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J Hum Nutr Diet. 2018 Jun;31(3):329-336. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12522. Epub 2017 Nov 21.

Identification of factors contributing to successful self-directed weight loss: a qualitative study.

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The Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.



Despite the number of weight management programmes and their wide promotion, most overweight and obese individuals tend to lose weight on their own. The present study aimed to understand the characteristics and strategies of those who successfully engage in self-directed weight loss, which could empower other overweight and obese individuals with information and strategies to manage their weight on their own.


Men and women who had lost at least 5% of their body weight without direct interaction with professionals or weight management programmes were recruited. Demographic data were collected by questionnaire and participants' weight-loss experiences were explored using semi- structured interviews to elicit in-depth individual experiences and perspectives. Iterative thematic method data analysis was used to generate themes describing contributing factors to the success of self-directed weight loss identified by participants.


Most characteristics of those who successfully self-managed their weight loss were in line with those reported by successful weight losers participating in professional-led projects. However, strategies such as early embedding of new lifestyle behaviours into daily routine, the ability to learn from previous weight-loss experiences, and not requiring social support were identified as distinctive factors that contributed to the success of self-directed weight loss by participants of the present study.


Overweight or obese individuals with strong internal motivation, problem-solving skills and self-reliance are more likely to be successful at achieving self-directed weight loss. The patients identified with these characteristics could be encouraged to self-manage their weight-loss process, leaving the places available in more resource-intensive professional-led programmes to those individuals unlikely to succeed on their own.


qualitative research; self-directed; weight loss

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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