Be SMART and get a good head start

It’s an ideal time to start making positive changes in lifestyle habits with better food choices and more established activity routines.

With the long, hot days of summer behind us and shorter, cooler autumn days on the horizon, many people use this transition period to plan for new routines and schedules. It’s an ideal time to start making positive changes in lifestyle habits with better food choices and more established activity routines.

Along with personal, family and professional goals, eating habits and exercise programs for improvements in health can be reviewed and prioritized.

Many kids and adults head back to school for education, retraining or professional growth opportunities. With new routines starting, a fresh look at daily habits is a good place to start for behaviour change.

Reviewing pitfalls with eating habits offers a good reflection into bad habits. By recording what is eaten for a few days in a row, the exercise will help to identify possible patterns that can be improved upon.

Skipping breakfast, frequenting fast food restaurants, eating extra large portions, drive-through meals on the run, using processed, packaged foods regularly, and night-time eating are all dietary pitfalls that may lead to deteriorating health overtime.

Making ‘S.M.A.R.T.’ goals to help improve habits will align priorities with action. An example of a SMART goal (for exercise) is:

Specific: walk for half an hour four times per week.

Measureable: can be completed after a week.

Achievable: confidence level to succeed with action plan of walking needs to be over 70 per cent.

Realistic: currently able to walk twice per week, so, four times would be reasonable

Timely: monitor and record progress for next week.

Small steps for improvements to positive change helps build self-confidence of achievements. The positive reinforcement of feeling better physically, mentally, emotionally and socially will help promote bigger and better improvements one step at a time in the right direction.

Some ideas to help establish a new routine started for health include; ensuring a good sleep pattern, eating within an hour of waking to ‘break the fast,’ eating small snacks between meals to prevent hunger and junk food cravings (and binges), reducing portion sizes at dinner time, limiting fast food and processed/packaged foods and night-time eating.

For exercise improvements, joining fall workout programs, sports teams, drop-in activities, along with more hiking, biking and daily walks will help move health in a positive direction for long-term quality of life.

Most people can improve eating and activity habits for better health in some way and identifying individual pitfalls will help guide the process.

Trying to tackle too many changes at once may set a person up for failure, which can impede progress.

Use SMART goal setting to achieve results one step at a time.

Sandra Gentleman, RD, is a local registered dietician and a Steward of Canal Beach.