'Well-planned goals can help you convert your thoughts into action,' says the Mayo Clinic. And when it comes to goals, SMART ones are widely viewed as the gold standard. Short for goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, this acronym can be an invaluable one when applied to goal-setting for bariatric patients.
Of course, advising your weight loss clients to “be SMART” is unlikely to be enough. Here’s a roundup of tips aimed at helping weight loss patients turn SMART goals into results.
“My goal is to lose weight.” While this may well be the end game, it leaves too much room for ambiguity. Tips for avoiding this ambiguity:
- Think of goals in terms of specific accomplishments and/or milestones.
Determine exactly how much weight you need to lose to reduce your risk of certain diseases.
Establish a specific goal BMI or goal weight.
How can you track how far you’ve come if you don’t know where you started? Enter incorporating measurability into the goal-setting process. Tips for setting measurable goals include the following:
Determine how you’ll measure your progress. This can be by monitoring BMI or body fat, weighing in, or assessing clothing size.
Establish a schedule for monitoring: When will you track your progress? Choosing the same time of day won’t just help you establish a routine. It will also support greater consistency due to naturally occurring fluctuations throughout the day.
Write it down. A physical record of progress (and stagnation) becomes a touchpoint along the journey. Plus, it offers plenty of opportunities for celebrating successes and changing course, if necessary.
We all have high hopes. However, high hopes can turn into dashed dreams if they’re not realistic. In order to keep goals attainable, weight loss patients should:
Think incremental. Starting small increases the likelihood of success — and success in itself is motivating.
Have a growth mindset. A goal isn’t finite. Plan to set new goals as the need arises. This can be in response to reaching a goal as well as in response to realizing that a goal is not reasonable at a particular point in time.
Remember: Attainable goals are challenging, but not overwhelming.
What’s the point of a goal if it doesn’t matter within the context of a weight loss patient’s life? In order to keep goals relevant, bariatric patients can do the following:
Revisit the reasons for losing weight when setting goals. This can include everything from improving health to fitting better into clothing.
Keep in mind that reasons — and relevance — change as patients continue along their journeys. Regularly assessing and reassessing goals ensures that they remain relevant through the changes.
For example, while an original goal may be to walk a mile without getting winded, this may change to walking for a longer distance or at a faster rate as capabilities improve. Research even shows that frequent goal setting — especially pertaining to lifestyle behaviors — is a positive weight loss strategy.
Therefore, propose the researchers, 'Goal setting should be an iterative process whereby the person evaluates his/her performance, and subsequently revises his/her goals or sets entirely new ones.'
Think about it: How much would you actually accomplish every day without a deadline? The same applies to bariatric patients and their weight loss goals. Use these strategies to avoid the pitfall of open-ended goals.
- Timelines for weight loss should take into account that individuals lose weight at different rates. While two pounds per week for a four-week goal of eight pounds total may be right for one person, a different person who lost weight at a rate of one pound a week would require an eight-week goal.
Create a balance of both short- and long-term goals. Success with the short-term goals can provide the inspiration bariatric needs to stay on track toward long-term goals.
We know that weight loss patients thrive with support, and that dietitians are well-positioned to be an important part of this network. This isn’t limited to nutritional advice, however. Offering help with goal-setting during bariatric consultations can be a critical part of setting up weight loss patients for optimal success.