “I want to eat healthier.”
Specific goal: ‘I will eat 5 servings of fruits or vegetables every day.”
General goal: “I want to sleep more.”
Specific goal: “I will be in bed by 10:30 pm 5 nights this week.”
General goal: “I want to reduce my stress.”
Specific goal: “I will practice my heart math breathing technique for 10 minutes every morning.”
Goal setting tip: Making a goal for an action that you want to complete, rather than one you want to avoid, tends to be more effective.
You will need to be able to quantify and track your progress towards your goal. Adding quantifiable criteria to your goal allows you to measure your progress. Keep an actual log of your progress. Being able to count off the numbers will feel good, and measuring will allow you to visibly see your progress and discourage you from cheating. Measuring your results can also help you evaluate your methods and adjust your goals, as necessary, along the way. To set a measurable goal, define what evidence will provide that you’ve hit your target. Ask yourself, “How will I know that I’ve achieved my goal?”
Unmeasurable goal: “I want to eat healthier.”
Measurable goal: “I will eat 8 servings of fruits or vegetables every day.”
Unmeasurable goal: “I want to get more exercise.”
Measurable goal: “I will go to the gym and walk 2 miles on the treadmill 3 times this week.”
Unmeasurable goal: “I want to work on my flexibility.”
Measurable goal: “I will stretch for 10 minutes every evening for the next month.”
Goal setting tip: Get creative with your tracking methods: a calendar, notebook, or tracking app are all great options.
It can be tempting to get excited about making changes to your lifestyle and set goals that aren’t achievable within the timeline you’ve selected or because the goal itself doesn’t fit within your lifestyle or schedule. Your goal can be ambitious, and should certainly challenge you, but should not be impossible to attain. If your goal is too big or does not easily fit into your current lifestyle or schedule, begin by breaking it into smaller objectives that challenge you to follow through so you’ll be less likely to get distracted or discouraged.
Unachievable goal: I want to meditate for 20 minutes every morning. (But my mornings are completely chaotic while I get my children out of bed, fed, and to school on time before I go to work.)
Achievable goal: Once my kids are asleep in the evening, I will sit in meditative silence for 20 minutes before I go to bed. I will do this every night for the next 30 days.
Achievable goal: I will take my lunch break in my car 3 days this week so that I can meditate for 20 minutes before eating and returning to my desk.
Unachievable goal: I want to run a half marathon next month. (But I can’t run more than a mile without feeling sick.)
Achievable goal: I will run 3 times a week, starting with 1 mile and adding a quarter mile distance each run until I reach 13 miles.
Achievable goal: I will join a running group this month to find social connection and motivation as I train for a half marathon.
Goal setting tip: Choose a goal that you are sure you can reach, but that will challenge you to follow through with smaller, more attainable actions required to achieve it.
Your goals need to align with your values and long-term objectives. If you are not inspired and motivated by your goal, you will be unlikely to work on it. If you are not completely determined to achieve your goal, obstacles and distractions will easily veer you off track. When we make goals, we need to encompass the mind, body, and spirit. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to achieve this goal?”
Irrelevant goal: I want to lose weight. (Because my doctor told me to.)
Relevant goal: I will exercise 4 times each week for 3 month so that I will have more energy to play with my kids.
Irrelevant goal: I want to stop drinking coffee. (But I have a morning ritual of drinking coffee and reading the paper to prepare for my day. I do not want to give my ritual.)
Relevant goal: I will maintain my morning ritual, but will swap my coffee for herbal tea.
Irrelevant goal: I want to run a half marathon. (But I hate running).
Relevant goal: I will swim (or Zumba, or cycle, or do yoga – insert the type of workout YOU enjoy here) 4 times a week for the next 3 months.
Goal setting tip: As you break down your big goals into smaller, achievable goals, be sure that each step of attaining the goal makes sense to you and has some level of personal importance or relevance for you.
Goals should be time-bound. When will you know that you’ve achieved your goal? When setting your health goals, it’s most helpful to choose a timeframe that is realistic and not too far into the future. Long, far-off deadlines can sabotage your success. Give yourself a finish line that you can see. This will help you prioritize the steps in your goal, and give you motivation to hit the finish line. When you hit that finish line, evaluate and set a new goal based on your progress.
Non time-bound goal: I want to get fit this year.
Time-bound goal: I will lift weights 3 times a week for 10 weeks.
Non time-bound goal: I want to stop drinking caffeine.
Time-bound goal: I will be caffeine free in 2 weeks by reducing my caffeine intake by 10 mg every day.
Non time-bound goal: I want to eat a plant based diet.
Time-bound goal: I will eat 8 servings of fruits and vegetables every day for 6 weeks.
Goal setting tip: Choosing the right time frame is key. Too little time will mean your goal isn’t attainable, and too much time may deter you from finding the motivation to start working toward it.
Additional Goal Setting Tips
- Only adopt goals that are meaningful to you. Someone else’s goals will not work for you.
- Write your SMART goals down, so you can refer to them and review your progress. Share your goals with others for motivation and accountability.
- Focus on the process, not just the outcome. Keep the outcome in mind, but spend your mental energy focusing on how you will reach your goal.
- Making adjustments is part of any goal achievement process. Don’t feel bad if you don’t reach your goal. Instead, evaluate your goals, readjust as necessary, and jump back in.
Work with a Functional Medicine of Idaho Health Coach for extra support setting SMART goals and maintaining motivation as you work towards them.