Why exercise programs often do not lead to weight loss

A new study has revealed how to avoid setting yourself up for failure while trying to lose weight.

Washington: A new study has revealed how to avoid setting yourself up for failure while trying to lose weight.

The new study found that consumers tend to overestimate progress and underestimate setbacks when pursuing goals such as dieting or saving money.

Authors Margaret C. Campbell (University of Colorado) and Caleb Warren (Texas A and M University) wrote that their studies provide strong evidence of a progress bias when consumers pursue goals. Consumers tend to think that "good" behaviors impact goal pursuit more than equivalent "bad" behaviors. This can make consumers think that they are doing fine when they really aren't.

Across seven studies, the authors found evidence for the progress bias (the belief that the positive has more impact than the negative) when consumers pursued goals such as saving money, losing weight, or winning a game.

Consumers tend to believe they will succeed in achieving their goals and give more weight to behaviors consistent with their beliefs. For example, if you are on a diet, you are likely to think that not eating a donut makes a bigger difference than eating a donut or you might think that saving 100 dollars will get you closer to your goal of saving 100,000 dollars for retirement than spending 100 dollars will take you away from reaching your goal of saving 100,000 dollars.

They added that people feel that they can stop working toward a goal before they really should. This is consistent with findings that exercise programs often do not lead to weight loss because people tend to think they can eat more if they exercise more.

The authors concluded that they think the progress bias helps explain why consumers often have a hard time achieving difficult long-term goals such as managing their weight or saving for retirement.

The study appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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