Motivational interviewing fails to improve outcomes of a behavioral weight loss program for obese African American women: a pilot randomized trial

  • Christie A. BefortEmail author
  • Nicole Nollen
  • Edward F. Ellerbeck
  • Debra K. Sullivan
  • Janet L. Thomas
  • Jasjit S. Ahluwalia


Compared to other racial/ethnic groups, African American (AA) women are more likely to be obese but less likely to participate in weight loss interventions or to successfully lose weight. Sustained motivation for weight loss may be especially difficult for AA women due to socioeconomic and cultural factors. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the addition of motivational interviewing (MI) to a culturally-targeted behavioral weight loss program for AA women improved adherence to the program, diet and physical activity behaviors, and weight loss outcomes. Forty-four obese (mean BMI = 39.4, SD = 7.1) AA women were randomized to receive a 16-week behavioral weight loss program plus four MI sessions, or the same behavioral weight loss program plus four health education (HE; attention control) sessions. Results showed that participants in both MI and HE conditions lost a significant amount of weight, reduced their energy intake and percent calories from fat, and increased their fruit and vegetable consumption (ps < .05). However, adherence to the behavioral weight loss program and changes in diet, physical activity, and weight did not differ across MI and HE conditions. Future research is warranted to determine the subpopulations with which MI is most effective.


African American Obesity Weight loss Motivational interviewing Behavioral treatment 



This study was supported by an American Cancer Society Grant (PFT 0608501). We also gratefully acknowledge Swope Health Services for their support of this project and the research assistants who contributed to the study, with special appreciation for Paula Harkins, Susan Krigel, Shelly Peterson, and Rachel Lynch.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christie A. Befort
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nicole Nollen
    • 1
  • Edward F. Ellerbeck
    • 1
  • Debra K. Sullivan
    • 1
  • Janet L. Thomas
    • 2
  • Jasjit S. Ahluwalia
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.University of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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