Initial weight loss goals: have they changed and do they matter?

Academic Article


  • Objective: Nearly 20 years ago, participants in behavioural weight loss programmes reported goals that greatly exceeded the amount of weight typically produced by these programmes. Whether having unrealistic weight loss goals impacts weight loss or attrition is unclear. The intent of the current study was to revisit current weight loss goals and examine whether goals impact outcomes. Methods: Adults (N = 308, BMI = 33.7 ± 4.2 kg/m2) participated in a 12-month behavioural weight management programme and completed questionnaires about their goals. Results: Participants' weight loss goal was 19.8 ± 7.9% of their body weight, and 90.4% selected a goal ≥10%. Weight goals were not associated with weight loss at 3 (p = 0.75) or 12 months (p = 0.47), or from 3 to 12 months (p = 0.55). Weight loss goals were not related to attrition at 3 (p = 0.91) or 12 months (p = 0.86). Participants believed that weight reduction would positively impact their health and psychosocial functioning. Conclusion: Weight loss goals have decreased, but still greatly exceed what can be expected by most. Unrealistic goals, however, had no impact on weight loss or attrition. These results question the utility of counseling people with obesity to set more realistic weight loss goals, which is typically practiced in behavioural weight management.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Lent MR; Vander Veur SS; Peters JC; Herring SJ; Wyatt HR; Tewksbury C; Wojtanowski AC; Hill JO; Foster GD
  • Start Page

  • 154
  • End Page

  • 161
  • Volume

  • 2
  • Issue

  • 2