We would always like to be perfect – it is human nature. However, this desire is unrealistic. Although this is obvious to most people, many dieters expect more than they can deliver.

Your Thinking Process


We set goals for everything we do. Although we do not articulate a goal for every activity, hidden within our mind are expectations of how well we should perform. If you mow the lawn, write a letter, buy clothes, or simply talk to a friend, you expect a certain level of performance. If you scalped the lawn, wrote an unintelligible letter, bought gaudy clothes or said insensitive things to your friend, you would be upset because you expected more – you did not satisfy your internal standard.

You can see how difficult life would be if your goals were absurdly out-of-reach. If you expected Better Homes and Gardens to lust after your lawn, for the National Archives to enshrine your letter, for the President’s wife to wear your clothes to the Inaugural Ball, or for your friend to immortalize your words in a book of quotes, you would be crushed by what is otherwise an acceptable performance. Unfortunately, it is just these types of out-of-reach goals that dieters tend to set for themselves. When the goals are not met, the negative emotional response can send your diet into a tailspin.

This occurs in a three-part process. Setting the goals comes first and is often unconscious.

The dieter then compares actual performance to that goal. Finally, there is a positive emotional reaction if the goal is achieved and a negative one if it is not. The model below shows this three step process.


Setting Goals (leads to) Compared Performance to Goal (leads to)  Emotional Response

Here are a few examples of how this process pertains to dieting. These are common examples, so while you are reading, think if these, or similar situations occur with you.



Will never cheat on diet          Cheating on diet does occur                              Guilt and resignation

Will be good at sports             Others do better and look better                      Embarrassment

Will lose wt. each week          Some weeks wt. stays stable or increases        Discouragement/self blame

This Emotional Response is what worries me. Many dieters have enough trouble controlling their eating and exercise without the extra burden of negative feelings and thoughts. You can change the emotional response by altering the two steps that precede it, namely the goal setting and the comparison you make to the goals.

When you have negative feelings, examine them and trace them to the goals you set. If you feel guilty because you sneak a Snickers bar, think about your goal, which is probably something like, “I should never cheat on this program”. You can examine the comparison to this goal by understanding that you or anyone else could never be satisfied with this as a standard. This will change the emotional response.

Here are the same situations with different goals, comparisons and emotional responses:


SETTING GOAL                                    COMPARING PERFORMANCE                   EMOTIONAL RESPONSE

Will follow diet as much as possible         Meet goal on most occasions                              Satisfaction & desire to do better

Will increase exercise                                  Increase is nice and steady                                 Pride in doing something positive

Will lose 10 out of 12 weeks                       Lose weight most weeks                                       Feel good about hard work