My adult outpatient rotation is officially complete and I loved this second week just as much as I did the first! As promised in my last post, I am going to share a little more about making changes. I think we can all agree that making change is hard, and I was reminded of this patient after patient last week. So many of them came in saying they knew exactly what is healthy and what they had to do but they just couldn’t do it.

That is where setting goals comes into play. I’m not talking about a goal of losing 30 pounds, normalizing blood pressure, or managing kidney disease – those are vague and don’t really motivate us to make change. Instead, I encourage patients to set SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.


Let me give you an example. Say you do want to lose those 30 pounds. What are some ways you will do that? Reduce the number of sugary drinks you have? Start walking more? Eat more vegetables? Those take care of the “Specific” part of your goals but now you have to fill in the M, A, R, and T.

Pretend our patient typically has 2 small Coke’s from McDonald’s every day (one before work and one after work). Here’s the patient’s goal:
S- Have less sugary drinks
M- When the patient only has 1 small Coke each day (until his next appointment with the Dietitian)
A- It is attainable because he will only stop at McDonald’s drive through after work
R- It is realistic for this patient because he is ready and motivated to make that change.
T- Every day

So this person goal is: Limit sugary drink intake to one small coke every day (an improvement from two he is having now). Doesn’t that seem more realistic than losing 30 pounds? – I sure do!

You can do the exact same thing with exercise and eating more veggies. I typically recommend patients have 2-3 goals they will work on each time they make an appointment. Once the goal is consistently achieved they can set new goals. For example, our patient here could set his next goal to be one small Coke every other day, etc. until he is no longer drinking Coke.

Setting these smaller goals that seem achievable makes patients a lot more motivated to actually try to achieve them. They know exactly what they have to do, how to do it, and how long to do it for. Remember, all the little things add up so even small change like this can make a big difference.

What are your health goals and how can you turn them into SMART goals?

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