Are unrealistic weight loss goals associated with outcomes for overweight women?

Obes Res. 2004 Mar;12(3):569-76. doi: 10.1038/oby.2004.65.


Objective: To examine cross-sectional correlates of current, goal, and dream weight and their prospective associations with weight loss in treatment.

Research methods and procedures: Goal and dream weights, demographic characteristics, and psychosocial factors were assessed by self-report questionnaire in 302 adult women enrolled in a weight loss trial. Height and weight were assessed at baseline, after 8 weeks of active treatment, and at 6- and 18-month follow-up. Regression techniques examined associations among baseline, goal, and dream weights, psychosocial factors, and treatment outcomes.

Results: On average, goal and dream weight losses were unrealistically high (-24% and -30%, respectively). High goals were associated with greater expected effort and greater expected reward but were not associated with psychological distress. Goal and dream weight losses were only weakly associated with behavioral or weight outcomes. An association between higher dream weight losses and greater weight loss at 18 months was the only outcome result to reach statistical significance.

Discussion: Results suggest that lack of realism in weight loss goals is not important enough to justify counseling people to accept lower weight loss goals when trying to lose weight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Psychology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome*
  • Weight Loss*