Self-Motivation Aids Weight-Loss Success

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 10, 2010) – An assistant professor in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture hopes her research can help many Americans who have trouble losing weight and maintaining that loss reach a healthy weight. Kelly Webber’s research focuses on the role motivation plays in people’s ability to lose weight.

“It appears to me that many of us know the right things to do to lose weight, but we don’t do them,” said Webber, who works in the UK Department of Nutrition and Food Science. “My research studies what happens with a person’s motivation that either helps or keeps them from losing weight.”

During the 16-week weight-loss study, Webber measured motivation levels of the 66 overweight or obese female participants. Through this study, she found participants who were self-motivated were more likely to lose weight than those who were motivated to participate by someone else. The more self-motivated individuals were, the more likely they were to self-monitor their diet and exercise, which could also help them lose weight. In addition, she was able to pinpoint the exact time in the weight-loss study when participants’ positive motivation starts to wane, which was after four weeks.

The results from this study led her to a second study where she experimented with using motivational strategies to help people lose weight.  She found that those who were self-motivated to begin with did not benefit much from the extra motivational strategies. However, those who were not highly self-motivated benefited greatly from the motivational strategies and lost more weight than participants in the control group.

“If we can provide support to people before their motivation starts to tail off, we may be able to help them lose weight,” she said.

Webber hopes to use the findings from these studies to do further studies and look at the benefits of a motivational intervention in people with chronic diseases related to overweight or obesity.

Results from Webber’s studies were published this year in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior and the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.