Functional Imagery Training, a novel, theory-based motivational intervention for weight-loss
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This thesis investigates the acceptability and efficacy of Functional Imagery Training (FIT), a motivational intervention for weight-management. FIT is based on Elaborated Intrusion Theory, delivered in the style of Motivational interviewing (MI), and designed to promote sustained behaviour change and address cravings. It trains the habitual use of affective, goal-directed mental imagery of personal incentives, using imagery to plan behaviours, anticipate obstacles, and mentally try out solutions from previous successes. Participants are taught to update their imagery from their experience, and to generalise their imagery skills to new goals. In study 1, focus groups explored problems and wishes in regards to weight-management, including reactions to Functional Imagery Training (FIT) as a possible intervention. The issue of waning motivation and the desire for motivational app support was expressed in all groups. Participants were positive about FIT. Study 2 was an uncontrolled pilot trial of FIT. Eleven out of 17 participants (65%) lost 5% body weight or more by three months. Participants continued to lose weight during an unsupported 12-month period and experienced mean weight loss of 6kg (SD= 5.7; d=1.06) and mean waistline reduction of 11.5 cm (SD= 7.4; d=1.56) at 15 months. Study 3 compared the impact of FIT with MI on motivation and self-efficacy, over the first month of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) for weight-loss. Structured elicitation and training in goal-related imagery, i.e., FIT, increased motivation and self-efficacy for weight-loss relative to MI. Study 4 was the RCT for weight-loss, comparing FIT and MI over an intervention-supported six-month period, followed by six months unsupported. The FIT group achieved clinically meaningful weight-loss at 6 months (M kg-loss=4.11) and continued weight-loss at 12 months (M kg-loss=6.44); the MI group stabilised by 12 months (M kg-loss=.67), after minimal weight loss at 6 months (M kg-loss=.74). Study 5 qualitatively explored experiences of MI and FIT RCT participants, upon completing the 6-month intervention phase. MI participants wished for continued therapist- support and feared relapse. FIT participants described a mind-set-change and were confident they could maintain changes and overcome challenges using imagery techniques.
Given the demonstrated benefit of motivational imagery in weight-control, FIT should be considered and further tested as an intervention for health behaviour change.
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