Commercial weight-loss programs pop up online and proliferate in plazas. But little is known about what motivates people to adhere to such programs.
At Brock’s Behavioural Health Sciences Research Lab, two professors and trainee researchers at the graduate and undergraduate levels aim to find the answers during the next three years.
Philip Wilson and Diane Mack, associate professors in the Department of Physical Education and Kinesiology, are monitoring 500 to 600 people in commercial weight-loss programs to see what keeps them going.
Some will be in programs like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. Others will be in programs offered online or through hospitals.
The ultimate goal is developing new resources for those trying to lose weight.
“We want to look at what forces keep them doing it over the long run, and if there are factors that are more conducive to a long-term health change,” Mack said. “This will help us tailor our interventions and tailor our support.”
Wilson and Mack’s team will attach accelerometers to the arms of study participants. The device will be worn everywhere but in the water and monitor everything from short bursts of activity to sleep quality to how long the participant takes the weight off his or her body.
That data, combined with information each participant provides through surveys, should bring informative results that permit insight into why some people adhere to physical activity and eating changes and others don’t.
The study, conducted with Chris Blanchard from Dalhousie University, is called “Understanding behavioural persistence in weight-loss programs:” An application in self-determination theory.” It received a $163,067 grant through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council this year. Four Brock graduate students and nine undergraduate students are also participating.
The first year is devoted to the pilot study and developing initial materials for the following year’s data collection.
The second and third year, the researchers will produce a new motivational pamphlet for people in commercial weight-loss programs and determine the feasibility of using this new resource to change eating and physical activity behaviours in commercial weight-loss program users.
While commercial programs promote short-term weight loss, only 20 per cent of individuals embarking on the programs make the necessary lifestyle changes for sustained weight regulation.