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Why Weight Loss Requires Intention

Help your patients lose weight in 2012 by setting goals.

As we begin 2012, have you thought about your new year intentions? I prefer this term to "resolution" because setting a new goal or planning a change in behavior is more powerful when it is done with intention. Steering our patients to adequately prepare for behavior change is a process strengthened by focus on intention.

Goal Setting

The creation of goal lists has always been a favorite strategy of mine. I believe it's a total setup for success. A shorter goal list might look like this:

  1. Eat something within 2 hours of waking and consider this breakfast.
  2. Increase fruit and vegetable intake to 5 servings per day.
  3. Maintain fluid intake at 1 liter while attempting to increase to 2 liters on most days.
  4. Begin tracking food intake and exercise using a free online tool such as or
  5. Allow dessert 3 days per week, using an appropriate portion size.
  6. Spend 5 minutes on Sunday night setting 4 appointments with yourself for exercise during the next week. Try for 30 to 40 minutes of your favorite activity.
  7. Set a follow-up appointment of Jan. 15th at 8:45 a.m.

Notice the inclusion of goal 7. Follow-up and maintenance of appointments is as much of a goal as the rest of this list. Did you read words such as "don't" or "limit"? Words like "consider," "increase," "maintain" and "allow" are all positive ways to help steer patients to achieve their goals. When a patient is determined to lose the excess 25 to 50 pounds he or she has been carrying around for 5 years, what is the best way to begin behavior change? Set the patient up for success using small and achievable goals. The above goal list is appropriate for a patient in the contemplation or preparation stage of change.

For patients in the action stage of change, the above goal list might include these additions:

  • making an appointment with a personal trainer to obtain personalized advice about exercise
  • tracking calorie intake using the portions suggested for the patient's personal weight, height and activity level
  • meeting with a registered dietitian, who can provide expert advice on the development of a grocery and menu list for the week.

What Works for You

Sharing personal anecdotes with patients can be helpful and offer a personal touch. When creating goal lists with patients who are in a place of "hearing" you, it might be beneficial to share a few of your healthiest goals, so that they can picture the "how" in their own minds and schedules. One goal that I find powerful and use with complete intention is making appointments with myself for exercise. If the moment is right, I share with patients how I spend time at the beginning of each week finding time for exercise. These appointments with me need to work around my son, my clinic and private practice schedule, and everything else that gets packed into a week. If I can get one patient to get in the practice of implementing meetings with themselves for exercise 3 to 5 times per week, it is a huge success for behavior change over a year. This type of goal setting is also more powerful and full of intention; it provides myriad health benefits over a quick-fix diet for 15 pounds of weight loss.

Insistent on a Quick Fix

Joe and Sue are married and in their early 60s. You have been seeing them in your practice for 5 years. Between them they have about 50 pounds of weight to lose, and they are determined to lose this weight in a healthy way, together, in 2012 - sort of! They both have hypertension. Sue has arthritis and Joe has type 2 diabetes. They love to walk, play with their grandchildren and are both recently retired.

Joe and Sue have tried many fad diets in the past and have been able to lose about 20 pounds each by April to June of each year. But they gain all the weight back after giving up the particular fad diet recommendations. They would like to follow one more diet until March, to jumpstart their weight loss, and then they would like long-term support for success.

Suggest to Joe and Sue that they follow the goal list above. They should meet with a registered dietitian in March, for long-term planning. After they achieve short-term success, Joe and Sue will also have a long-term plan that can circumvent the time of year when their weight loss maintenance attempts usually fail. A registered dietitian will help them make behavior changes to achieve longer lasting weight loss.

New in 2012

As you encourage patients to implement behavior change in 2012, be sure to mention the new name of the American Dietetic Association: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This change becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2012.

In this column in 2012, we'll continue to discuss the best ways to encourage patients to achieve all of their goals. We'll hear more about the new Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and we'll tackle tough topics such as eating disorders. If you have questions or comments, please post below. You can also email me directly.

To your best health in 2012 . Happy New Year!

Robyn Kievit is a family nurse practitioner, a registered dietitian and a certified specialist in sports dietetics. She operates a private nutrition practice in Boston and is on staff at Emerson College. E-mail your nutrition and weight loss questions to or visit her website at On Facebook and Twitter, search for nutritionmentor.

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