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Set realistic health and wellness goals for the new year

By Allison Linville

It’s a common practice to set health and wellness goals at the beginning of the new year. At North Valley Hospital, we encourage this process, because it is always good to reevaluate health and wellness and take responsibility for one’s personal health. However, before starting any new diet or exercise program, always first have a conversation with your primary care provider about how to avoid injury and maintain proper nutrition.

While goals can be helpful, it’s a good idea to set realistic goals that are achievable and take into account your daily life and habits. Carrie Archibald, registered dietitian at North Valley Hospital, recommends making SMART goals, which stands for:
  • Specific (What are you trying to accomplish?)
  • Measurable (How will you know the goal is accomplished?)
  • Achievable (Set goals that are challenging, but not out of reach.)
  • Realistic (Why is this important to you?)
  • Timely (When will the goal be achieved?)
SMART goals answer the What, When, Why and How questions that help focus on what you are trying to accomplish. The more specific the goal, the more likely you will stick with it. This tactic is helpful for both nutrition and exercise. For example, Carrie recommends stating a clear goal, such as “I want to lose 5 pounds in one month; to do this, I will walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes at 6 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” and then checking in every two to four weeks to see if you have stuck with that goal.

A nutrition goal might be, “I am going to eat a piece of fruit for dessert instead of a sweet after dinner each night this week.” Another tactic is tracking, which involves writing down on a calendar or logging which days you exercise or follow a healthy eating plan. That way, you can evaluate if you are keeping the resolution or letting it slide.

It can be hard to be active in the winter, which is why it’s helpful to recognize that your fitness regimen may be seasonally changing. In the winter, some people may walk on the treadmill, do yoga or go to water aerobics. These activities may be continued year-round, or switched out for walking or running outside, biking or swimming in the summer. Being flexible about appropriate changes to activities is an essential part of establishing a fitness routine for life.

For nutrition goals, Archibald explains that it’s best not to take drastic measures right away. “Making small changes, like adding two to three servings of fruit to your daily intake, or drinking water instead of soda, are more realistic steps for long-term health than trying to overhaul your diet all at once.”

Finally, it’s important to remember that goals are achievable, especially when they are SMART goals. It can be amazing what is possible when you focus on starting new healthy habits and prioritizing activity and wellness in your life. If this year you would like to revisit your personal health and wellness, be sure to talk with your primary care provider, and then take action. Resources available within the Kalispell Regional Healthcare system include wellness coaches at The Summit, diabetes prevention courses at North Valley Hospital and more. Contact your local facility to learn how you can take action and responsibility for your preventive health care.

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Carrie Archibald, RD, is a dietitian at North Valley Hospital. In collaboration with wellness coaches from The Summit, she operates the Diabetes Prevention Program, a course to start a lifelong commitment to health and fitness. The next Diabetes Prevention Program starts January 16, with a registration deadline of January 5. Call (406) 863-3519 for more information.

First published in Montana Woman magazine, January 2018