How to set healthy goals for the new year

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TOOELE — With the new year upon us, setting healthy New Year's goals is top of mind for some people.

Marc Callister, of Tooele, said exercise and running are a big part of his life now. "For me, it's just become a therapeutic way to deal with the stresses of life," he said. It wasn't always something that he loved.

"I wasn't always a runner, I started doing this four years ago," he said.

In 2019 he decided he wanted to make a change. He changed his diet and started exercising, as part of his New Year's resolution. "I came up with a the concept of a new day's resolution. It's not a New Year's resolution. What am I going to do today? So if I wanted to lose weight, what do I do today? It's not about what I am going to do this year. That's too general," he said.

By doing this, he lost 70 pounds and created a love for trail running. "It just became a passion. Every night after work I would go run. It just became something that I would crave," Callister said. Callister started small by walking each day and now he can run several miles at time.

This is something that Adam Ballenger at Intermountain's Live Well Center recommends. "Start by figuring out what's an economical goal, something that I can do easily, and then once I succeed at that one, if I even go beyond that then I've gone beyond my regular success. That's going to help motivate me for even more stuff," Ballenger said.

Ballenger said changing your everyday mindset can help achieve your goal. "Instead of burning calories, invest them. Every calorie that you burn helps your body go and do something or your brain think of something, your heart do something, or metabolize something," He said.

Callister said changing his mindset has changed his life. "A few years ago, I hadn't run my first mile, but in 2022 I actually completed my first marathon and my first ultra-marathon," Callister said.

Now, Callister's goal for 2023 is to run a 50-mile trail race, and rerun a marathon to get a better time. "There is nothing unique about this. Anybody can do this. Anybody can set a goal and then you just have to step back and say 'What am I doing today to get to that goal that I've set," he said.

Ballenger also said that when looking at health goals, it's important to look at what changes you could make to improve your mental health. He said even though those changes won't show up on a scale, it will improve your overall quality of life.

Be S.M.A.R.T.

One in three Utahns won't keep those goals past the end of January, experts say. Dr. Travis Mickelson is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Intermountain Healthcare. He recommends following the acronym: S.M.A.R.T., first coined by the journal Management Review in 1981.

Specific: Your resolution should be clear. "Rather than saying, 'I want to start exercising,' we would say, 'I want to start exercising 20 minutes a day, three times a week,'" he said.

Measurable: Logging progress in a journal or making notes on your phone can help.

Achievable: Taking big steps too fast can leave you frustrated. "Start small, bite-sized pieces," Mickelson said. "We'll be more successful with that."

Relevance: Set goals that really matter to you. "One of the most powerful rewards for our brain is just a frequent reminder of why we're doing this. And really providing us with that encouragement," Mickelson said.

Time-bound: Make a realistic timeline and plan for roadblocks along the way.

Alternative goals

There are also alternatives to the standard New Year's resolution.

You can set up yearlong goals for yourself. Creating yearlong goals for yourself gives you the opportunity to fail and pick right back up. Compared to a New Year's resolution, it's a lot more forgiving. It also promotes behavioral change which is far more likely to stay with you in the long term.

An easy way to stick with your goals is to create a plan that outlines exactly what and how you'll achieve said goals. Whether it's a daily, weekly or monthly plan, you'll be able to go back to it to track and analyze whether or not it's working how it should be. If it's not you can easily make adjustments that better align fit your lifestyle.

Create healthy habits like eating healthier, being more active, or becoming more focused on what you want. Creating healthy habits is paramount to promoting growth and change. By making small adjustments in your life, you give yourself the opportunity to welcome and adhere to those changes. This, in turn, can have a massive impact over the course of the year.


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Ayanna Likens
Ayanna Likens is an Emmy award-winning special projects reporter for KSL-TV.


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