Working Papers

Success Breeds Success: Weight Loss Dynamics in the Presence of Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

Kosuke Uetake, Nathan Yang

We investigate the role of short-term goal achievement on long-term goal achievement under the context of weight loss. Using unique and large-scale data from a freemium mobile weight management application (Lose It!), we track the daily dynamics of weight loss across a large number of users. The application sets a salient daily budget for calories, and by comparing cases in which the user is slightly under or over-budget, we provide a causal link between short-term goal achievement and long-term outcomes such as future weight loss, achievement of goal weight, and setting of more ambitious weight loss targets. Short-term goal achievement also have implications on future customer development as staying within the daily budget leads to an increase in premium account upgrades. Furthermore, we show that the impact of short-term goal achievement varies across user segments. We later demonstrate using a dynamic regression discontinuity design that the short-term goal achievement effects persist over time, and in fact, induce users to accomplish even more ambitious short-term goals in the future. Finally, estimates from a dynamic structural model of calories management reveal that users receive positive utility from past short-term goal accomplishments, and counterfactual analysis with the estimated model quantify the long-run user benefits of various hypothetical policies that adjust the daily budget of calories.

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Paper Keywords

big data, customer development, customer relationship management, dynamic structural model, freemium, goal achievement, healthy living, mobile application, motivation, regression discontinuity, self control, weight management