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RTIPs Meet-up with Jim Annesi and "Weight Loss For Life"

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Weight Loss For Life is a nutrition and exercise intervention that targets weight loss and maintenance of weight loss among adults. Weight Loss For Life combines the exercise-support protocol of THE COACH APPROACH, an intervention that has been reviewed separately by RTIPs, with a component focused on nutrition. Built upon social cognitive and self-efficacy theories, the 14-month program includes one-on-one and group sessions designed to increase self-regulation, ability to address barriers to weight management, and mastery and competence. 


We asked Weight for Life's principal investigator to participate in a Q&A session with R2R about the resource which was recently added to the RTIPs repository.  To learn more about Weight Loss for Life, visit the program summary and materials on RTIPs.


What aspects of the program can be adapted without it losing its effectiveness? Are there specific audiences (beyond those included in the research study) that you feel this program could be adapted for?  Any that it shouldn’t be adapted for?


A great amount of research, trial and error, and retesting has gone into the development of the Weight Loss For Life protocol, so it should be delivered as indicated in the manual and its other supporting material. We are presently testing its relative effectiveness for applications related to college students, diabetes prevention/treatment, and individuals with class 3 (morbid) obesity. Applications with many other groups, including adolescents, are being planned. It is not applicable for individuals unable to exercise, or those with disorders requiring specific diets and/or other contraindications.


What do you view as the facilitators to implementation?  What might be some challenges?


Self-regulation is a key to many behavioral changes. However, when individuals are unable to stay with appropriate eating or regular physical activity they are often branded as “unmotivated” or “they did not really want it enough.” A key to the Weight Loss For Life intervention is the building of self-regulatory skills (e.g., restructuring unproductive self-talk, planning for “slips” in one’s routine) first through manageable amounts of exercise, then generalizing (or carrying over) those learned skills to control one’s eating. As the self-regulatory skills become more and more resilient, they are able to address barriers to a greater extent. The result is the rare occurrence of being able to maintain lost weight over the long term, rather than over just a few months.


A challenge to Weight Loss For Life is the numerous commercial weight loss programs that promise major results over a brief time with little effort. Unfortunately, obesity is a chronic condition that requires persistence.


Do you have suggestions for questions that practitioners should include when they evaluate the adaptation/implementation of your program?  Do you have specific evaluation tools that would be appropriate for practitioners when they evaluate this program?


Improvements in physical activity and controlled eating primarily require strong behavior-change methods. Thus, an interest in utilizing the most current behavior-change methods in an innovative manner is needed for success with Weight Loss For Life. Most weight-management programs rely on an information exchange between the practitioner and client on exercises and diets. That has been insufficient for obtaining weight loss beyond the first several months.  

What is your current research focused on?


My research program focuses on health behavior-change theory and methods applied to exercise adherence, weight management, and the effects of physical activity on mental health, self-image, and other quality-of-life factors across the lifespan. Five of the interventions stemming from this research are listed in the Research-tested Intervention Programs (RTIPs) web site. More recently, I have researched the positive effects of even minimal amounts of physical activity on mood, emotional eating, and weight.