A Brighter Year Starts from a Better You
Healthy Living Topic
5/1/2018 – A Brighter Year Starts from a Better You
By Caleb Mok, Dietician
It’s the beginning of a brand-new year! As the parties, countdowns and fireworks fade off, you might be left with your thinking box, figuring out the goals that you would like to achieve for this year.
A brighter year starts from a better you, and of course, better health status. If you've decided to change a habit - whether it's quitting smoking, lowering your blood pressure, becoming more active, or doing something else to improve your health - congratulations! Making that decision is the first step toward making a change. However, have you been planning goals that you found overwhelming and hard to achieve? Or have you ever given up on the new year resolutions that you excitedly set for yourself?
Here’s some handy and practical tips to help you achieve your personal goals and ultimately, a brighter new year!
- Have your own reasons for change
Knowing why you want to change is the very important first step of setting goals. Taking the time to think about what will motivate or inspire you will help you reach your goals. It can be losing some weight for a healthier blood cholesterol profile, quitting smoking to protect you and your loved ones, etc.
It's not easy to change habits. So, instead of just thinking about the reasons; write them down. Better still, put them on your desk, refrigerator, treadmill, etc to be a constant reminder of why you started at the first place.
- Set SMART goals
Unrealistic goals can be exhausting while unspecific ones leave us with no direction. Both can bring disappointment and kill the motivation to even set new goals. Therefore, make “S.M.A.R.T.” goals!
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym to guide us when setting goals, whether in personal and business development, project management and others. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
Specific (S) – Saying you want to be healthier does not tell you what to do, how frequent you are planning to carry out the action and how long you aim to see a result. If you have no idea what to do, the likelihood of making it into a behavior will be greatly reduced.
It’s ok to start with baby steps, but be specific. For instance, a specific goal will be something like “I want to gradually reduce the number of cigarette that I smoke from 20 sticks a day to 3 in a day within 9 months and stop completely within 12 months.”
Measurable (M) – If your goal is measurable, the statement will be able to address questions like “how much? How many?” Ultimately, you will know when it is accomplished. When the progress can be measured, you will be able stay on track, reach the target on time, and most importantly, you’ll be encouraged to maintain the results.
One example of a measurable goal will be “I want to consume more fibre by having at least 5 servings vegetables and fruits a day.” In this statement, you’ll be able to quantify how many servings of vegetables and fruits that you need to take. Hence, you know whether you’ve been able to achieve it.
Achievable (A) and Realistic (R) – Is the goal beyond your ability? Is it realistic and relevant? We don’t want goals that are so challenging and unrealistic that eventually leave you in despair and give up. They should be like a good workout – stretch you a little and challenge you; but not injure you.
A bad example is like trying to lose 20kg in 1 month by taking only 1 meal a day. On the other hand, an achievable and realistic is: “I’ll lose 2kg in 3 months by replacing fried foods with lower-fat options, and cutting down the portion sizes.”
Timely (T) – Giving a realistic timeframe to achieve a goal can give you a sense of urgency within your ability. Besides that, you’ll be able to track your progress. Set smaller short-term goals and update them from time to time so that you’ll in turn achieve your long-term goal.
For example, to achieve a long-term goal of losing 6kg and having healthy blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels over a year, the short-term goals can be in phases or all at once like carrying out brisk walking at least 30 minutes 5 days per week, choosing healthier meal options 90% of the time, start preparing healthy meals to work at least 3-4 days per week.
- Expect setbacks and reward yourself
There’s nothing wrong and it’s completely normal to experience some setbacks before achieving your goals. Don’t give up because of these slip-ups. Embrace them as part of your journey. Identify what has gone wrong, then, rise up and work to overcome the barriers. These barriers are to make you understand yourself more; not to crush you. Stay positive and visualise the success in your mind to keep you going. A river cuts through rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.
You should also pat yourself on the back when you achieve a short-term goal, or taken a baby step, celebrate it. For example, reward yourself with a hiking trip with good friends, buy yourself a new sport shoes, a healthy cook book etc.
- Get support
It’s more likely that you’ll stick to and achieve your goals when there is someone supporting and working together with you. That can be an optimistic good friend, a family member or even a support group sharing the same goal. They can share their experiences with you, remind you how far you've come and celebrate with you when progress is made.
When it comes to achieving health goals, it will be useful to engage a healthcare professional in your area of need. A dietician can provide education, counseling and motivation and on how to enjoy your food within a diet plan; or doctor can provide medications to assist you with smoking cessation; and a physiotherapist or gym instructor can tailor an exercise regimen for you and push you to achieve better fitness levels; finally, a psychologist or counsellor can help you to cope with the stress and challenges.
Putting Everything Together
There will be challenges on the way to achieving your dreams. Keep in mind that you can’t cross the sea to a beautiful island merely by standing and staring at the water. So, dream big, set SMART goals, stay positive and visualise the success, and walk the journey with supporters.
We hope that you’ll be proud of the progress that you’ve made when the time comes for you to look back at the year. Last but not least, all of us at HealthPro would like to wish you a happy, wonderful and blessed new year!