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Maintenance of weight loss : the role of self-efficacy and coping strategies in relapse prevention Tees, Kathleen F.


Because there can be serious health and social consequences to obesity, the need for effective treatment programs is great. So far researchers in the field have been more successful in improving the short-term effectiveness of treatment programs for weight loss than the likelihood of long-term maintenance. This study investigated the effects of a 4-week non-diet maintenance intervention program for 59 female participants who had successfully reached a target goal weight, maintained their loss for at least six months, and had moderately high levels of concern about future maintenance. Two treatment conditions were compared, a maintenance intervention (MI) and a relapse prevention intervention (RPI) with a waiting list serving as a control group. Measures of self-efficacy and coping were taken before and after treatment, and by mail at a 6-week follow-up for the 2 treatment conditions; the waiting list was tested at corresponding time intervals without intervening treatment. It was expected that levels of self-efficacy and the relative use of problem-focused coping would increase from pretest to posttest for both treatment conditions compared with the waiting list and that only the relapse prevention intervention group would maintain these increases from posttest to follow-up. No such significant differences were found among the groups on the dependent measures, however, as hypothesized, problem-focused coping at posttest was positively correlated with levels of self-efficacy at follow-up. When clinical significance was assessed, individual participants in both treatment conditions showed improvement in self-efficacy (MI, 36%; RPI, 28%), and relative use of problem-focused coping (MI, 22%; RPI, 33%). In addition, correlational findings were similar to those of other maintenance studies (i.e., smaller weight regains were associated with higher levels of exercise and regular monitoring of weight). It was concluded that the relapse prevention treatment had not produced the desired effect of raising levels of self-efficacy and increasing the relative use of problem-focused coping, but also that the program's objectives had been too ambitious for a 4-week program. The relationship between self-efficacy and problem-focused coping found in this study indicates that this is a fruitful area for further investigation in the development of effective intervention programs for successful dieters at risk of relapse.

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