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The Benefits of Making Small-Simple Changes

By Donna Moodie, RD CDN CDE

So many of us want to be healthier, make lifestyle changes, lose weight, exercise, and change our diets. These desires intensify after a season of over-indulgence and sedentary behavior. We find ourselves making statements like: “That’s it, no more sweets ever!” or “I am going to the gym to work out for two hours every day.” which is usually said after a period of doing nothing for three months It is not helpful to make unrealistic statements like these which can actually sabotage your efforts to change.

In the Cornell Diabetes Education Program, we teach evidence-based classes in communities that guide people through the goal-making process to make it simple and ensure success. Here are some tips to get you started with making simple goals using the S.M.A.R.T. goal acronym. We have had many class participants make lifestyle changes, lose weight, and improve their health by following this style of goal setting.

Smart: Make your goal very specific and simple, such as “I will have one teaspoon of sugar in my morning coffee every morning instead of two teaspoons.”

Measurable: Can you really measure what you are doing? Example: “I will walk around the block three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.”

Achievable: Can you really do it? For example, you might think you want to walk around the block three times/week in the morning and do it for one year. It is really much better to set more achievable goals for shorter periods of time, like for a week or two, and re-evaluate your progress at the end of that time. So much can change and happen in long periods of time.

Realistic: Try not to make absolute statements like, “I will never eat cookies again!” Instead, you may want to make a more realistic goal, such as “I will treat myself to one cookie on two days/week.”

Timely: What is your time frame for completing the goal? Example: “I will walk three times/week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for two weeks.”

If you try these tips and begin making small and simple “S.M.A.R.T.” goals, you will be able to achieve small successes which help you meet those bigger goals of being healthier or losing weight. Remember, one small step at time. Happy New Year to all!


Donna Moodie is a Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at


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