Counseling Your Clients: Goal-Setting in 2018

Happy 2018! We recently blogged about helping your clients navigate the complexities of holiday eating. This week, we’re talking about the next big hurdle many of your clients may be facing: New Year’s goal setting. The New Year prompts many to reexamine their decisions and set in motion new changes for the coming year. While this can be a really useful time to take stock, many often are pressured into setting unrealistic goals. When these goals include radical diet changes and workout regimens to lose weight, it’s a recipe for failure and discouragement, which can derail your client’s progress.

Last fall, we offered some tips for setting goals for your practice. While the strategies we discussed were aimed at career-building and professional advancement, they can be transferred to any context – including nutrition counseling! In particular, try speaking with your clients about setting SMART goals for their health and nutrition. The SMART acronym is helpful for making sure that your clients are thinking in a way that maximizes the likelihood of them reaching their goals. 

SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Instead of saying “I want to eat a healthy diet,” encourage patients to think along the lines of “I want to increase my consumption of vegetables,” or “I will eat four servings of vegetables per day.” 
  • Measurable: Instead of “I want to lose weight,” set a target healthy goal weight that can be quantified.
  • Attainable: While ambition and drive are great, it’s important to be mindful of our limitations. Goals should be things your clients can actually achieve. Endlessly striving for an unattainable standard is discouraging and not helpful. 
  • Realistic: Your client can’t spend 12 hours in the gym every day. Remind clients that health is about balance, and radical changes won’t necessarily help in the long run.
  • Time-Bound: Having a timeline on a goal helps clients measure their progress. Have them check in on a regular basis with you so that you may monitor their progress.  

Do you use the SMART goals framework in your practice? What tips do you offer clients who want to focus on health goals in the New Year? Comment below!