Effects of exposure to unrealistic promises about dieting: Are unrealistic expectations about dieting inspirational?




The false-hope syndrome suggests that unrealistic expectations about dieting set dieters up for failure and then promote renewed efforts at weight loss. Many dieters believe the inflated promises typical of diet advertisements, which may be the source of at least some of their unrealistic expectations. Diet advertisements promoting unrealistic expectations were expected to inspire restrained eaters to diet and lead to enhanced self-perceptions, relative to more circumspect advertisements.


Female undergraduates rated their expectations in response to a control advertisement or to advertisements containing realistic, moderately unrealistic, or highly unrealistic promises of dieting. Participants then rated their self-perceptions and participated in an apparent “taste-test”.


Restrained eaters had higher expectations for themselves than did unrestrained eaters, and restrained and unrestrained eaters had similar expectations concerning dieting for others. Those who viewed the advertisements containing unrealistic expectations ate fewer cookies ad libitum than did those who viewed the realistic or control advertisements.


This finding is consistent with the suggestion that unrealistic expectations contribute to the decision to change oneself. © 2005 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.