Empirical evidence does not support an association between less ambitious pre-treatment goals and better treatment outcomes: a meta-analysis


  • This study was supported in part by NIH Grant P30DK056336.

Address for correspondence: NH Durant, University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 1600 7th Ave S, CPPI 310, Birmingham, AL 35233, USA.

E-mail: ndurant@peds.uab.edu

DB Allison, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1665 University Boulevard RPHB 140J, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.

E-mail: dallison@uab.edu


Setting realistic weight loss goals may play a role in weight loss. We abstracted data from randomized controlled trials and observational studies conducted between 1998 and 2012 concerning the association of weight loss goals with weight loss. Studies included those that (i) were conducted in humans; (ii) delivered a weight loss intervention; (iii) lasted ≥6 weeks; (iv) assessed baseline weight loss goals; (vi) assessed pre- and post-weight either in the form of body mass index or some other measure that could be converted to weight loss based on information included in the original study or later provided by the author(s); and (vii) assessed the correlation between weight loss goals and final weight loss or provided data to calculate the correlation. Studies that included interventions to modify weight loss goals were excluded. Eleven studies met inclusion criteria. The overall correlation between goal weight and weight at intervention completion was small and statistically insignificant (inline image; P = 0.20). The current evidence does not demonstrate that setting realistic goals leads to more favourable weight loss outcomes. Thus, our field may wish to reconsider the value of setting realistic goals in successful weight loss.