Successful Adolescent Weight Controllers Use Many Motivators

Dan Kirschenbaum, Northwestern University, USA

Theme: Exercise and health behaviors

Poster Number: 32

Program ID: POS-1

Presentation: October 3, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


The Healthy Obsession Model (HOM) suggests that successful weight controllers must develop a preoccupation with the planning and execution of target behaviors to reach and maintain healthy weights (e.g., controlled eating, consistent self-monitoring). This model further posits that committed weight controllers will feel substantial anxiety or frustration when lapses occur, which, in turn, will motivate them to reinstate target behaviors. The authors completed two studies that tested the HOM by examining, via qualitative methods, the perceptions and attitudes of a total of 12 very successful and 12 relatively unsuccessful adolescent weight controllers 1 year after completing cognitive-behavior therapy immersion treatment. We expected that successful weight controllers, more so than unsuccessful weight controllers, would report more elaborate definitions of their healthy obsessions and describe more negative reactions to potential and actual lapses. In-depth interviews were conducted using a version of the Scanlan Collaborative Interview Method. Reliable coding of the interviews produced results in both studies that supported the hypothesis that highly successful weight controllers seem to nurture strong healthy obsessions, including clear definitions of healthy obsessions, heightened commitment, and negative reactions to lapses. Across both studies, successful weight controllers reported using significantly more helpful motivators than did unsuccessful weight controllers. In addition, these adolescent weight controllers seemed motivated by some of the same factors that elite athletes identified in the Sport Commitment Model (e.g., Emotional and Experiential Consequences; Social Support of Parents, Friends, and Peers; Institutional Influences; and Valuable Opportunities). Clinical implications include focusing weight loss interventions on nurturing healthy obsessions in general and, more specifically, on helping weight controllers use more diverse sources of commitment to potentially enhance long-term success.

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