Are you looking for a fresh, healthy start for your family? January is a great time to reflect on the previous year and set some goals for the one ahead. It’s an especially good time to re-focus on and prioritize your family’s health after the holidays.
Make health goals SMART
Making goals “SMART” is a great way to set health and wellness goals that you can achieve.
SMART stands for:
T: Time sensitive
SMART goals help you know what you’re working on and whether or not you’ve met your goal. For example, if you set a goal of “I will be healthier this year,” it’s hard to know what you’re specifically working on. Instead, you could set a goal about a specific action you’d like to take such as “I will limit eating out to once a week for the next month” or “Once a month, we will go to the park as a family and take a hike.” It’s helpful to write down your SMART goals somewhere you’ll regularly see them!
Make a family health goal
You may be setting multiple personal goals this year, but why not set one to promote health in your family? Get all your family members involved and see what your kids may want to focus on. The more you can involve your kids in helping set family health goals, the more likely it is they’ll be on board for achieving them.
To get started, sit down as a family and have a brainstorming session where you come up with ideas. Then, narrow it down and make each goal SMART. Looking for inspiration? Think about ways to be more active as a family (walking, biking, hiking, swimming or trying a new outdoor activity), cooking more at home (could your kids help choose meals or even help with meal preparation while supervised), limiting screen time, eating more whole or unprocessed foods (limiting foods that come in packages and eating more fruits and veggies), or cutting down on sugary drinks. You could even try incorporating goals in the form of “family challenges” where each week or month of the year you can choose something different to focus on related to health - like having a veggie with dinner each day that week!
Be mindful of what you are role modeling
Many people set a weight loss or dieting goal in the New Year. While weight loss might be an appropriate area for you to work on to improve your health (be sure to connect with your healthcare provider if you have questions/concerns regarding weight loss), avoid negative comments about your own weight and dieting talk. Instead, be a good role model for healthy eating and exercise, and support making family-wide changes. In these ways, you will create a healthy environment for the whole family.
If you have a teen ages 12-16 and are concerned about their weight, check out the TEENS program - an adolescent weight management intervention focusing on family-based changes to support a healthy lifestyle.
Make a plan and be flexible
Even with the best intentions, life gets busy and things come up that you didn’t plan for or expect. Having a plan as to how you’re going to reach your goals is key! Try listing out all the steps you need to take to reach your goal. For example, if your goal is to cook at home four times a week, steps might include 1) planning what meals you’re going to cook and when, 2) making a list of ingredients you need, 3) going to the grocery store, 4) delegating tasks to family members, 5) prepping any ingredients ahead of time (based on your schedule).
Be sure to have a back-up plan too! If your family goal was to go to the park on Friday and it’s raining, what can you do to still get exercise in as a family? It can help to make a list of back-ups in advance. The easier and more convenient it is for you to reach your goals, the more likely you are to make it happen. Set yourself up for success by planning ahead and problem solving around any unplanned barriers that may come up.
Check in on your goals
Set a time to check-in with yourself and your family on how you’re doing with your goals. This can be as often as you want, but try to make it a consistent time. When you do this, think about what’s going well, what’s making it easy or difficult to achieve your goals, and if any tweaks need to be made to the goals.
If you’re easily achieving a goal you set, try rewarding yourself for all your hard work (be sure to pick a non-food reward) and push yourself a little bit by making it more challenging. If you’re struggling to achieve a goal, think about any planning or problem solving that needs to happen to help you achieve it. You can also think about if the goal is still realistic and adjust it if you need to.
Remember, even small changes can have a big impact over time! Cheers to a healthy 2020!
By Carisa Everett, RDN