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Setting goals with eating

Summary

Information to help you set health goals that are more easy to follow and stick to.

What are SMART goals?

It is much easier to achieve something when we have something specific to aim for. The best way to do this is by setting SMART goals. This stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time specific

For example, if you eat chocolate every day on the way home from school, instead of saying:

“I want to eat healthier snacks” (which is vague and not a SMART goal), you could say:

  • I will eat fruit instead of a chocolate bar (specific)
  • 3 days every week (measurable)
  • By taking an extra piece of fruit in my school bag (achievable)
  • I will start this from next week and do it every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (time specific)

And all of this is all relevant to you and your weight management aims.

How do I decide on my SMART goals?

Let’s think back to yesterday. Write down everything that you ate and drank, and everything that you did. Write this down like in the table below.

Try to remember all the things you did such as time with friends, using your phone, walking to school or whatever else you may have done.

Write down your food and drink in detail. For example, rather than writing that breakfast was a bowl of cereal write down what type of cereal and how much you had, how much milk you added and anything else you had with it.

Time of day Food or drink taken Activity or how I spent my time
Example: 7am One slice toast with reduced fat olive oil spread and lots of strawberry jam. Glass of lemonade Watched TV for 1 hour

Do this for the full day.

Now look back at your day yesterday. Is there anything that you could change? Did you spend a long time on your phone? Could you have drunk more water? Is there a snack you could swap for something else or something you ate even though you were not hungry?

Come up with one SMART goal based on the changes you identified.

What is something stops me doing my SMART goal?

Before starting a new SMART goal, it is useful to think what problems may get in the way and come up with solutions that can help achieve the goal. Going back to the example at the beginning, this could be:

  • Problem: there is no fruit to take to school with me. Solution: make sure extra fruit is added to the weekly shopping list
  • Problem: my friends all stop at the shop on the way home and buy snacks. Solution: wait outside the shop and do not take money so I can still walk home with them but am not tempted to buy anything
  • Problem: I woke up late so did not have time to put fruit in my bag. Solution: pack your school bag the night before

It is also common for outside factors to get in the way of our goal. For example, if your are going through a stressful time or you are at someone else’s house. You can always come up with solutions to any new problems as they arise for next time.

Be realistic about how often you can do the goal. We may want to do something everyday but that would be hard to stick to. You could start by setting the goal 3 to 4 times a week, and then increase how often you do this once you get used to it.

How many SMART goals should I have?

You may want to make more than one SMART goal based on your 24 hour diary, or you may want to keep a diary for longer and make more as you go along.

Be careful not to make too many goals at once. Remember to make the changes achievable by changing small amounts at any one time. Perhaps limit yourself to 3 SMART goals in one go.

Staying on track and setting rewards

Sticking to your goals can be easier if you track your progress and have a reward. Using a sticker chart or tick chart helps you keep track of your progress. You can set a reward that you get at the end of the week or month if you stick to your goal. You can set a minimum number of days that you need to reach in order to get your reward.

Rewards should not be food based. They should be something cheap or free that your child enjoys.

Good rewards can be
  • a trip to your favourite park
  • some stickers
  • a play date with a friend

You can find more information about rewards and motivation without food here.

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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Summary

Information to help you set health goals that are more easy to follow and stick to.

NHS

Western Bank
Sheffield
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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