Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 167-175

First online:

Expectation, fantasy, and weight loss: Is the impact of positive thinking always positive?

  • Gabriele OettingenAffiliated withUniversity of Pennsylvania
  • , Thomas A. WaddenAffiliated withUniversity of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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We investigated the impact of expectation and fantasy on the weight losses of 25 obese women participating in a behavioral weight reduction program. Both expectations of reaching one's goal weight and spontaneous weight-related fantasies were measured at pretreatment before subjects began 1 year of weekly group-treatment. Consistent with our hypothesis that expectation and fantasy are different in quality, these variables predicted weight change in opposite directions. Optimistic expectations but negative fantasies favored weight loss. Subjects who displayed pessimistic expectations combined with positive fantasies had the poorest treatment outcome. Finally, expectation but not fantasy predicted program attendance. The effects of fantasy are discussed with regard to their potential impact on weight reduction therapy and the need for further studies of dieters' spontaneous thoughts and images.

Key words

fantasy expectation obesity weight reduction