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Functional Imagery training as a personalized e-health intervention for weight loss

Why is this research needed?

In England, over half the adult population is overweight with obesity and physical inactivity costing a yearly estimate of £11.4 billion. Both are a danger to patients when chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes develop as a result.

Many of the problems and potential costs of long term management of obesity could be reduced by a sustained weight loss of 5-10% of bodyweight. Technology has the potential to help people make changes to their lifestyle lose weight. However there is a need for personalized motivational support to sustain long-term behaviour change.

Method

We are going to test and advance the effectiveness of a personalized e-health intervention for weight loss, called Functional Imagery Training (FIT), developed by David Kavanagh (Queensland University of Technology), Jackie Andrade and Jon May (Plymouth University). FIT is a novel treatment that applies theoretical and empirical advances on the nature of motivation and craving to the problem of weight management.

FIT has been trialled, supported by a smartphone app, for reducing alcohol misuse in Australia, with David Kavanagh at QUT. In line with the MRC guidance on complex interventions, this project will complete the feasibility and pilot stages of developing FIT as an intervention for obesity. We have already collected pilot data on two important elements of weight management, namely snacking on high calorie foods and sweetened drinks, and physical activity.

Three pilot studies show that half an hour of FIT reduced snacking over two weeks relative to advice alone, that it increased exercise frequency and duration in gym members compared with gym membership and monitoring alone, and that it increased physical activity relative to motivational interviewing.

The first two phases of this project will test the feasibility of the intervention by testing the acceptability of the FIT for the target population and working closely with the sample to develop supporting materials and technology that are person-centred and specific to the problem of motivating better weight management. The third phase will be a pilot study to test the efficacy of FIT in an overweight sample, allow estimation of effect size, recruitment, drop out and compliance prior to bidding for funding for a full RCT.

We hope that hope FIT will help patients lose weight long-term and motivate them to exercise more frequently.

For more information, please read the project proposal. If you’d like to learn more, please contact Linda Solbrig via Email

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