Episode 57: Expectancy Theory, Goal Setting and Getting in Shape

Expectancy Theory and Losing WeightConfused about expectancy theory? I’ll clear things up in this episode. It can be a little complicated but I’ll use the familiar example of losing weight to nail this idea down. I’ll also talk about goal setting. What’s the psychology behind getting in shape? In this episode of The Psych Files podcast I examine two established theories of human motivation – goal setting and expectancy theory. If you’ve tried the Atkins diet, the south beach diet some other low carb diet plan or even (yikes!) a lemonade diet, then it’s time to try something different – get into your head just a little bit and see what’s going on in there. Join me for a different perspective on weight loss, exercise and fitness.


Resources on Motivation and Getting in Shape

  • The article that appeared in UCLA’s Daily Bruin entitled, “Food Restriction Not Effective Long-Term Weight-Loss Solution” is no longer available online, but this is the one that mentions how some students are trying a lemonade diet to lose weight, not understanding that severe calorie restriction results in the body going into “starvation mode ” and actually results in less weight loss. Here’s a quote from that article:

Expectancy Theory Explained

Check out below the voicethread I created to explain exactly how expectancy theory works using weight loss as an example. Click on the image below to listen and watch (use your mouse to move around) or go to this image on expectancy theory at the Voicethread website. Sign up and you can comment on this image as well!



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  1. Avatar


    May 16, 2008

    Sean: thanks for the comment and I’m glad to hear that the information in the podcast is helpful to you in the workshops. Very cool. Thanks for letting me know.

    Martin: funny story about how you learned not to be ashamed of being exposed. Thanks for sharing. As far as “The Full Monty” goes – I’d say my experience was a bit like yours in that the first few times I was embarrassed, and then it just became kinda funny.

  2. Avatar

    Sean Pascale

    May 16, 2008

    Hello Mr. Britt,

    My name is Sean. I subscribed to the podcast not too long ago and am quickly burning through them, they are great. More importantly, they are coming in very handy. I am an ESL teacher in China at the moment, looking to go to Grad school next year for School psychology. I have used your podcast to set up a few workshops already, one on collaborative problem solving and one on Motivation. Thanks again for all the hard work, please keep it up.

    Avid listener,
    Sean Pascale

  3. Avatar

    Martin Stepka

    May 16, 2008

    I am very pleased to hear that you liked my comment. Sure it is okay if you will mention it in one of your future podcasts. It will motivate me strongly to speed up my listening to all the older issues – as I am still catching up.

    I hate being cheesy, but now that I know that the motivation was the show The Full Monty, I am eager to hear from you about your feelings when you really have done it. Was it different than what you expected?

    I had a funny experience with “being exposed”. I was brought up very prudish and when I was around 17 I worked on a construction site in a big factory. After the shift I was so dirty I had to take a shower. In that age I was reluctant to undress in front of other men, not even speak about women. Well and when I was in the middle of soaping myself I realized there was somebody in the shower room with me. I looked up and it was a cleaning lady wiping the floor. I was terrified. And she just looked at me, said hallo, and kept on wiping. I realized that it is nothing unnatural to be naked and since then I have no problem with being naked in front of other people. (It remains to hope they have no problems with it, as well 🙂

    I hope my little story is not inappropriate. Thanks for your work. I have always had great time listening to your podcasts. And when I get inspired I will gladly express my opinions here on your blog…

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    May 16, 2008

    Martin: excellent comment! I agree completely. I just finished episode 100 and I really meant to talk about this episode on losing weight. I was going to mention just about the same thing as you say here: you can try really hard and yes, you can lose weight in a short amount of time to be ready for a specific event, but the real goal is long term loss and to reach that goal you have to do what you say here: “make the process more likable, not just the results”. The results are indeed far away – especially regarding weight loss. I’d like to mention your comment in episode 101 if that’s okay with you. And please – have a listen to some more episodes. I look forward to more feedback from you. Thanks so much – Michael

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    Martin Stepka

    May 16, 2008

    I’d have some remarks to this podcast (I am a bit behind with realtime, but that is a beauty of podcasts, isn’t it).

    The motivation by the fear of death is strong, but very short lived. Some friends of mine who had that experience of almost dying behaved after the event, but half a year later they were usually back in their old habits.

    What works for me is to make the process more likable, not just the results. Doing exercises that are fun (with people you like), eating tasty food even if it is healthy. Simply concentrating on liking the process. The results are so far away and their appeal fades with time, while the pain and boredom of the process piles up. That is a difficult battle to fight.

    The same tactics I use not only for controlling my weight, but also for learning foreign languages. Everybody wants to speak a foreign language. The trick is in wanting to learn it.

    I hope I am not too much off the topic

  6. Avatar


    May 16, 2008

    Absolutely. A while back I was looking at a book called “Volumetrics” which seemed to have some good ideas regarding foods that are filling and satisfying without being too fattening.


  7. Avatar


    May 16, 2008

    You have rightly quoted the scientific finding that less food brings body in panic of starvation and actually fat in body increases during crash dieting. The trick could be to include more of satisfying foods, say fruits or nutritious ,low cal and filling foods viz. spinach.

    The Lemonade Diet Cleansing Directions

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