Why are church goers more successful in weight loss programs?

Assessing the stages of change among African American women in a weight management program

From Journal of Black Psycology 

Many people have resolved to better manage their weight and have a more healthy 2012. This study reveals those starting new weight loss programs may be surprised to find out that both location and level of experience may influence their success. It finds that African American women beginning a new group weight loss program are more successful if they are less experienced with weight management and if the program meets in a church.

Two groups of women in the same weight loss program were monitored. One group met weekly at a university and the other group met in a church. After 13 weeks, they found that the women meeting in the church setting lost a greater percentage of weight than those who met at the university. Additionally, those women who set out to change their eating and exercise practices for the first time lost a greater percentage of weight than women who had experience managing their weight. Possible explanations offered for the findings are that women with weight-loss experience may find it more difficult to lose weight when starting a new program because they are less likely to seek and accept social support for their efforts and are unable to shake the bad habits that they have learned in past weight-loss programs. Furthermore, they explained that churches are familiar environments that are conducive to lending encouragement and support.



The objective of this study was to assess the relationship between stage of change (SOC) and behavioral outcomes among African American women entering obesity treatment in two settings. Fifty-five overweight/obese (body mass index = 26.50-48.13), but otherwise healthy African American women, 23 to 56 years old, attended a 13-week weight loss–treatment program that took place at churches (n = 36) or a university (n = 19). Participants were weighed, completed SOC measures, and had a physical fitness test at pre- and posttreatment. Pretreatment measures of SOC placed 47% of the participants as actors, 31% as contemplators, and 22% as maintainers. Of the 45 women who reported posttreatment SOC, 7% regressed, 44% did not change, and 31% progressed in SOC. Pretreatment SOC predicted posttreatment weight loss in the church setting but not in the university setting. At churches, contemplators lost more weight than actors and maintainers. The church may be a more conducive setting for weight change behaviors for African American women who are categorized as contemplators in the SOC model.

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Article details
Sbrocco, T., Osborn, R., Clark, R., Hsiao, C., & Carter, M. (2011). Assessing the Stages of Change Among African American Women in a Weight Management Program Journal of Black Psychology, 38 (1), 81-103 DOI: 10.1177/0095798411403618

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