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Keywords:

  • coasting;
  • dieting;
  • goal focus;
  • goals;
  • weight cycling;
  • weight loss

Background: Dieters often show weight cycling, i.e. prior successful weight loss is followed by weight gain. The current study examined how goal progress during a diet (i.e. weight loss) impacts subsequent weight loss depending on whether success is identified on the process level or the outcome level of dieting. Methods: A short-term longitudinal study examined lagged effects of weight loss and identifications of success in one week on weight loss in the subsequent week. Across 6 weeks, N = 126 overweight women reported their weekly weight and the degree to which they considered themselves as successful regarding the process of dieting (e.g. changing eating behavior) and the desired dieting outcomes (e.g. improving appearance). Results: Successful weight loss in one week negatively affected weight loss in the subsequent week. However, identifying success on the process level reduced this negative effect. Discussion: Although people might feel generally that goal progress licenses subsequent goal-inconsistent behavior, identifying successful goal-pursuit on the process rather than the outcome level of a goal may counteract the subsequent loss of dieting motivation.