Objective: To investigate weight loss expectations (expected 1-year BMI loss, dream BMI, and maximum acceptable BMI) in obese patients seeking treatment and to examine whether expectations differ by sex, weight, diet and weight history, age, psychological factors, and primary motivations for weight loss.
Research methods and procedures: 1891 obese patients seeking treatment in 25 Italian medical centers (1473 women; age, 44.7 +/- 11.0 years; BMI, 38.2 +/- 6.5 kg/m2) were evaluated. Diet and weight history, weight loss expectations, and primary motivation for seeking treatment (health or improving appearance) were systematically recorded. Psychiatric distress, binge eating, and body image dissatisfaction were tested by self-administered questionnaires (Symptom CheckList-90, Binge Eating Scale, and Body Uneasiness Test).
Results: In 1011 cases (53.4%), 1-year expected BMI loss was > or = 9 kg/m2, dream BMI was 26.0 +/- 3.4 kg/m2 (corresponding to a 32% loss), and maximum acceptable BMI was 29.3 +/- 4.4 kg/m2 (-23%). BMI and age were the strongest predictors of weight goals. Weight loss necessary to reach the desired targets was largely in excess of weight loss observed during previous dieting. Psychiatric distress, body dissatisfaction, and binge eating did not predict weight loss expectations. The primary motivation for weight loss was concern for future or present health; women seeking treatment to improve appearance had a lower grade of obesity, were younger, and had first attempted weight loss at a younger age.
Discussion: Obese Italian patients had unrealistic weight loss expectations. There were significant disparities between patients' perceptions and physicians' weight loss recommendations of desirable treatment outcome.