By Linda Folken, MS, RDN, CDN

Achieving a goal can be very challenging, especially when it comes to health and fitness. Setting the goal is the easy part; following through with accomplishing the goal is the hard part. Hard, but possible. Applying certain strategies will make goal setting more efficient and lead to accomplishing your goals.

DO create a plan today. DON’T wait for tomorrow.

Setting the goal is just the first step and you want to get started right away. You want to know where you’re going, what resources you’ll need, who can help and – most importantly – what Plan B is when life throws a curve ball into Plan A.

DO start small. DON’T focus on too many things at once.
Try focusing on one small step at a time. Each step is a small goal, and will lead up to your ultimate goal. For example, set a two week timeline to charge your Fitbit every night and putting it on every morning. This will lead to utilizing the fitness tracker and setting more goals in the gym. Small goals build confidence and prepare you for your larger goals.


DO write it down. DON’T forget to give yourself a target date.

The act of writing down your goal helps solidify the goal in your mind. Adding visuals, such as inspirational pictures or items also helps keep you in focus. When writing down your goals be sure to include a specific target date, so you can hold yourself accountable.


DO be specific. DON’T deal in absolutes.
Avoid the words ‘some’ and ‘more’, as in “I will get SOME sleep” or “I will eat MORE fruits and vegetables.” It leaves too much wiggle room to not following through. Deal in measurable tasks that you have control over. Also avoid using words such as ‘never’ or ‘always’. The “all or nothing” attitude commonly leads people back to bad habits.


DO leave room for failure. DON’T always expect perfection.
Perseverance is a key component in goal setting. Understand that you are aiming for progress and not perfection. In a recent study, less than 50% of people who successfully followed New Year’s resolutions did it on their first try.


DO track your progress. DON’T fool yourself into failure.
Memory can be very selective, especially when it comes to remember what we ate. Our memory conveniently forgets the extra chocolate kisses we had when passing a co-worker’s desk or the number of times you skipped exercising at the gym because of a family obligation popping up. The only way to know for sure is to track goals regularly with a checklist or journal.


DO reward your success. DON’T beat yourself up over failure.Being mindful of your progress and give yourself credit, when credit is due. Being proud of yourself for both your small and large goals will motivate you to continue with your successes. It’s hard not to be disappointed when we don’t succeed, but the added stress of negative thoughts will only stump your success. Take a step back and admire your progress, instead of being hard on yourself and ultimately holding yourself back.


DO find a support system. DON’T try to do it alone.
Utilizing the buddy system always improves the chances of success. Completing a goal with a friend, co-worker or family member allows you to motivate each other, bounce ideas off of each other and reward each other. Just add one person to your support group, and you double your motivation, double your energy, double your focus, double your commitment – and double your FUN.


Once you’ve created your vision statement for weight-loss, you probably know the general direction you want to move. The next step is to work out the particular short- and intermediate-term goals that will get you moving in that direction followed by concrete action steps you can take right now.

If you’ve checked out the resources and classes available through the Center of Excellence in Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, you will know that effective goal-setting is a major foundation of the program. There is a wealth of detailed information and practical suggestions on this subject though the Nutrition and Medical Weight Management Office.


Linda Folken, Nutrition Education Coordinator, has practiced in the health care field as a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) for over the past 30 years. She specializes in Bariatric and Medical Weight Management.