For many of us with Crohn’s disease or colitis, “achieve remission” is often on our list of goals. It doesn’t matter if you’re recently diagnosed or have had your diagnosis for a while — remission is something we all dream of. But “achieving remission” can be a pretty broad, overwhelming goal. How do you tackle it?
What are SMART goals?
I’ve always had luck using the “SMART method” of goal setting. Here is an overview of this method and how to create more attainable and realistic goals — ones that could potentially get you closer to remission for IBD.
In this context, SMART is defined as:
S for Specific
M for Measurable
A for Achievable
R for Results-focused
T for Time-bound
Using SMART goals for IBD: A helpful example
For any goal to be successful, you have to do a bit of planning to make it specific. Personally, I think the goal of “achieve remission” is a little broad. Instead, try focusing on one step you can take toward remission. For instance: “I’m going to get closer to remission by starting a low FODMAP diet.” That’s super specific, and it could potentially help you in your way to remission.
Next, your goal needs to be measurable. How are you going to measure this low FODMAP diet? You could say, “I’m going to start a low FODMAP diet on February 1 and continue it until August 1.” Now, you’ve got a time period during which you can measure your results from the low FODMAP diet.
Is this goal achievable? Definitely. For example, “I’m going to get closer to remission by starting a low FODMAP diet from February through August, and I’m going to work with my gastroenterologist (GI) to monitor my progress.” Now, you have added your GI into the mix, and they are someone that can hold you accountable. They can also measure certain blood levels to help give you a deeper understanding of the effects of the diet.
In this case, your results focus would be on how you feel after starting this diet. Track your results in a notebook, or online, to see how your symptoms trend after starting your low FODMAP diet. This way, not only is your GI monitoring your symptoms from a blood-level perspective, but you’re also monitoring yourself on a day-to-day basis to track your results.
The final aspect of this goal is that it’s time-bound. “Time-bound” goes hand in hand with “measurable,” but you could always add an additional time-bound aspect to this goal. For example, while you’re doing the low FODMAP diet from February to August, you could say that three months in, you’ll do a check-in, and review your progress halfway. If you aren’t seeing the results you want, or you aren’t getting closer to remission, you’d adjust your goal.
Remember, this is an example of how to set up a goal for yourself in taking steps to achieve remission of your Crohn’s or colitis. This example isn’t a guaranteed method to get closer to remission, but it gives you some insight into how to break down a larger goal to make it more manageable.
Just remember, make your goal “SMART,” and try to focus on a smaller goal that could lead you to the remission state you want to achieve. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a change in your diet — it could be a change in your medication, or maybe you start doing yoga or meditating. Goal setting is all about what you think could get you to where you want to be.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for your GI’s input, because they might be able to make your goal even more specific. And many GIs appreciate that you are setting goals for your health that they can help you work on. It’s a great way to get a good partnership going with your physician and kick your goals in the butt (maybe even literally).
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Mandy is a writer and cat mom who is slowly becoming a health-nut. She’s earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in professional writing. For her master’s thesis she wrote about patient education materials for those diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. She works full-time as a technical writer in Chicago, and serves on the board of directors and blogs for Girls With Guts, a non-profit organization to support women with IBD and/or ostomies. Follow more of her stories on HealthCentral and blog posts on the Girls With Guts website.