Psychosocial predictors of decay in healthy eating and physical activity improvements in obese women regaining lost weight: translation of behavioral theory into treatment suggestions


Regain of lost weight is a universal problem for behavioral treatments. An increased understanding of theory-based psychosocial predictors of decay in behavioral correlates of weight loss might improve treatments. Data were derived from a previous weight loss investigation of 110 women with obesity. A subsample from the experimental treatment who lost ≥3 % body weight and regained at least one third of that over 24 months (N = 36) was assessed. During months 6 through 24, there were unfavorable changes in behavioral (fruit/vegetable and sweet intake; physical activity) and psychosocial variables. Mood change predicted change in fruit/vegetable and sweet intake, with emotional eating change mediating the latter relationship. Change in self-regulation predicted changes in sweet and fruit/vegetable intake and physical activity, with self-efficacy mediating the self-regulation–fruit/vegetable intake and self-regulation–physical activity relationships. Findings suggest that after treatment-induced weight loss, addressing indicated theory-based psychosocial variables might mitigate decay in behavioral predictors of healthier weight.

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This research was funded, in part, by a grant from Thrivent Foundation to the YMCA of Metro Atlanta.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to James J. Annesi PhD, FAAHB, FTOS, FAPA.

Ethics declarations

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.

Conflict of Interest

The author has no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.

Additional information


Practice: Practitioners should expect a decay in healthy eating and physical activity after weight loss in many individuals and plan follow-ups to improve deteriorations in psychological predictors of those behavioral changes such as mood, emotional eating, self-regulation, and self-efficacy.

Researchers: Future research is warranted to further evaluate methods in which decays in post-behavioral intervention eating and physical activity behaviors, that are expected for many individuals, might be improved in order to better-enable sustained losses in weight.

Policymakers: Resources should be focused on scalable evidence-based methods designed to sustain behaviors that are consistent with maintaining loss of weight after behavioral intervention.

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Annesi, J.J. Psychosocial predictors of decay in healthy eating and physical activity improvements in obese women regaining lost weight: translation of behavioral theory into treatment suggestions. Behav. Med. Pract. Policy Res. 6, 169–178 (2016).

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  • Weight loss
  • Maintenance
  • Treatment
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-efficacy
  • Physical activity