Setting SMART health goals with PKD
Living with PKD can present unique challenges. However, proactive management through setting and achieving heath goals can improve both physical and mental well-being. Good nutrition and lifestyle strategies play an important role in managing PKD. They can help slow down the progression of the disease by slowing down cyst formation or growth, and aid in managing conditions associated with PKD, such as high blood pressure. They can even help manage other health conditions you may have, like diabetes or high cholesterol.
One effective way to set health goals for PKD is to make SMART goals. This blog will walk you through strategies for setting SMART goals, staying on track, and things to consider with health and PKD.
What Does SMART Stand For?
SMART stands for:
Setting SMART goals for PKD helps you define the steps you need to take to achieve your goal. SMART goals help us to determine our commitment towards a goal, because when setting lifestyle goals, we want a higher level of commitment so that there is a better chance that you will achieve the goal. One thing to always remember is that it’s about progress – not perfection – when you’re making health changes.
SMART goals help to give clarity so that we can set goals that are clear – meaning that we know exactly what the plan is to work towards, for our health. Instead of saying we want to “exercise more”, SMART goals are more motivating, because they are clearer and more defined. SMART goals also help to identify milestones or targets that highlight your progress, and keep you on track to success.
With SMART goals, you’re more likely to achieve your health goals efficiently, because you’ll break them down into appropriate goals that are challenging, but have the appropriate “task complexity”. With health behaviour changes, it is important that goals be challenging, but not impossible. Challenging goals help to encourage us towards progress, improve our motivation, and increase our self-satisfaction. But when they are too challenging or complicated, they are not realistic, and we often give up.
SMART goals help to give us feedback and show how well we are progressing. Feedback from others, or even self-feedback, gives the opportunity to check in and see how we are doing. Having an accountability buddy, friend, or family member to check in with is a great way of getting feedback.
In this blog post, we will discuss how to make SMART goals for PKD, to ensure that you are taking proactive steps towards managing your health and nutrition.
The first step in setting a SMART nutrition goal for PKD is to make it specific. A vague goal such as “reduce sodium” is not helpful, because it is not specific, and lacks clarity towards your health focus. Instead, focus on setting specific goals that are tailored to your individual needs. For example, a specific nutrition goal for PKD could be “reduce my sodium intake to 2300 milligrams per day for 4 weeks”.
We need to be able to measure goals to see our progress. So, set your goal with a target in mind. For example, “drink 12 glasses of water daily for one month” is a measurable goal that can be tracked over time. Measuring your progress allows you to assess how well you are adhering to your nutrition plan, and adjust the plan if needed.
Writing achievable and attainable goals is crucial for success. Everyone has different circumstances, so we need personalized goals. For example, if you currently eat fast food multiple times a week, it may not be realistic to cut it out completely, but you could set a goal to “reduce eating out to 3 times per week for 2 months”.
Your nutrition goals for PKD should align with your overall health, and treatment plan. For example, “I will exercise 3 days per week this month” may be more realistic than 7 days per week for many of us. Take into consideration your other commitments like work, travel, caregiving, and commuting so that you can set realistic goals.
A time-bound goal provides a sense of urgency and motivation to work towards your target. For example, “reduce added sugar intake to less than 25 grams per day within the next three months” is a time-bound goal that gives you a deadline to work towards for a quarter of the year. You can use strategies such as reading food labels, tracking your food, and being mindful of added sugar sources in your diet, to meet this goal.
What are some other things to consider with goal setting?
When setting health goals, here are some additional things to consider:
- Speak with your healthcare team. Before beginning your health changes, speak with your healthcare team, like your nephrologist or dietitians. They can provide personalized advice and guidance to keep you safe based on your health. Remember to check in with them regularly to get feedback, as well.
- Write your goals down. This helps to make them concrete, and allows you to refer to them to see your progress. Put them in a place where you can see them, such as in your office or on the fridge, or make them the background on your phone.
- Celebrate the wins. Staying on track with your goals is hard. So, take the time to celebrate the small wins and treat yourself. But remember to make the treat aligned with your current health goals. Treat yourself to a coffee from a local coffee shop, take a bath, or maybe paint your nails.
- Forgive yourself if needed. Sometimes life can throw curveballs, and things don’t go as planned. When this happens, you may feel discouraged or unmotivated, but don’t let that stop you. When making health behaviour changes, striving for “progress not perfection” is important. So, remember to forgive yourself and adjust your expectations or goals. Remember that tomorrow is a new day, and move forward if things don’t go as planned.
- Start any day. It does not need to be a new year or a Monday in order to start making lifestyle changes. You can start any day and time.
Living with PKD requires a holistic approach to health that includes medical care, lifestyle adjustments, and a positive mindset. Setting SMART goals and achieving health goals can improve your quality of life and contribute to better long-term outcomes. Remember, everyone’s journey with PKD is unique, so work closely with your healthcare team to tailor your goals to your specific needs and circumstances.
Written by: Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with a Master’s Degree in Foods and Nutrition. Emily specializes in renal nutrition, helping those with kidney disease overcome the confusing world of nutrition to promote health. Emily can be found at kidneynutrition.ca.