New study looking for participants to test weight loss intervention

Staying motivated is one of the hardest aspects of weight loss.
Now a new study is looking for participants with a BMI over 30 to explore whether a mental imagery intervention helps people in a group setting to lose weight.
Known as Functional Imagery Training (FIT), the intervention has already been proven to boost weight loss by up to fivefold compared with talking therapy alone.
Now researchers want to introduce it to a healthcare setting, and are exploring whether the intervention is still successful when used in a group, and how it compares with the current NHS programme.

How does FIT work?

FIT builds on a type of counselling technique known as motivational interviewing, by not only supporting someone to develop, highlight and talk about their need for change, but also making use of multisensory imagery to explore these changes, and learn how to practice motivational imagery themselves.

For example, people are asked to imagine a lemon. They are asked to imagine seeing it, touching it, juicing it, drinking the juice and juice accidently squirting in their eye, to emphasise how emotional, and linked to our physical sensations, imagery can be. From there they are encouraged to fully imagine and embrace their own goals. Not just ‘imagine how good it would be to lose weight’ but, for example, ‘what would losing weight enable you to do that you can’t do now? What would that look and sound like?’

What does the new study entail?

Study participants will be randomly assigned to one of two conditions: FIT or NHS. In the FIT condition, they will learn motivation skills in a small group, meeting virtually via Zoom or Teams, once a week for four weeks.
Those in the NHS condition will follow a 12-week self-guided programme based on established evidence for weight loss.
Participants won’t be able to choose which condition they will be assigned to but both are designed to help with weight loss.

Who can take part and how?

Anyone with a BMI over 30 living in England, who isn’t pregnant or trying to conceive and who isn’t using any other weight management programme is encouraged to take part. Participants will need access to a device that has a camera, microphone and the internet, as well as access to scales and a tape measure.

What the experts say

PhD student Sarah Greene is leading the study, and said:

“Weight loss is an individual journey for anyone trying to achieve it, and motivation is a key factor. What we’re testing is whether FIT helps people to stay motivated and maintain their weight loss in group settings.

“Ultimately, we want this intervention to be as useful as possible to as many people as possible, and are so grateful to everyone who has already taken part. It’s a really important study, and we’d like to hear from anyone who’s interested in being involved.”

Comments from those who have already taken part in the study include:
“Joining the group made such a difference and connecting with those people, they’re people I never would connect with in my day to day life, that’s been really refreshing. It’s been really helpful to have other people doing it at the same time with you.”
“I’m not able to lose weight in the traditional way and gave up too easily whereas this is helping me to change my way of thinking about food and my relationship with food.”
“It was good, personal, friendly and I felt very comfortable to be part of it.”

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