How to Achieve Your Health Goals This Year
By Arnold Fontanilla, DO, Family Medicine Physician
Virtua Primary Care – Pennsauken
Many new year’s resolutions revolve around losing weight or improving your appearance. But your overall health is driven by more than just your weight.
Factors like your age, personal and family medical history, and current weight and body mass index (BMI), make up the picture of your overall health. Before you can set a goal or resolution, you need to know where you're starting from—and think of your goals from a standpoint of achieving peak health, instead of just losing a few pounds.
Answer these questions to assess your current health
You can start by asking yourself these questions and writing down your answers:
- What are my current height, weight, and BMI? How do these compare with recommended measurements?
- Do I exercise? How often, at what intensity, and for how long?
- How many hours of sleep do I get at night? Do I feel tired a lot?
- What's my fitness level? Can I walk five miles without stopping? What weight can I lift? How many squats, push-ups, or lunges can I do? How's my flexibility?
- How would I describe my eating habits? Do I eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and dairy, and whole grains? Am I drawn to certain foods like sweets or salty snacks? Am I an emotional eater? Do I eat too little?
- Do I have any ailments that prevent me from exercising or eating well?
- Do I always seem to be run-down or sick?
- Am I depressed or often feel stressed?
- What is my family’s health history?
- What are my health issues? Do I have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or a condition like diabetes?
Your answers to these questions provide a good starting point for assessing your current health and setting goals for what you want to achieve.
Make an appointment with a primary care provider to discuss your health goals
Make an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP) for an annual exam, and bring your answers to the above questions to discuss. Your PCP will review your bloodwork, screening tests, and health history, set a course to treat any health conditions you may have (such as high blood pressure), help you set realistic goals, and make recommendations for a healthy diet and exercise plan.
Your provider also may refer you to a specialist, such as a dietitian, therapist, or counselor, who can help you customize a plan to help you achieve specific goals.
With all of the great online resources available, you also can research the goals that are most important to you. You can’t expect to learn everything there is to know about the human body, but you can get a basic understanding of the biology behind your specific health goal, whether it be:
- The relationship between diet, exercise, and weight loss
- How the body’s metabolism works and how diet affects it
- The fundamentals of clean and good eating habits
- Effective forms of exercise for your particular goal (running, weights, yoga)
- Successful methods to treat substance use disorders or to stop smoking
- Stress management or dealing with mental health concerns
- The importance of sleep and how to establish an effective sleep habits
Put your plan into action and set your health goals
Once you know what you have to do to achieve your goal, set timeframes to mark milestones along the way. For example, if your overall goal is to lose 40 pounds, set smaller goals like, losing one pound a week or four to five pounds each month.
Be patient with yourself—it takes time establish healthy habits—but setting smaller goals helps you see and celebrate the progress you're making. Here are examples of reasonable timeframes that can help you track your goals:
- One week to lose one to two pounds
- Three to six months to get into peak physical fitness
- At least six weeks to break a habit like smoking, and maybe even longer to treat substance use disorders
Build a support system, as well. Having friends, family, or coworkers behind you can provide motivation and accountability as you work to achieve your goal.
Don’t get discouraged if you have setbacks. It takes time and consistency to achieve anything. Think how good you’ll feel in the end, and how ready you’ll be to tackle next year’s challenge.
Virtua Health’s primary care practices offer in-person and telehealth appointments to help you live your healthiest life.
Updated December 22, 2021