Take a SMART Approach to Better Health
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Take a SMART Approach to Better Health

Taking care of yourself by eating well, staying active, managing stress, and getting enough sleep is essential for feeling good and enjoying a good quality of life. Your doctor may even have advised you to make changes in these areas—including losing weight, but it can be tough to follow through. Many people try to make big changes all at once, relying solely on their willpower to succeed. Unfortunately, this approach is rarely sustainable beyond a few days or weeks, leaving people feeling discouraged and frustrated with themselves. The truth is that willpower is not the determining factor when it comes to making lasting changes.

To set yourself up for success, try the following steps when making healthy changes:

Think about what “healthy” means to you. It's important to think about what being healthy means to you, beyond just wanting to lose weight. Consider what other changes may occur if you were healthier, such as having more energy, less joint pain, or feeling less stressed. 

Why health matters to you. Once you've identified what being healthy means to you, think about why it’s important. For example, if being healthier means having more energy, think about what you could do with that energy.  Maybe you could keep up with your grandchildren better, travel more, or do more of your favorite activities. This is your vision of what your life could be like if you were healthier. By having a clear understanding of why health is important to you, you can stay motivated and focused on achieving your goals.

Identify what needs to change. After figuring out what being healthy means to you and why it matters, the next step is to identify what you need to change to reach what you want for your life. You might realize that you need to move more, make healthier food choices, and manage stress better. Because trying to tackle all this at once can be overwhelming, it's better to start small. Try picking just one area to work on, such as diet, and start by gradually adding nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins like lentils, beans, or soy. Adding these healthy foods slowly can make it easier for you to stick with them and see progress over time. Then, as you find success in one area, begin to incorporate other healthier changes. Again, start small. A 15-minute walk after dinner is a great way to add movement to your day. Or, make time for quiet meditation at the start of your day to help with stress. 

To achieve your healthy lifestyle, it's important to set a SMART goal. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic and will be met within a set Timeframe. For example, saying "I want to lose 40 pounds in 6 months" is not a SMART goal because losing weight is not an action you take. Instead, you can set a goal that could help you to lose weight over time. For example, "in 12 weeks, I will be eating 4 servings of vegetables every day." Or, instead of saying “I will walk more,” a SMART goal would be “in 2 months, I will be walking 15 minutes every day after dinner.” Your goal should be challenging but doable.

Set small action steps. To reach your SMART goal, you should break it down into small, specific, and realistic action steps that you can work on every day or multiple times a week to make progress. For example, if your goal is to walk 15 minutes daily after dinner and you're currently not active, start with a smaller action step, like walking for just five minutes three times the first week, and gradually increase the duration and frequency each week. Breaking your goal down into smaller, manageable steps will help you stay on track and make progress towards your goal.

Set yourself up for success. Plan for challenges and anticipate roadblocks that might get in the way of sticking to your weekly action plan. Identify the support you need to achieve your goals, such as a walking partner, and set up an accountability system such as a weekly checklist. 

Plan for the next week. Assess your progress each week to learn and grow. Instead of seeing it as a pass or fail, ask yourself what helped or hindered your progress, and adjust your action steps accordingly. Use this opportunity to reflect on successes and challenges, and plan for the next week based on what you've learned. You can stick with the same action steps or adjust them to take a small step forward towards your goal.

Finally, don't forget to celebrate your progress! Find small ways to reward yourself for each step you take towards your goal. This can be as simple as giving yourself a pat on the back or telling a friend about your success.


Kristina Schmidt, RN, NBC-HWC, is a national board-certified health and wellness coach specializing in lifestyle medicine at planforwellnessvt.com



Theme picker

Theme picker

Theme picker

Our Services


A commitment to excellence and a patient-centered approach sets Southwestern Vermont Health Care apart.

 Cancer Care
 Primary Care
 Rehab & Residential Care
View All Services

Theme picker

Theme picker

Theme picker