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How to Create a Nutrition and Exercise Plan with Realistic Goals

Updated on May 25, 2013

Optimum Health

Everyone can be happy with setting and following realistic goals to obtain and maintain individual optimum health.
Everyone can be happy with setting and following realistic goals to obtain and maintain individual optimum health. | Source

Creating Realistic Goals in Nutrition and Exercise

Congratulations! You've taken the first major step toward obtaining and maintaining your optimum health by choosing to make lifestyle changes in both your eating and physical activity.

The next step is to examine your current lifestyle to learn where changes should be made. You're also going to need to be honest with yourself: Are you an all-or-nothing type of person or are you someone who does best with small steps at a time?

How are the changes you're envisioning going to affect your home life, your work, your family? It may seem that the changes you are going to make will only affect you, but unless you live in a vacuum, the changes will impact those around you also.

How are you going to deal with the naysayers? Do you have a support system in place or can you develop one early on?

These are all impacting issues when creating and carrying out the goals you set, but they are merely speed bumps, not road blocks. Your determination and motivation will keep you on the path to a healthier lifestyle; knowing what to expect will help you prepare.

Find Your Motivation to Be Healthy

Seek Help in Goal Setting for Better Health

Whatever the reason(s) behind your decision to eat more nutritionally and get more exercise, you should consider talking your plan over with your health care provider. Because your family physician knows your individual health concerns and strengths, she will be able to provide recommendations specific to your situation.

Nearly all legitimate exercise programs recommend this step. Depending on what change you are considering in your nutritional plan, your doctor may have input on the types of changes that would be most beneficial to your health and maybe even some types of changes to avoid.

Armed with this information and the go-ahead from your health care provider, you're ready to develop your plan and your goals.

Setting Realistic Goals

Get S.M.A.R.T. for Realistic Goal-Setting

Get pen and paper or your favorite word processing computer program and you're ready to begin. Writing down your goals is necessary not only to firmly establish what you are going to do, but also to return to them to assess your progress.

Head your goal sheet with your long-term goal(s). Do you plan to lose 50 pounds overall and exercise 45 minutes daily? Are you going to reduce or eliminate processed foods from your diet and include daily weight training to your current exercise regimen? You'll need to decide exactly what you plan to achieve so you can then create your short-term goals -- the steps along the way to achieving your long-term goal.

  • Specific: Be as specific as possible in creating your short term goals. "I will exercise more each week" doesn't say much, not like, "I will exercise every day."
  • Measurable: "I will exercise every day" is specific, but there's no way to measure your progress toward that goal. A goal statement such as "I will exercise for 15 minutes every day" gives you a target to meet and a way to assess your progress.
  • Attainable: This part can be a little tricky and require a few attempts before you master it. Ideally, you'll set a goal that is reachable with a little extra effort on your part. Make it too easy and you'll not have much of an achievement, but if you make it too tough, you'll feel frustrated.
  • Realistic: Much like "attainable," you'll want the goals you set to be realistic. For example, setting a weight loss goal of one to two pounds each week is both ideal and realistic, according to health professionals; setting a weight loss goal of five pounds each week sets you up either for failure or the development of habits that aren't in your best long-term health interest.
  • Time-Framed: Your goals should have a time frame to them, one that will allow you to revisit them ad determine if your plan is or isn't working as is. For example, stating that you'll eat only raw foods within six months or that you'll be jogging five miles a day by the end of the year don't allow for goal and plan evaluation within a reasonable period of time, nor do such long periods provide motivation to get started immediately, rather than procrastinating.

Learn more about S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting here.

Measuring Your Progress, Re-Assessing Your Goals

No matter what the plans and goals are you've developed, you must re-assess them on a regular basis.

Ideally, you've created goal time-frames that are short enough to aid in the re-assessment and evaluation process, like each week, every two weeks, or every month, depending on the type of goal it is. At the beginning of your goal-setting, it is preferable to review your goals at frequent intervals; as you become more proficient at it, you can set longer time-frames if it doesn't affect your motivation.

Evaluating the goals you've set also allows you to measure your progress toward those goals. During the re-assessment you'll be able to determine whether you can ramp up the attainability of those goals, or if you need to scale back a bit.

Positive Affirmations Keep You Motivated

Stay Motivated to Reach Your Goals

You are a human being, a person with all sorts of things going on in your life all the time. There will be periods where your motivation to reach your goals wanes. That is life. Keep on schedule to re-assess your goals; only then will you know if they are any longer realistic or if they are something you need to revisit down the road.

If you reach the point where you feel you cannot devote the time and energy to reaching your goals for whatever reason, do make an appointment with yourself -- in the next week, the next month -- to come back to your plan and begin again. You didn't quit, you merely took a time-out and you can get right back to where you left off if you choose.


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    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Rebecca, thank you for your read and comments. I hope the new year brings you good health and success.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Rajan Jolly, you are so right. It can be tempting to set lofty goals not just in nutrition and exercise, but in anything. Avoiding that temptation is the key to success, in my estimation. If expectations are unrealistic, there can be disappointment and loss of interest.

      Thanks for reading and sharing.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I like the idea of using SMART goals. Thanks for sharing! Happy New Year!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Making a workable exercise and goal plan is of utmost importance and you share some very important tips to go ahead in this matter. Setting realistic and achievable goals is of prime importance for any plan to be fruitful. Thanks for sharing.

      Voted up/useful/interesting and shared.