It’s essential to set measurable goals if you want to make a change to your lifestyle, whether it relates to eating healthier, losing weight, or getting fit. But it’s even more important that the goals you set are attainable. Want to run a marathon but haven’t hit the pavement in five years? You may be overshooting.
We often underestimate just how much time and energy goes into hitting a health goal. For example, a working parent may not logistically be able to commit to going to the gym for an hour six days a week, notes Gina Sirchio-Lotus, D.C., C.C.N., Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner Candidate with the Institute for Functional Medicine. “What is sad is that people assume they have failed for lack of willpower, not because they didn’t make a goal that could work,” she says.
Breaking down big goals into bite-sized (but still impressive!) accomplishments will get you closer to where you ultimately want to be in a shorter period of time, says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N. Here are a handful of health goals you can achieve in under 60 days.
Goal: Lose 1-2 pounds a month
If you’re aiming to drop a total of 20 pounds, focusing on shedding a pound or two per month makes it a more achievable health goal. This goal not only removes some of the pressure by steadily pacing the process, but it sets you up to keep the weight off long-term, explains Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness.
“Your body is better able to adjust to your new lighter weight if it’s lost slowly as opposed to quickly,” he says. “Quick weight loss is never accepted by the body and will likely result in weight regain, so slow weight loss is usually a better approach for most people.”
The beauty of the slow-and-steady approach: You only have to create a caloric deficit of about 1,000 to 2,000 calories per week, Adams says. Shaving a few excess calories here and there and giving your workouts a modest boost will go a long way.
Goal: Run a 5K
If it’s been a minute since you laced up the ol’ running shoes, completing a 5k is a much safer bet than the New York Marathon. At first, you might simply walk the distance. “An easy running progression after you’ve walked your first 5K is to alternate running for one minute and walking for one minute,” Adams says. “Do this for 30 minutes total three times per week.”
As you become more comfortable out on the pavement, “try running for two minutes and walking for one,” says Adams. “Keep progressing until you’re running more and walking less each week.” Before you know it, you’ll be crushing that 5k!
Goal: Drink half your weight in ounces of H2O each day
“Staying hydrated is essential for a well-functioning body and influences metabolism, digestion, satiety, energy levels, mood, sleep quality, and the immune system, to name a few,” says Michels. However, many find drinking the daily recommended amount—2.7 liters (91 ounces) for women and 3.7 liters (125 ounces) for men—to be difficult.
Ideally, you want to aim to drink half your weight in ounces, says Michels. To make it easier to hit this goal, Michels recommends starting each day with an eight-ounce glass of water to lock in hydration first thing in the morning. She also suggests tracking your current intake and then creating a plan so that you can reach your ultimate goal. Other helpful strategies: packing a reusable water bottle for on-the-go trips and setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to take sips through the day.
Goal: Hit (And Surpass) 10,000+ steps a day
Planning to hit the gym for an hour most days of the week can lead to burnout and injuries that could sabotage your long-term fitness goals, warns Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S, founder of Ancient Nutrition and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council.
Instead, he recommends easing into a fitness routine step by step—literally. “Your first month, you may choose to aim for at least 7,000 steps per day,” he suggests. “Then, after two months, up it to 8,500 to 10,000. Finally, after three months, go up to 10,000 to 12,000+ steps.”
Simple as walking may seem, upping your step count makes for an all-around more active day, which sets you up for greater health and fitness long-term.
“You can help keep yourself accountable by creating a calendar to check the days off when you’ve reached your step goal,” Axe adds. “After each week of checking off all of your days, reward yourself with something enjoyable—and still in-line with your goals—such as a new pair of workout pants, a massage, or a healthy meal out.”
Goal: Cut your sugar intake in half
Reducing sugar is a goal we can all get behind, but cutting it out completely may be unrealistic since it’s in so many of the foods we eat, Adams warns. A more achievable health goal? Go halfsies.
Start with becoming more conscious of nutrition labels and taking note of how much sugar you’re consuming. Adams recommends recording how much sugar you take in on a weekly basis (either in a notepad or on your phone) before you begin so you have a baseline. This way, you can see how the sugar grams fall away from your diet. From there, aim to cut your sugar intake by 25 percent for a month. For example, if you’ve been consuming about 50 grams of sugar per day, cut it to 37 or 38 grams.
After that first month, try to shave off another 25 percent, or however much you need to stay within the recommended limits of 25 grams of added sugar daily for women and 36 grams for men. “You don’t have to be a puritan and abstain from all sugars, but a few tweaks to your intake will show you how you can greatly reduce added sugars,” says Adams.
Goal: Eat two plant-based meals per day
While going completely plant-based might be trendy, a more doable approach may be to slowly add plant-based meals to your repertoire. Adams suggests starting with one plant-based meal per day.
One major perk of leaning into plants? “Adding more whole fruits and vegetables, reducing refined foods, cutting back on meats, and substituting with vegetable-based products will all add fiber to your day,” says Adams. “Fiber can add a feeling of fullness to your stomach as it delays digestion, which may help you temporarily feel fuller and cause you to eat less.”
Once you get used to that one daily plant-based meal, work your way up to two.
Goal: Build a daily journaling practice
To get clear on your intentions and track your physical, mental, and emotional health (and your progress on those other quick health goals,) Axe recommends journaling.
Start with just 20 minutes once a week. “Not only will this process help you practice more gratitude, but it may also help you reduce stress, which can benefit your ability to stick to healthy habits,” he says. Once you’ve grown accustomed to your weekly session, you can start adding journaling spurts throughout the week. Increase your frequency as you see fit until you build up to a daily practice, even if it’s just five minutes.