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Setting Goals

When making lifestyle changes, it is important for a person to set goals that can be successfully met by the individual.

Generally, if a person tries to make many drastic lifestyle changes all at one time, it can be a recipe for failure. A nutritionist can help you be successful in reaching your individual health goals.

The nutritionist works WITH you, over the course of several meetings, to set small attainable goals that help to build your confidence to successfully reach the goal.

Setting individual health goals is extremely important because these goals represent the internal values or standards that a person develops (from a variety of sources) that are used to judge behaviors. By setting immediate goals, or action steps, you are making a commitment to take action. The immediate goals contribute to successfully meeting long term goals. Each time an immediate goal is reached, your perceived benefit of the goal is high and self-efficacy (confidence/abilities) is high.

Here are some steps to take to set your individual goals:

  1. Clearly State the Behavior Change/Health Goal

  2. Create an Action Plan - list out individual actions that are small attainable steps

  3. Determine a tool to use for self-assessment of completing the action

  4. Determine instructions for an effective action goal/plan– these should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). Write out the action plan and sign it and have a witness sign it for accountability.

  5. Track progress using self-observation and self-evaluation and hold self-accountable.

  6. Create a reward for achieving action goal.

  7. Assess if action goal was met or still needs to be worked on.

  8. Start back at step 2 to create a new action goal and repeat until the Behavior Change/Health goal in Step 1 is reached.1

Here is a short example: (You can and will have many of these!)

  1. Goal: Lose weight (1-2 pounds per week until ideal weight is reached)

  2. Action Plan: Drink 2 Liters (about 68 oz.) of water per day.

  3. Determine a Tool: Get a 2 Liter bottle

  4. Self-Assessment: Fill the bottle with water each morning. Drink throughout the day. See how much water is left each evening (hopefully there won’t be any!).

  5. Write out action plan such as, “During the week, I agree to drink more water. I currently am drinking only 8 ounces of water per day. My goal for this week is to drink 2 L. of water throughout the day. I think I may challenged with the following problems of drinking sodas, energy drinks, or alcohol while at work or eating social. To deal with these problems, I plan to order water at restaurants and bring my bottle water with me to work.” Signed/Date by yourself. Signed/Date by a witness.

  6. Track Progress: Journal each night how much water is left in the container. Note what areas you were struggling with or conflicts that occurred that inhibited you from consuming the desired amounts of water.

  7. At the end of the week, if you have drank 2 L of water each day, you can reward yourself with a new water bottle or workout shirt. If you were unable to drink 2 L of water every day during the week, repeat this week’s task until the goal is reached. If you were able to meet the goal of drinking 2L of water every day, move forward to step 8.

  8. Start back with step 2 new action plan: i.e. Consume 5 servings of veggies every day.

About the Author: Sam Tucker is a graduate of New York Chiropractic College with a Master's in Applied Clinical Nutrition. She has recently completed the required supervised hours to earn her CNS credential and is anxiously awaiting to hear the score from her CNS Exam. In addition to building her clinical practice, Sam lives in Kentucky with her husband and her children.


1. Contento I. Nutrition Education: Linking Research, Theory, and Practice. Jones and Bartlett Learning. Burlington, MA. C2016. Pg 355, 360-361.

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