Means-end Analysis and Weight Loss

I am approaching my 28th birthday this summer. While every birthday is a joyous event, I am concerned with some issues of vanity. Unhealthy behaviors (frequent trips to In n Out) and a slowing metabolism have caused me to gain a few more pounds than are necessary, especially considering the summer heat we enjoy here in Fresno, Ca. One method of solving this problem can be found when exploring the means-end analysis approach developed by Newell and Simon (Goldstein, 2011).


First it was important to record my current weight, check. Next, I needed to set a goal; a healthy and attainable weight that I could reach in exactly eight weeks. Means-end analyses allow an individual to consider a goal and compare it with the initial state of affairs. When I compared the two, initial and goal state, I created a firm subgoal of losing two pounds per week. This subgoal will provide a roadmap for me when I consider activities for exercise and nutrition. Other subgoals that will keep me on track are weight and cardio training four times a week. Exercise will also aid in other areas of life such as regulating anxiety and stress. A third subgoal is to use my Jack LaLane Juicer every other morning. Using this machine helps boost my intake of leafy greens and other vegetables I can’t stand to eat whole.

Other unexpected subgoals may appear throughout this eight-week journey, but tackling them will provide me with the strength to continue and maintain a healthier weight for the future. One example of an unexpected challenge will be the presentation (by family members) of unhealthy desserts or snacks. It seems like whenever I am conscious of my health; a family member has some kind of baked good to offer…cheesecake being my favorite.

Weight loss is a difficult task that many individuals attempt throughout life. However, self-determination theory suggests that behavioral changes will be much easier to maintain when the attempt is self-motivated (Williams et al., 1996).  I am confident that because I have the desire to live more healthfully, revisit some of my athletic talents in exercise,  and continue to ponder the means-end analysis approach to solving this problem, I will start year 28 looking my best.



Goldstein, B.E., (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Williams, G.C., Grow, V.M., Freedman, Z.R., Ryan, R.M., Deci, E. (1996). Motivational predictors of weight-loss and weight-loss maintenance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(1), p. 115-126

5 thoughts on “Means-end Analysis and Weight Loss

  1. Matthew J Streng

    First, I applaud you goal to eat, live and maintain a healthier lifestyle. It is a difficult journey, but you seem to have a great roadmap to get you to your goal. I think that because you have performed a means-end analysis. Oftentimes, individuals will make a goal and they have no steps or tactics to get them there. The fact that you have identified your initial state, and recorded it, will give you a bench mark to begin. Also, you have clearly identified and defined your operators of exercise and nutrition.
    Further, I think it is crucial that you are anticipating unexpected subgoals that may need to appear. Whether it is weight loss or an attempt to attain some other goal, this is the area where I believe most people fail. They don’t plan for anything to take them off track, and once their roadmap no longer looks the same they come to a stop. This problem space needs to be identified, and it seems that you have identified many of the possible states that could occur.
    However, you seem to focus on the addition of unhealthy foods to your diet. What could other scenarios be that could throw you off your goal? Perhaps an injury or illness could be a set-back for a few days. What would your operators be to get you to your weight loss goal in that scenario? I would perhaps conduct another means-end analysis. One focused on how you would achieve this weight loss in the event that the weekly cardio/exercise routines would become disrupted; or at least identify other means of caloric burn. Also, I wonder if there may be a quicker way to your goal. There seems to be 8 subgoals, each one related to a 2 lb. per week schedule. Is there a way to reduce these 8 subgoals to even fewer?
    Again, I applaud your goal and I wish you the best on the challenge to obtaining your goal!

  2. Katie Miller

    I can relate to this topic. I am a 21 year old female who has lost about 60+ pounds since high school graduation. Although I am not at my ideal weight yet, I both look and feel better. Unfortunately I have hit that “plateau” point where I’m not really making any progress from keeping the same routine. After reading your entry, I started thinking that I should switch things up a little bit and try something new in my daily or weekly routines. I’ve been off track now for a while with my subgoals, and I think setting new ones could really help me out. Working towards a goal makes it easier to handle, as long as the goal is reasonable. I used the means-end approach to lose my weight by setting small goals in the beginning (eating healthier, being active) and gradually adding on to them (losing 3 lbs here, or 5 lbs there).

    Good luck to everyone working towards a goal of being healthier!

  3. John Joseph Crosby

    I think your topic is interesting and a common theme among men and women of all ages. I tend to be an active person and pursue several athletic activities. I have encountered several injuries over the course of time that have prevented me for exercise and consequentially got out of shape. The application of means-ends analysis with weight-loss and exercise training is smart. Furthermore, your sub-goals are realistic and specific. However, for an individual that is not familiar with exercise and weight loss the means-ends technique may not be successful. For example, as indicated by Sweller and Levine, the operation of means-ends analysis involves attempts at reducing differences between problem states and the goal state. We might expect that the more obvious the relation between any problem state and the goal, the more likely will be attempts to use means-ends analysis. If the precise difference between the two problem states is obscure, attempts to reduce that difference may be less frequent. In some cases, even knowledge of what constitutes a reduction may be obscure, and under these circumstances, use of the technique becomes impossible (Sweller 473). In general I think your thoughts to use means-end analysis is sound and would be successful for many people. I do think that people who are not as experienced or educated about exercise and fitness wouldn’t find success alone by using means-end analysis.

    Sweller,J., Levine,M. “Effects of Goal Specifcity on Means-Ends Analysis and Learning.” Journal of Experimental Psychology 8.5 (1982): 463-474 Web. 25 April. 2014.

  4. Orlena Riner

    I think a lot of people in their mid-twenties can relate to your post. I, myself, like to keep a few small, attainable goals to change my habits to achieve a healthier life. One thing that I find helpful is journaling. If has been shown that there is a direct link between keeping a detailed food journal and weight loss results that the individual hopes to achieve. It helps people keep tabs on when they eat, how much they eat, and can help people be motivated to cut back on over-snacking between their meals.

    Unfortunately, some people see this as something that can lead to “obsessive calorie counting.” Instead of keeping a detailed journal, I opted for a free app that keeps track of your calories like Weight Watchers; they allot you a certain amount of calories based on your height, current weight, and your weight loss goal. I’ve also found that regular journaling can help alleviate some of the everyday stress, and you can keep track of the mental changes that are happening.

    Here’s a link if you’re interested:

    The Single Best Way to Lose Weight: By Kate Torgovnick
    It’s scientifically proven: The key isn’t just what you eat, it’s what you write.

  5. Jenna Marie Ryan

    I can absolutely relate to your post. I am turning 27 this fall and have been going through a similar experience. I want to get in shape prior to turning 30, but it has not been an easy endeavor. Earlier this year, my friends and I joined WeightWatchers together in the hopes that we could work as a team to accomplish our goals. To add even more motivation, we turned it into a friendly competition. Twenty dollars a person was all it took to join. We set the goal for four weeks. Whoever lost the highest percentage of weight won the money. For the next four weeks, I followed the plan to a tee. I counted everything I ate. I parked in the furthest parking spot to walk those extra few steps. I went to bed early and followed the ‘8X8’ rule. I won the money…and I spent it on a very WeightWatchers unfriendly dinner. Without that extrinsic motivation, I have since gained almost all of the weight back. I have recently tried to start again, but it just hasn’t happened for me yet. My motivation was not –and still is not – self-motivated, which makes any attempt at weight loss nearly impossible to maintain. Using the means-end analysis approach, however, looks like an excellent way to map out a weight-loss plan that might actually work. Setting small accessible goals that are actually related to my ultimate goal (getting healthy), instead of one large unrelated goal (winning money) may be just what I need to get me on the right track.

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