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BACKGROUND: Though many overweight and obese adults attempt to lose weight without formal support, little is known about the strategies used in self-directed weight loss attempts. We set out to assess cognitive and behavioural strategies for weight loss and their associations with weight change. METHODS: Prospective, web-based cohort study of overweight UK adults (BMI≥25kg/m2) trying to lose weight through behaviour change. Strategy use was assessed using the OxFAB questionnaire and evaluated (1) at the domain level, (2) through exploratory factor analysis, and (3) in a model of strategies deemed a priori to be "essential" to weight management. Associations with weight change at 3 months were tested using linear regression. RESULTS: 486 participants answered all questions; 194 reported weight at baseline and at 3 months (mean weight change -3.3kg (SD 4.1)). Greater weight loss was significantly associated with the motivational support domain (-2.4kg, 95% CI -4.4 to -0.4), dietary impulse control (from factor analysis) (-0.6kg, 95% CI -1.1 to -0.03), and weight loss planning and monitoring (from factor analysis) (-1.3kg, 95% CI -2.0 to -0.5). Higher scores in the model of essential behavioural strategies were significantly associated with greater weight loss (compared to participants using 6 or fewer of the 9 strategies, using 7 or more of the 9 strategies was associated with a 2.13kg greater weight loss (SE 0.58, p<0.001)). CONCLUSIONS: Despite heterogeneity in the strategies employed for weight loss, coherent patterns of behaviours emerged for individual participants, some of which were associated with greater weight loss, including strategies relating to dietary impulse control, weight loss planning and monitoring, motivational support, information seeking and self-monitoring. Trials could test the effect of promoting use of these patterns on weight loss.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

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