15 Goals Health Experts Recommend Making

By , SparkPeople Blogger

Many experts agree that the secret to success isn't just about meeting goals, but rather making the right ones in the first place. We asked some professional fitness trainers and nutritionists to share the goals they'd like to see their clients tackle. Some probably sound familiar, but others may come as a bit of a surprise.

#1. Stop beating yourself up.

The road to weight loss and healthy living isn't always smooth. When you stumble on obstacles and find yourself stymied by setbacks, it can be easy to fall into the self-defeating trap.

"We're naturally hard on ourselves, more so when we set a goal and fail to reach it," says personal trainer Shane McLean. "Most of the time, failure is part of the process when striving to reach a goal." Instead of punishing yourself, McLean suggests recognizing your error, learning from it and then moving on to crush your goals.

In her spinning and body conditioning classes, instructor Kat Haselkorn hears many women criticizing their own bodies or complaining about their poor eating choices. "The way I see it, if you're showing up to an exercise class, you're doing something right," she says. "Anyone who regularly incorporates fitness into their life is on the right track." Haselkorn hopes that in the coming year, her clients take pride in the work they're doing instead of beating themselves up for perceived slip-ups.

#2. Make goals specific.

To boost their chances of success, trainer Cheryl Russo encourages her clients to narrow their focus on very specific, more attainable, goals.

"If weight loss is their goal, I wish their resolution was to make a small change each week rather than having a general resolution of losing weight," says Russo. "The same holds true for fitness. If their resolution is to get in shape, they should set a specific goal, such as trying a different class each week, running a 5K in the spring or adding 20 minutes of cardio three days a week."

While it's good to have a positive and optimistic outlook, overreaching can set you up for disappointment. Yoga instructor Ysmay Walsh wishes that her clients would set more reasonable, attainable goals. "For a resolution to be achievable, there also needs to be a measurable result," says Walsh. "A general goal like, 'I want to get into the best shape of my life,' isn't measurable unless you can quantify what that actually means." Instead, you might set a goal of running a certain distance, lifting a specific amount of weight or fitting into that old pair of jeans.

#3. Make exercise a priority.

It's common knowledge that exercise helps you lose weight, but daily movement is important for everyone, not just those who want to slim down. Lorraine Miano, wellness coach with Infinite You, points out that one of the main reasons people go into assisted living is because they can't perform basic physical functions.

"It's so important to start taking care of your bones and muscles now, to keep them healthy and strong," says Miano. "Exercising is about so much more than losing weight—it reduces your risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes, and also improves your mental health and your chances of living a long life."

Committing to exercise doesn't have to mean hitting the gym for two hours a day; it can be as simple as taking a brisk daily walk or doing some light yoga or stretching. "If you want to be independent, healthy and mentally stable well into your 80s or even 90s, make the goal to begin or continue to include exercise as a part of your daily routine," Miano recommends.

#4. Focus more on strength and mobility.

It's natural to focus on the activity you perform most often. If you're a runner, you might resolve to run faster or longer, while a weight lifter's goal might be to increase their bench press by 50 pounds. Regardless of your choice of exercise, though, running coach Kyle Kranz encourages incorporating more strength and mobility training into your regimen.

"Doing a five- to 15-minute general strength and mobility routine four to seven times a week will go a long way toward decreasing the risk of injury and increasing well-being," says Kranz. "Not only will it improve your movement patterns -- such as decreasing overpronation -- it will also improve your quality of life. You'll be thankful for consistent strengthening when it comes to shoveling snow or raking leaves!"

#5. Stop dieting for good.

Ken Immer, president and chief culinary officer of Culinary Health Solutions, says dieting isn't the best approach for weight loss or wellness. Instead, he recommends making a slow but steady lifestyle change.

"Start by paying attention to what you eat, make small changes and then watch closely for small health improvements," he suggests. "These are all exercises in mindfulness. Make changes you love, and classify all improvements as a big win. This is the way to create a true, sustainable lifestyle change."

#6. Make more time for family and fun.

Mental wellness, positivity and stress management are just as important to physical health as diet and exercise. Registered dietitian and wellness consultant Tricia Silverman encourages her clients to include more personally enriching goals, such as spending more time with family and friends, enjoying their hobbies and passions, or scheduling more downtime for relaxation. Silverman suggests writing down these goals and revisiting them throughout the year, or clipping pictures from magazines to display on a vision board.

#7. Commit to consistency.

Along with your resolutions to eat better, move more and stress less, consider adding one to be consistent in your healthy new behaviors. "If my clients could channel their enthusiasm into a commitment to consistently engage in daily behaviors that will move them closer to their goals, they would be so much happier and reach their goals faster," says trainer and nutritionist Kristy Stabler. "When you focus on making changes you can live with every day for the rest of your life, you're on the right path. One small step forward every day will add up to huge results by next year."

Sarah Ann Kelly, trainer with Mom Trainer, says that too many of her clients set grandiose, results-oriented goals without planning for the lifestyle changes that are required to achieve them and sustain them over time. "To create real, long-term changes, it's important to create habits that will foster success," she says. "Being consistent in frequency of workouts, daily nutrition intake and hours of sleep is the most impactful change anyone can accomplish."

#8. Focus on a single variable at a time.

Kelly sees a lot of clients begin a training program along with an extreme diet plan, and then sprinkle in additional workouts outside of their regular training, only to end up overtraining and abandoning the program.

"Although going 'all in' may seem like a good idea, it doesn't provide information as to what variable is the most successful," she points out. Instead, Kelly recommends setting a monthly goal of a single variable, such as ramping up exercise, building muscle or planning healthy meals. This will help you determine where your efforts are best placed, while keeping you motivated and energized.

#9. Cook more and plan meals ahead of time.

It's great that you want to eat healthier—but how will you do it? Brooke Taylor, trainer with Taylored Fitness, wishes more people would resolve to plan healthy meals ahead of time and then actually prepare them. Lack of time is a major hurdle for her New York City clients, who are always on the go and tend to gravitate toward the convenience of takeout.

"Even when you're trying to make smart ordering decisions, you never know how a restaurant is preparing the foods or what exactly you're putting in your body," Taylor warns. "When you take a little time out of your day to look up a new recipe and prepare a healthy meal, you'll feel better and your waistline will shrink."

#10. Show up for yourself.

How much time do you spend taking care of others versus tending to your own needs and desires? Liza Baker, nutritionist with Simply: Health Coaching, notices that most of her clients—particularly women—focus more on the activities, dreams and goals of their spouses and children than on their own endeavors. "Many of them are completely absent from their daily lives, except as someone who is there for everyone else," says Baker. "I wish they would make resolutions to set aside more time for themselves in their daily lives, in a bold way." This can be as simple as taking 30 minutes each day to spend time on your personal passion, whether it’s writing, gardening, painting or just reading a novel.

#11. Drink more water.

You already know the importance of staying hydrated, but it's tougher during the cold winter months when you don't feel as thirsty. "If you're working out, even in the winter, you're still using up fluids and need to replenish them," says Tricia Brouk, trainer with Brouk Moves. "Hydration helps to maintain the balance of the bodily fluids that help with circulation, absorption of nutrients and maintaining proper body temperature."

Staying hydrated doesn't have to mean carrying a water bottle around with you all day, although it does help serve as a reminder to drink. Brouk recommends eating foods high in water content, like fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, beans and soup broths. These higher volume foods are absorbed more slowly to help you feel more full, potentially leading to weight loss.

#12. Start journaling.

If fitness trainer Angelique Millis could make a goal for her clients, it would be to track their exercise, nutrition and emotions in a journal from day one. She encourages them to start by setting strong intentions and goals for themselves, and then taking just five minutes each day to update their journals with their daily activity, food intake and, most importantly, their feelings about their fitness journeys.

"People who have the discipline to hold themselves accountable and take the time to understand their personal habits and behaviors, will be more likely to succeed," says Millis. "Plus, it's rewarding to look back and see progress—both the successes and challenges, the 'clean meals' and the 'cheat meals.' Before long, making good decisions will become second nature."

#13. Eat mindfully.

One of the best ways to modulate how much you eat, and what you eat, is through mindful eating. "Being conscious of what—and why—you are eating allows you to get back in touch with the experience of enjoying your food," says registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey. "It also enables you to better listen to your feelings of hunger and fullness."

That doesn't mean you have to cut out snacking—just that you should snack smart. "If you do it properly, snacking can help keep blood sugar levels steady and your energy up," says Rumsey. She recommends skipping processed and packaged snack foods, which contain a lot of sugar, salt and additives. Instead, plan healthy snacks ahead of time, such as fresh or dried fruit, cheese, cut-up raw vegetables, nuts or nut butter, hard-boiled eggs, whole-grain crackers and hummus.

The mindfulness should extend to beverages as well. Tyler Spraul, trainer with Exercise.com, wishes his clients would cut out soft drinks, creamers, syrups and other drink additives. "You can even take it farther and go water only," he suggests. "It's a small change that can really make a difference over the long haul."

#14. Be grateful.

Spraul asks his clients to take 10 minutes each day to write down 10 things for which they're grateful. "This will remind you of how good you have it, help you focus on what's important and relieve some stress," he says. The more you appreciate and embrace the journey to health, the more likely you are to stick with it, sweat and all.

#15. Learn to love and appreciate food.

Mandy Enright, registered dietitian and creator of Nutrition Nuptials, counsels her clients to resist the urge to look at every meal or food item as "good" or "bad." Look for ways to embrace healthy foods as a way to treat and reward yourself for a job well done, rather than as a punishment.