Why losing 2-4 pounds seems easier than losing 3

WASHINGTON U. – ST. LOUIS (US) — People are more likely to pursue goals that offer a high-low range, which seem attainable yet flexible.

“Whether a goal is a high-low range goal (lose two to four pounds this week) or a single number goal (lose three pounds this week) has a systematic effect on goal reengagement. High-low range goals influence consumer goal reengagement through feelings of accomplishment, which itself is driven by the attainability and challenge of the goal,” explains co-author Stephen M. Knowlis, professor of marketing at Washington University in St. Louis.

The research, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, points out that consumers often have a choice about the types of goals they want to set for themselves, and they may want to repeat various goals over time.

For example, consumers often reengage goals such as losing weight, saving money, or improving their exercise or sports performance.


In one study conducted by the authors, consumers in a weight loss program set either high-low range goals or single number goals. At the end of the program, consumers with high-low range goals reenrolled in the program at higher rates even though there was no difference in actual average weight loss across the two groups.

In other studies, consumers exhibited similar behaviors with other goals such as resisting tempting foods, solving puzzles, or playing a grocery shopping game.

A high-low range goal can offer “the best of both worlds” compared to a single number goal due to its flexibility: the high end of the goal (lose four pounds) increases the challenge of the goal, while the low end (lose two pounds) increases its attainability.

On the other hand, a single number goal (lose three pounds) may be perceived as a compromise and therefore both less challenging and less attainable.

“Consumers are more likely to pursue a goal when they set a high-low range goal instead of a single number goal. Consumers experience a greater sense of accomplishment when a goal is both attainable and challenging, and this makes them want to continue to pursue or reengage their goal,” the authors conclude.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis