Changing how you eat is hard. You better have a very good reason for doing it. Your goal must be interesting enough to motivate you but not too crazy so you don’t feel like you’re failing all the time. Let’s take a look at how to set diet goals right.
Be smart about goals
All diet goals should have a few things in common. A popular acronym SMART summarizes five important aspects of a well-defined goal. Let’s take the “I want to get in shape” goal and see how it can be improved using the SMART approach.
• Specific: Put some numbers in and define details. Are you after a specific bodyweight? Or do you want to improve your time on a certain route?
• Measurable: Decide how you’re going to track progress. Will you be weighing yourself every week? Will you track watts or do timed practice rides?
• Attainable: Make sure you have enough time, willpower, and motivation to reach your goal.
• Realistic: Your goal has to be big enough that it excites you but not so big that there’s no chance for you to reach it.
• Time-bound: Set a date for when you want to reach your goal. This will make planning much easier and tracking progress more useful. You can even define milestones if it’s a huge goal.
Taking all of this into account, the SMART way to define the same goal would be, “I want to be 5 kg lighter in 2 months so that I’m in race shape for my favourite race.”
Having the right technique to define your diet goal will help you stick with your diet. Let’s take a look at a few other tips that will help you select the right diet goal.
Find your true reason why
Diet goals are often about losing weight, changing body composition or not eating a certain type of food. Those are all worthy goals but if you take a look at the big picture they might not be motivating enough. We know from research that short-term diet changes almost never translate into lasting results. Understanding why you’re trying to lose weight, perform better in a given race or be healthier will help your motivation to stick to your new way of eating. Check out our previous article about deep motivation to learn more.
Ambitious, exciting goals are important but you might get lost along the way if it takes too long to reach them. Always consider defining a set of short-term goals or milestones that will get you to the big one. An example of a short-term goal might be to cook 5 meals at home this week or go a full week without any alcohol. You can also track your weight every week but keep in mind that weight loss is rarely linear. Expect bigger weight loss in the first few weeks.
Even the best long-term goal with perfectly defined supporting short-term goals sometimes isn’t enough to keep you on track with your diet. Life always finds a way to interfere. That’s why we will look at how to deal with setbacks next time.