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Nutrition Corner

Goal Setting: One Step at a Time


By Kate Otto, RD, LDN
Bariatric Dietitian at BIDMC

I never liked the spring … that is, until I moved to New England. The wonderful season of new beginnings certainly takes on a whole new meaningnutrition after being buried in feet of snow for what feels like an eternity.

This newfound appreciation was fully realized the first time I experienced the Boston Marathon. I’ll never forget the rush of cheering on runners as they pushed themselves to accomplish a goal they had been working toward for months. This is much like the rush I experience every day as I work with the Weight Loss Surgery team here at BIDMC to assist our patients as they achieve the goals they have been working toward for years.

With every new season comes a new weight loss-related challenge: the temptations of the holidays, the social events of summer, the comfort foods of fall, the exercise-crippling winter weather. While many of us put so much pressure on ourselves on New Year’s Day, I would argue that the spring might be the best time to re-evaluate the goals we set a few months back.

If you are human, it is likely that you haven’t given your resolutions much thought since about January 15. So I challenge you to revisit your “This year I will accomplish …” and consider the more realistic alternative of “This week I will accomplish …”

When we set out to work toward a new goal, with the long-term picture in mind (especially in our world of instant gratification), most of us are quick to run off course. In the spirit of what was the most inspiring Marathon Monday the great city of Boston has ever seen, I encourage you all to contemplate the ever-present weight loss surgery journey cliché: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Evaluating our weight loss-related goals in the present mindset can make our journey to the finish line seem much less daunting. Those of you who are bariatric patients at BIDMC have had the “goals” conversation with me, or my colleague Michelle, at some point. Yes, we will identify what your ultimate goal is — but we will always follow up with, “How can you work toward that goal this week?” This is crucial when we are seemingly starting from scratch or getting back on track. Let’s continue with that running analogy to better explain.

Say our goal is to finish a 5K charity run. We sign up for the race, but after a brutal winter our current physical activity involves little more than shoveling snow and scraping windshields. Chances are the first training run will result in huffing and puffing after one block, right? How would that make us feel if the goal we have in mind when we leave the front door is to run a 5K? (I don’t know about you, but I would be calling that charity really fast to see if I could cancel my registration.)

nutritionNow, using the same scenario, let’s look at it from the present mindset: What’s more doable for the first training? Maybe a five-minute jog, followed by a 15-minute brisk walk. The positive mentality we walk away with after achieving the initial goal pushes us to move forward to the finish line. Ever searched for a running program online? I can guarantee that none of them start with achieving the ultimate goal on day one.

This same approach can be used with food-related behaviors. For example, are you struggling with craving sweets after reintroducing or overindulging during the holidays? While some of us would like to be able to give them up completely, for most, going cold turkey is much easier said than done.

What about instead of abstinence, we make the goal to reduce: “This week I will have a sweet three times per week instead of seven.” Notice this goal is also specific and measureable — much easier for us to track our progress.

I realize that this type of approach doesn’t work for everyone. You know yourself best, and some adjustments will need to be made along the way. Sometimes we have all the tools but are struggling to put them to use. If this sounds familiar, schedule a visit at the Weight Loss Surgery Clinic to check in with us, or sign up for our support groups, which cover a range of topics that can help you reach your goals.

Every person’s weight loss journey is unique; all roads have peaks and valleys. We are beside you, cheering you on through them all. Remember that any positive behavior change, no matter how small it may seem at the time, gets us one step closer to our goal. As much as we would like them to, weight changes do not happen overnight. But every marathoner’s race starts with one step. What will yours be?

Above content provided by the Weight Loss Surgery Center Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted April 2014

Contact Information

Weight Loss Surgery Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Shapiro Clinical Center, 3rd Floor
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617.667.2845
617.667.2866
wls@bidmc.harvard.edu

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