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Diabetes: Goal setting for a new year

Diabetes and goal setting

This post was written by Elizabeth Berkey MS, RD, CD, CDE, BC-ADM, diabetic specialist and dietician, Diabetes Education Center.

Having diabetes and setting goals for the new year can be a daunting task. It can feel overwhelming at times, but it’s important to take it one step at a time. Here are a few strategies to assist you on your journey and make your efforts more successful.

Setting SMART goals

First, set a few goals for yourself that involve behavioral change. Try coming up with a list of behaviors you want to modify, then pick 1-2 of them you’d like to focus on. When making diet and exercise changes it’s best to avoid FAD diets and quick fixes. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. One way to jumpstart your journey is to identify and write your objectives as SMART goals:

  • Specific: It’s important to be specific when writing your goals.
  • Measurable: To track your progress, be sure your goals can be measured.
  • Achievable: Set realistic goals you believe you can achieve.
  • Relevant: Make sure your goal is personal to you. It’s easier to work towards a goal that’s important and resonates with you.
  • Time bound: Ideally, your goal must have an end date or time.

An example of a SMART goal would be: “I will eat 60 grams of carbohydrates at main meals, three times a day for 7 days per week.”

Weight loss

If you’re looking to make diet changes, for weight loss, be sure to opt for healthy strategies that can be sustained for extended periods of time and include healthful options like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Carb counting (or carbohydrate balanced diet) is another approach to watch portion sizes and help achieve weight loss while maintaining blood sugar control.

Fad diets, on the other hand, especially those that eliminate certain food groups should be a red flag. Your body needs nutrients from many different sources to be healthy and function properly to sustain good blood sugar control. All too often, people try losing weight by following a FAD diet, which affords them the instant gratification of rapid weight loss, but then quickly lets them down with a hasty weight gain. This rollercoaster of weight loss and weight gain is doing more harm than good to your body.

Instead, a slow and gradual weight loss of 1-2 lbs. per week is a good goal for keeping weight off. There are many free apps available to help with watching calories, portion sizes and tools to help promote mindful eating. A registered dietitian nutritionist is also a great resource to help you figure out the dietary needs and goals that are right for you.


Be sure to clear any new exercise programs with your physician to ensure it’s safe and the right choice for you. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends people with diabetes try to sustain at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week or 30 minutes each day. Exercise could consist of walking, swimming or a recumbent bike. Weight training is a great choice too. It’s a good way to gain muscle, which decreases as we age, and burns more calories than fat does for weight loss purposes. Many gyms also have personal trainers who may be able to help you with setting your personal goals. Bottom line, no matter what you choose, remember to start out slow and work your way up to more advanced activity.

Reward yourself

Once your goals are met, it’s important to reward yourself. Keep the motivation train running so you can sustain the positive behavioral changes you are making. A positive reward could consist of a new pair of athletic shoes or workout attire. Also, understand that setbacks can and will happen. What’s important is remembering it’s normal. Remember to stay confident, keep at it and you will be successful.

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