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Weight gain has, undoubtedly, been a problem in America. The widespread access to fast-food restaurants, buffets, and the lack of exercise has prevented many people from keeping a healthy lifestyle. Every year, one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. Unfortunately, many people report having failed to reach this goal. About twenty-five percent of those who set resolutions lose their motivation to lose weight or achieve other goals (Ord, 2015). Losing weight is important not only for physical health but also for overall well-being. Weight gain can lead to a weak immune system and obesity, which is a serious issue in America (Deivert, 2013). Obesity is associated with chronic diseases and detrimental health conditions (Jakicic, 2001). Aside from the physical benefits that losing weight can bring, there have also been other hidden advantages. Losing weight is usually correlated with greater confidence, mood, and sleep which are all part of a healthy lifestyle (Frey, 2019). Two motivation theories that can help with achieving a healthy weight are the set point theory and the goal-setting theory.

Dieting is one of the main ways people try to lose weight. The most popular form of dieting is food restriction. There are numerous studies and commentaries that states that dieting does not work. Through a biological viewpoint, the set point theory explains why dieting is not an effective way of losing weight. According to Reeve (2017), the set point theory states that everyone has a “biologically determined bodyweight that is set by genetics” (Reeve, 2017, p.84). Hunger arises and falls due to fat cell size. When someone is on a diet, their fat cells grow smaller, and their body has a need to return to their set point. Many people quit their diets because they feel hungry. The glucostatic and lipostatic hypotheses shows why this happens. The glucostatic hypothesis states when there is an increase in blood glucose, it causes an increased feeling of satiety or satisfaction. A drop in blood glucose will cause feelings of hunger. Low-calorie diets are one of the most popular kinds of diets. This kind of diet refers to eating low-calorie foods. While this diet may be a quick fix to drop a couple of pounds, people fail to realize that there are long term consequences of restricting caloric intake. Low-calorie intake can negatively affect the set point which the body will struggle to return to. Through a series of studies, Chaput and Tremblay (2009) found that low glucose concentrations are correlated with weight regain. To lose weight, it is best to focus on the types of food eaten rather than limiting caloric intake. Foods such as cake, chips, and fast foods can leave a person wanting more. This is because they lack high protein and fiber. Reeve (2017) proposes that food high in protein and fiber (potatoes, fish) can produce greater feelings of satiety, even when the calories are the same. Lipostatic hypothesis is the central idea of the set point theory. The lipostatic hypothesis states that when stored fat levels are below the homeostatic level (set point), the hunger hormone, ghrelin, will activate (Reeve, 2017). Ghrelin is a hormone that produces a feeling of hunger. A study by Ross (2017) has shown that without monitoring and self-weighing after a weight loss program, ghrelin continued to grow, which caused people to regain weight. Eating less activates the body to produce higher levels of ghrelin which causes dieters to eat and return to their set point. Another important hormone in hunger is leptin. Leptin produces feelings of satiety. As we eat, ghrelin decreases and leptin increases to tell us that we are full. Since leptin produces feelings of satiety, the easiest solution is to create leptin drugs to help with weight loss. However, obese patients can be very resistant to leptin drugs (Klok, 2006). Foods high in fiber and protein along with the introduction of fruits and vegetables into one’s daily eating habits can produce higher feelings of satiety (‘Understanding Satiety’, 2018). Therefore, a balanced meal can decrease the likelihood of eating unhealthy foods that can increase ghrelin quickly and ultimately lead to weight gain.

To understand the ways of losing weight, one thing to be discussed is how we are gaining weight in the first place. The two main behaviors that affect our body weight are eating and physical activity. The consequence of decreasing one’s physical activity and increasing one’s eating is largely due to our environment (French, 2001). There are multiple reasons why we gain weight in certain environments. We tend to eat more when there is a variety of foods and when we’re around our friends (Reeve, 2017). Going out with friends to restaurants or eating at buffets can all lead to overeating. Although it might seem easier to control when and what we eat in these situations, we tend to underestimate our physiological behavior. When we restrain for too long, our cognitive controls begin to fall, thus leading us to engage in behaviors such as binge eating, especially under stress or depression. Though people use different strategies to lose weight such as dieting or fasting, the best way to lose weight is by decreasing our use of self-regulating eating styles, being aware of our environmental influences and increasing our physical activity. Rather than trying to control set meal times, it would be better to eat when hungry, such as when the stomach is sixty to ninety percent empty (Reeve, 2017). Our environment has a huge impact on our eating behaviors. While out at a restaurant, people can order healthier alternatives. In terms of visiting buffets or dining halls, picking up a smaller plate and eating slower can reduce the likelihood of overeating (Wansink, 2012). Increasing our physical activity through exercise is also an effective way to lose weight (Foright, 2018). Through a continuous routine, weight loss can be achieved and maintained.

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The set point theory has as many benefits as drawbacks. The good thing about the set point is that it is rather ‘loose’ (Muller, 2010). As someone loses or gains weight on a regular basis, the set point can adjust itself to the different changes happening in the body. For example, as someone gains weight, the set point increases and when someone loses weight, the set point decreases. One of the biggest disadvantages of the set point theory is that it can be hard to ignore environmental influences, which makes it difficult to change the set point (Reeve, 2017). For example, when friends are eating pizza, chips, and soda, it can be difficult to ignore those temptations and easier to engage in the social group’s behavior. The set point theory is a great way of explaining the biological reason why dieting doesn’t work and what we can do to overcome the adversities that are associated with losing weight. Through the use of non-self-regulatory eating styles, awareness, and physical activity, weight loss will be easier to achieve.

It is not surprising that eating healthy and exercising is the best way to lose weight. Even though these habits are achievable, some people still find great difficulty in finding the motivation to eat healthily or go to the gym. With many temptations around or simply coming up with excuses to avoid exercising, people have a higher chance of giving up on their goals. The goal-setting theory states that setting a goal can lead to an improved performance of a task (Reeve, 2017). The goal-setting theory can help explain ways people can overcome their struggle of achieving their goals. To lose weight, people need to set goals that are difficult (but achievable), specific, congruent and incorporate feedback. Implementation intentions are also an important step in setting a goal, as it helps people get started, stay on track, and resume after encountering distractions (Reeve, 2017). With these steps, the goal to lose weight will be easier to attain. It is important to choose and difficult yet achievable and specific goal. Difficult goals energize behavior, leading to an increase in performance (Reeve, 2017). Setting a low goal creates low satisfaction and high goals creates high satisfaction, whereas, setting a hard goal will. Goals that require more effort will bring increased confidence and can motivate people to produce higher goals, once a specific and difficult goal is achieved. Starting off with a broad goal of losing weight can lead to a more specific goal of losing twenty pounds a month. The important thing about goal specificity is that it reduces ambiguity and variability (Klein, 1990). Since exercising and eating healthy is the best way to lose weight, a common question is how much exercise is necessary to do so. According to MedlinePlus, “at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week” (MedlinePlus, p.2). To put these guidelines into a goal, someone could exercise at the gym three days a week for two hours. Within those two hours, that person could focus on running, cycling, and weight training. One hour could be dedicated to cycling, and thirty minutes each to running and weight training. These kinds of workouts can help achieve aerobic activity and muscle strength. Two additional steps of goal-setting are goal congruence and feedback. Goal congruence is about setting goals that feel true and authentic to one’s self (Reeve, 2017). Knowing the importance of how physical health can lead to an overall positive well-being can energize and direct people to pursue that goal. If people are losing weight due to societal pressures, intrinsic motivation may decrease, which can lead them to goal disengagement. However, internalizing the belief that being physically healthy can improve lives can lead to a greater motivation simply because it is something that people want to do and fits their personal values. The next step in goal-setting is incorporating feedback. Feedback is important in knowing goal progress and how well or how poor one is doing in his or her task. Without feedback, goals are unmotivating and feel unimportant (Reeve, 2017). For example, it would be difficult to see their progress or know if they achieved their goal without a weight scale. To accomplish this section of losing weight, recording weight loss every week would be a great way of monitoring their progress. Seeing the weight go down every week can inform them that they are on the right track or need to work harder. If feedback shows that they are not progressing where they should be, then it can motivate the person to come up with new strategies to reach their goal at a greater pace (Reeve, 2017). Goal-setting is a great way in planning how to achieve a goal, but finding the motivation to persist in that goal can be onerous. An excellent method of continuing a goal is to propose implementation intentions. Implementation intentions are “specifying the behavior one will perform in the service of the goal and the situational context in which one will enact it” (Sheeran, 2005, p.87). For instance, people can tell themselves “If I am in the cafeteria, then I will pick up a bowl of fruits”. Implementation intentions are the best strategy to use to get started on a goal, staying on track, and resuming after distractions occur (Reeve, 2017). To get started on the goal to lose weight, people could say, ‘If it is 6 a.m. on Monday, then I will go for a run’. Staying on track allows the person to avoid temptations and distractions (Reeve, 2017). For example, someone could say ‘If I see a cake in the store, then I will walk away’. If distractions do occur, implementation intentions are a great way of resuming: ‘If I have to work on my paper during my scheduled gym time, then I will go to the gym tomorrow morning’. Implementation intentions can positively affect completion rates of any kind of goal when knowing how to start, persist, and resume.

Just like the set point theory, the goal-setting theory has its pros and cons. Once a goal is accomplished, personal achievement and great satisfaction come into play. This feeling can help motivate someone to achieve higher goals and improve their overall performance and wellbeing. One of the cons of the goal-setting theory is goal conflict. Goal conflict occurs when one person has multiple goals in which they are inconsistent with each other (Slocum, 2002). This may be part of the reason why dieting fails or why losing weight is so difficult to achieve. People may have a goal of losing 20 pounds in a month but also have a goal of going to a Sunday family barbeque each week to spend more time with their family. As previously discussed, environmental influences such as the availability and variety of food can negatively affect reaching their goal. Having multiple goals can be overwhelming and can possibly lead to goal disengagement. All these strategies relate to the goal-setting theory. Setting a difficult, specific, self-concordant goal increases effort, intrinsic motivation, and reduces ambiguity and variability in performance. Implementation intention ties can lead into goal specificity because it sets a plan in case there are aversive situations that can lead to undesirable behavior that can harm the goal process. It can also help in starting a goal and staying on track, even after an interruption. We need feedback to tell us how we are doing in achieving our goal. Positive feedback can lead to feelings of satisfaction, which can encourage people to continue their goal or even surpass their primary goal.

In conclusion, the set point and the goal-setting theories explain why dieting is not the best way and show a better and easier way of achieving weight loss. People can accomplish weight loss when they set a goal that is specific, concordant, difficult. With the incorporation of feedback and implementation intentions, people can evaluate themselves and any situations. Knowing how the body works, people can have a greater idea of how dieting works and adopt a healthier way of accomplishing their weight goal. Using the set point and goal-setting theories, setting a weight goal and sticking with it can overall bring many benefits such as greater physical and mental health and therefore can bring an overall positive well-being.

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