7 Short-Term Goals That Will Help You End Yo-Yo Dieting Forever

Do you find yourself losing weight and then regaining it again? This unhealthy cycle is known as yo-yo dieting. In many instances, it's the result of crash dieting or going on the latest fad diet, losing weight, getting off the diet and regaining the weight lost—sometimes even more!

Although your intentions may be good and you want to be healthy, the best way to take off the weight and make sure it sticks is to create lifelong healthy habits. Creating lifelong habits starts with making short-term goals that are realistic and sustainable. Over time, those short-term goals turn into habits. While it may sound simple, it does take effort to commit to a short-term goal and to follow through with it long enough for it to become a habit.

What is a Short-Term Goal?

When you make a short-term goal, it should be a positive action you want to take in order to help you live healthier. Ultimately, this will help you lose weight in the long run. A short-term goal should not be "I am going to lose five pounds," but rather it should be an action you will do daily to help you achieve your long-term goal of losing weight. Short-term goals should be doable, reasonable and an action that will help you replace an unhealthy habit.

For example, if you find yourself snacking on chips or pastries almost daily, a good short-term goal would be to include a fruit or vegetable at every snack. By setting a goal that is not so ambitious that it's intimidating, you are more likely to figure out how to make the small shift happen. You may need to shop for produce so it's readily available, or think about where you can purchase an apple and peanut butter or sliced carrots and hummus the next time you're craving a snack. You'll also be more vigilant to be prepared with a fruit or veggie snack. In time, you'll notice that those former longings for junk food will be replaced by this new habit.

How to Set Your Short-Term Nutrition Goals

A food diary is a good way to see what's going on with your diet so you can pinpoint small habits in need of improvement. Once you have a better understanding of your diet, write down two to three habits you want to focus on that week. If starting with one goal is better, start there! To avoid feeling overwhelmed and, ultimately, frustrated, make it a point to keep your short-term goals to three or fewer every week. The worst thing you can do is completely overhaul your eating habits without easing your mind and body into this new way of eating.

During the week, be diligent about following the two or three short-term goals you have set. When the week is up, evaluate how you feel about these new habits and how they've fit into your lifestyle thus far. Don't start anything new until you are certain that your short-term goal is something that you will naturally do. This means some goals will stay on your list every week, while others may not be right for you. If a goal isn't right for you, choose another short-term goal that may be a better fit.

Every week you should have a list of two or three goals. One may be new, while one or two might be habits you are still working to form. New habits take time to become part of your life so if you stumble or feel a sense of boredom setting in, remember that in a few months this will all come naturally! Hang in there and you'll reap the many benefits.

7 Super Short-Term Goals

If you're looking to end a cycle of yo-yo dieting and are ready to become the best version of yourself, these seven short-term goals are a great place to start. Each goal can help you learn to eat a more balanced, satisfying diet while keeping calories within reasonable limits. You don't have to try every single one; rather, choose the goals that are right for you, starting with just two or three and building your way up as you start to master the old goals!

1. Add protein to breakfast

Protein takes longer to digest and, therefore, keeps you feeling full for longer. Unless you're eating eggs, healthy protein tends to be lacking at most breakfast tables. Eating eggs every morning can get boring, so work on focusing on other protein-filled foods you can include at breakfast:
  • Greek yogurt: With twice the protein as regular yogurt, top Greek yogurt with fruit and chopped nuts. You can also top whole-grain waffles or pancakes with a dollop of Greek yogurt instead of syrup. Just be careful to read your nutrition label and opt for plain yogurts with fewer grams of sugar.
  • Peanut and other nut butters: Add peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower seed butter to smoothies, oatmeal or parfaits (mixed with Greek yogurt) for an added boost of protein.
  • Beans: Canned black beans with cheese and eggs make a delicious breakfast wrap or Mexican omelet.
  • Milk: Cow's milk provides eight grams of protein per cup. Add skim or low-fat milk to oatmeal, a smoothie or in your whole-grain waffle batter.
  • Cottage cheese: This underappreciated protein contains 15 grams of protein per ½ cup of the low-fat variety. Top with fruit and chopped nuts.
  • Silken tofu: Add to your morning smoothie.
  • Quinoa: Make a bowl of hot cereal using quinoa and top with apple slices, cinnamon, applesauce and skim milk.
2. Listen to your hunger and fullness cues

Sometimes the goal is to listen to yourself, especially when you think you're hungry. Keep a chart that ranges from zero to 10, with zero being "I'm not hungry at all" and 10 being "I'm the hungriest I can be." Every time you want to eat, first check your hunger scale to see it registers. If you are at a six or a seven you should be eating. Over time, this will help you learn to listen to your body's hunger cues.

3. Carry a refillable bottle with you everywhere

Most people don't drink enough water daily. Instead of saying "Drink more water" as your goal, how about making your goal to carry the water bottle with you? This will be a physical reminder to take sips throughout the day. Once you get used to carrying a bottle around with you, take it a step further and make your next goal be to refill that same bottle two times a day.

4. Eat a carb, lean protein and fruit and/or vegetable at every meal

Instead of just eating a balanced meal, make the goal even more specific. Having a carb, protein and vegetable and/or fruit at every meal will ensure that your plate is balanced. This will also help you feel full after the meal and stay full so you're not reaching for unhealthy snacks.  

5. Set your meal and snack schedule

Making a set meal and snack schedule can help you stay on track with healthy eating. Most people opt for eating three meals with one to two healthy snacks in between meals. When you skip meals, you tend to overeat at the next one. A general rule is to avoid going without eating for more than a five-hour period (except when you're asleep), so plan for those snacks during the longer stretches in your day.

6. Choose whole grains for two out of three meals

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans say to make at least half your grains whole, which includes the grains entire kernel. While there is no need to make every single carb you eat whole grain, do aim to have whole grains on your plate for at least two meals. For breakfast this can be a slice of whole-grain bread or oatmeal; for lunch it can be quinoa on your salad or a whole-grain pasta salad on the side; and at dinner it could be a side of farro, brown rice or bulgur. Be sure to check nutrition labels to confirm that whole grain is the first ingredient listed.

7. Add a healthy fat to each meal

Adding a healthy fat at meals can help with satiety. Healthy fat takes longer to digest and can help you feel satisfied for longer. Healthy fats include avocado, olive oil, olives, nut and seeds, and nut and seed butters. Add a few slices of avocado on the side of your eggs, top your salad with a vinaigrette made with olive oil, or add slivered almonds to your vegetable side dish to get your daily dose.

If you're someone who has dieted a lot in the past or always gives that latest fad diet a go, healthy eating to you is probably a frustrating and ultimately unpleasant experience. With the right mindset and small, realistic goals, though, you can learn to adopt healthy eating as a part of your life without reverting to bad meal or snack decisions. You have the power to change your life with a little time, patience and smart strategies.