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March 13, 2013 | 2 minute read

Cancer Prevention Starts with Goals

It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness month and for this cancer — along with many others — we know that moving more, eating nutritious foods and staying lean are important for reducing risk. Most of us live busy, fast-paced lives with habits that have been established over a lifetime, so it can be hard to figure out where to begin. Have you ever said “I’ll try to go to the gym more” or “I’ll try to eat less dessert”? By saying I’ll try you are already giving yourself an excuse to not follow through.

That’s why setting concrete goals can be really helpful. Let’s say your general goal is to be more active. That goal is vague, and won’t hold you accountable or allow you to measure your progress. Turning that goal into a concrete SMART goal will make it more achievable.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific: A specific goal describes exactly what you must do to reach your goal. What will you do to be more active?
  • Measurable: A measurable goal allows you to track your progress. How often will you be more active?
  • Achievable: A goal can be as high as you want it to be, but make sure you know it is possible. Will that type of activity be something you can do now? If not, maybe start with something smaller and aim to work up to running a 5K, for example.
  • Realistic: Goals should be realistic considering your resources and time. How can you fit your goal into your budget and schedule?
  • Timely: Give yourself a specific time frame to reach your goal. When do you aim to reach your goal by?

Now let’s return to the original goal: to be more active. Turning it into a SMART goal, you might say: “I will take the stairs instead of the elevator at work 3 times per week over the next month.” Write down your goal and put it somewhere you’ll see it often, like on your fridge or next to the computer at work. When you reach your goal set a new one – continue to challenge yourself as you make accomplishments!

What is your SMART goal for cancer prevention?

Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is a clinical dietitian at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. She has a passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity.

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