Believing In Yourself Important For Weight Loss Maintenance Interview with:
Linda J Ewing PhD RN
Department of Psychiatry and
Lora E Burke PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
Department of Health and Community Systems
University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This study was the product both of work done in Dr. Burke’s lab as well as cumulative findings of other investigators demonstrating that improved self-efficacy is related to positive changes in health behaviors (e.g., physical activity, increased Intake of healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables).  Given that, we designed a behavioral weight loss study that included an intentional focus on enhancing participant self-efficacy for healthy behaviors related to weight loss maintenance.  No previous study had self-efficacy enhancement as a focus of intervention with the long-term goal of increasing weight loss maintenance.  Thus our study focused on mastery performance of weight loss related behaviors.  Findings supported our hypothesis; participants in both arms of the study (standard behavioral weight loss (SBT) and SBT with self-efficacy enhancement (SBT+SE) achieved clinically significant weight loss.  Participants in the SBT+SE group had greater weight loss maintenance while those in the SBT group had clinically significant weight regain.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Study findings provided support for the important role of self-efficacy in achieving and maintaining behavior change goals. Clinicians are advised to monitor their patient’s attainment of any specific goal and to increase goals only after a prior goal is successfully attained (and, for at least some amount of time, maintained).  Individuals experience self-efficacy as they experience mastery (and not perceived failure). Those pursuing behavior change lose motivation when they experience difficulty meeting prescribed goals, and frequently become discouraged, self-deprecating, and subsequently tell themselves that ‘I can’t do this’, and give up.

For individuals engaged in behavior change, the message is similar:  it is important to attain goals that you set.  If it is difficult to do so, it is better to modify the goal (e.g., walk for 10 minutes instead of 20 minutes if 20 minutes is not yet attainable) and keep working on the modified goal until you achieve it; then you can feel motivated about increasing the goal and then attaining a new goal.  Our study definitely points to the benefits of enhancing an individual’s self-efficacy or, mastery of a behavior, in maintaining health behavior change.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: This is the first study that specifically targeted enhancing self-efficacy to increase weight loss maintenance.  Results were encouraging in that the group that received the added focus on SE did experience greater weight loss maintenance.  As always, a refinement and replication would be advisable; also, adding specific self-efficacy enhancement strategies to behavioral weight loss studies should be considered.


The SELF trial: A self-efficacy-based behavioral intervention trial for weight loss maintenance.

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Linda J Ewing PhD RN and, & Lora E Burke PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN (2015). Believing In Yourself Important For Weight Loss Maintenance 

Last Updated on September 21, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD