The complexity of self-regulating food intake in weight loss maintenance. A qualitative study among short- and long-term weight loss maintainers

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  • Susanne Pedersen
  • Falko F. Sniethotta, Newcastle University, Storbritannien
  • Kirby Sainsbury, Newcastle University, Storbritannien
  • Elizabeth Evans, Newcastle University, Storbritannien
  • Martha M. Marques, University College London, Storbritannien
  • R. James Stubbs, University of Leeds, Storbritannien
  • Berit L. Heitmann, The Research Unit for Dietary Studies at the Parker Institute, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, Copenhagen, Syddansk Universitet, University of Sydney, Københavns Universitet, Danmark
  • Liisa Lähteenmäki
Whether self-regulation of food intake in weight loss maintenance (WLM) differs between being a short-term maintainer (having maintained without regaining less than 12 months) and a long-term maintainer (having maintained without regaining at least 12 months) is under-researched.

The aim of this study was to explore the self-regulatory strategies and self-efficacy beliefs applied by short- and long-term maintainers to the complex set of behaviours comprising food intake in WLM, and to obtain a better understanding of their challenges in the various food-intake processes in WLM.

Individual interviews (14 female/4 male) were conducted with nine Danish short- and nine long-term weight loss maintainers. The Health Action Process Approach (HAPA) was applied post-hoc to organise data and support analyses, since the approach focuses on both the cognitions (e.g., self-efficacy, the nature of which differs depending on the phase of behaviour change) and self-regulatory strategies (e.g., action planning and coping planning) involved in behaviour change.

Self-regulatory strategies and self-efficacy beliefs varied between the food-related behaviours and between short- and long-term maintainers. Consistent with the progression suggested by HAPA, with repeated use of action and coping planning, long-term maintainers had formed habitual routines, not only allowing them more flexibility, but also providing them stronger self-control in the behaviours related to WLM such as buying and storing food, and eating at social gatherings. The short-term maintainers often displayed a ‘weight loss mind-set.’ The short-term maintainers focused on the avoidance of certain behaviours, showed less self-regulatory flexibility, and exhibited more detailed action planning, but their interviews also inferred that they had ambitions to build strong WLM-habits, maintenance, and recovery self-efficacy.

The contribution of this study is a more comprehensive view on food intake as an outcome of a set of complex behaviours, revealing insights into the differences in cognitions and strategies applied to the task of WLM, between short- and long-term maintainers.
TidsskriftSocial Science & Medicine
Sider (fra-til)18-24
Antal sider7
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2018

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