Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 254–261 | Cite as

A preliminary investigation into whether early intervention can improve weight loss among those initially non-responsive to an internet-based behavioral program

  • Jessica L. UnickEmail author
  • Leah Dorfman
  • Tricia M. Leahey
  • Rena R. Wing


This study examined whether providing additional support to individuals with poor initial weight loss improves 12-week outcomes. Participants were randomized to a 12-week internet-delivered behavioral weight loss program (IBWL; n = 50) or the identical internet program plus the possibility of extra support (IBWL + ES; n = 50). IBWL + ES participants losing <2.3 % at Week 4 (early non-responders; n = 12) received one individual meeting and two follow-up phone calls with an interventionist, and were compared to IBWL ‘early non-responders’ who did not receive extra support (n = 21), and to ‘early responders’ in both treatment arms (i.e., 4-week weight loss ≥2.3 %; n = 59). IBWL + ES early non-responders had greater program adherence (p’s < 0.055) and lost twice as much weight (p = 0.036) compared to IBWL early non-responders. Program adherence did not differ between early responders and IBWL + ES early non-responders. However, 12-week weight loss was greater in the early responders compared to both early non-responder groups (p’s > 0.05). Providing additional intervention to early non-responders in an Internet program improves treatment outcomes.


Weight loss Stepped care Obesity treatment Early rescue Web-based intervention Internet-delivered intervention 



The authors would like to acknowledge Abby Moylan and Lucie Rice with all of their assistance on this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Tricia M. Leahey is the chief scientist at WayBetter Inc., Jessica L. Unick, Leah Dorfman and Rena R. Wing have declared that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica L. Unick
    • 1
    Email author
  • Leah Dorfman
    • 1
  • Tricia M. Leahey
    • 2
  • Rena R. Wing
    • 1
  1. 1.Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, The Miriam HospitalBrown Medical SchoolProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Allied Health SciencesUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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