SMART goals – what they are and how to create them

A vitally important first step on any health journey is defining your ultimate goal.

Without the right, well defined goal we risk wasting our time, energy and motivation. 

Your goals will dictate everything you and your nutritionist do together so it’s important to give them careful consideration and follow a clear structure. 

SMART goals

The SMART method of goal setting is an effective tool that provides the clarity, focus and motivation you need to achieve your goals. It can also improve your ability to reach them by encouraging you to define your objectives and set a completion date.

SMART is an acronym for: 

  • Specific 
  • Measurable 
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely frame

How to use SMART

Specific – what do you want to accomplish?

It’s important to be specific and think about exactly what it is we want to accomplish. 

Think also about why it is important to you and whether what you have chosen really addresses your underlying motivations. For example, you may initially decide that your goal is to lose X amount of weight but what you really want is to feel more confident about your appearance and reduce the guilt you feel around food (or you might just want to lose weight and that’s totally fine too). 

It is also important to state your goal as fact and not a desire, for example “I will” rather than “I would like”. 

Measurable – how will you measure progress? 

Any good goal has to be measurable so that you can monitor your progress.  Without this we cannot determine if what we are doing is working or not. Think about exactly how you and your nutritionist will measure improvements and success. 

Achievable – is your goal realistic?  

Given your current situation, barriers and resources, is your goal achievable? It’s important to set exciting, motivating goals but we also need to ensure that we aren’t setting ourselves up for failure. Think about your current barriers and the timeframe you set yourself. 

Relevant – does your goal fit in with your broader ambitions?

Before finalising any goal, consider how relevant it is to your wider life and ambitions. Does the goal you’ve set align with those broader ambitions or does it clash with them? For example, if regularly eating out at restaurants is an important part of your life then try to avoid goals which are overly restrictive or clash with this passion. 

Timeframe – when are you going to achieve your goal by?

Always apply a timeframe for when you are going to achieve your goal by. This will help you and your nutritionist to define the pace and nature of your plan and provides both motivation and accountability. 

Working examples 

Below we have shared some examples typical first drafts of goals and then an example of what this goal looks like once fitted into the SMART framework 

Example 1

Initial draft 

“My dream result will be feeling less tired all the time and waking up bright and energetic. Going down a couple of dress sizes will be a massive bonus as well.”

Improved to fit SMART framework 

“Currently I struggle with low energy, particularly in the mornings which negatively impacts my productivity at work. In 16 weeks time I will have increased my average daily energy levels from 4/10 to 7/10 and I will have learned the tools I need to sustain my energy throughout the day.” 

“I am currently a size 18 having gained weight over the previous 18 months. By March 31st I will have dropped to a size 16 (my weight pre-weight gain) and by September 31st (6 months later) I will have successfully sustained this weight.”

Example 2

Initial draft

“I would like to enjoy buying clothes again and I feel more confident. I want to be able to train in the gym without feeling weak.”

Improved to fit SMART framework 

“By March 31st I will have improved my body confidence and perception of my own appearance. I would currently rate this as a 3/10 and by March 31st I will get that to 7/10.” 

“For this particular client these were realistic goals.” 

“I enjoy training in the gym but currently I feel weak during training. I am currently able to perform the weight training I enjoy for no longer than 15 mins, meaning I cannot complete my chosen workout. By February 28th I will be able to perform this workout to completion (45 mins of training). 

Example 3 

Initial draft

“I am experiencing a lot of discomfort and gut irritation due to IBS which I would like to tackle and alleviate my symptoms.” 

Improved to fit SMART framework 

“I am currently experiencing a lot of gut irritation and discomfort due to IBS. After 4 weeks I will have identified the foods which trigger my symptoms and will have a clear plan for alleviating my symptoms. After 12 weeks I will have reduced my symptoms from their current discomfort level of 7/10 to 4/10 with a view to review my progress and reduce this further still after those 12 weeks.”

Example 4

Initial draft

“I would like to end up developing a new relationship with food. Learn to use food not as a response to stress or anxiety but rather as something that allows me to nourish my body, keeping healthy.”

Improved to fit SMART framework 

“I am aware that I am currently an emotional eater where stress and anxiety can trigger binge eating. Currently this happens 5-7 times a week. In 12 weeks time I will have reduced this to less than 3 times a week and I will have learned the skills and tools I need to manage this going forward. I will also increase my knowledge of food and its impact on my health – currently I would rate my knowledge as 3/10 and by the end of the 12 weeks I will improve that to 7/10.”


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