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Internet Interv. 2017 Mar;7:23-31. doi: 10.1016/j.invent.2016.12.003.

People trying to lose weight dislike calorie counting apps and want motivational support to help them achieve their goals.

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School of Psychology, Plymouth University & NIHR CLAHRC South-West Peninsula, UK.
School of Psychology, Cognition Institute, Plymouth University, UK.
School of Health Professions (Dietetics), Plymouth University, UK.
School of Nursing & Midwifery, Plymouth University, UK.
Institute for Health & Biomedical Innovation and School of Psychology & Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.



Two thirds of UK adults are overweight or obese and at increased risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Basic public health support for weight loss comprises information about healthy eating and lifestyle, but internet and mobile applications (apps) create possibilities for providing long-term motivational support.


To explore among people currently trying to lose weight, or maintaining weight loss, (i) problems, experiences and wishes in regards to weight management and weight loss support including e-health support; (ii) reactions to Functional Imagery Training (FIT) as a possible intervention.


Six focus groups (N = 24 in total) were recruited from a public pool of people who had expressed an interest in helping with research. The topics considered were barriers to weight loss, desired support for weight loss and acceptability of FIT including the FIT app. The focus group discussions were transcribed and thematically analysed.


All groups spontaneously raised the issue of waning motivation and expressed the desire for motivational app support for losing weight and increasing physical activity. They disliked calorie counting apps and those that required lots of user input. All groups wanted behavioural elements such as setting and reviewing goals to be included, with the ability to personalise the app by adding picture reminders and choosing times for goal reminders. Participants were positive about FIT and FIT support materials.


There is a mismatch between the help provided via public health information campaigns and commercially available weight-loss self-help (lifestyle information, self-monitoring), and the help that individuals actually desire (motivational and autonomous e-support), posing an opportunity to develop more effective electronic, theory-driven, motivational, self-help interventions.


Apps; Behaviour change; Diet; Imagery; Motivation; Physical activity; Weight loss

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