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OBJECTIVE -To determine whether perceived risk and other health beliefs held by individuals at high risk for developing NIDDM predict weight loss and behavior change during a behavioral weight loss program to reduce the risk of NIDDM.RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS -Health beliefs and objective risk factors for diabetes were examined in 154 overweight men and women with a family history of NIDDM. The effects of these factors on adherence, dietary intake, weight loss, and changes in glucose levels were examined in a subset of 79 of these subjects who participated in a 2-year behavioral weight control program.RESULTS -Those subjects who perceived themselves at highest risk of developing diabetes had a stronger family history of the disease and were more likely to be women than subjects considering themselves at more moderate risk. These participants also rated diabetes as a more serious disease, but were less likely to believe that weight loss would lower their risk. None of these health beliefs were related to attendance at meetings, dietary intake, weight loss, or fasting glucose, but higher perceived seriousness predicted larger reductions in BMI at 1 year. Of the objective risk factors for NIDDM, higher baseline BMI predicted larger weight losses throughout the program, and a stronger family history of diabetes was related to greater weight regain after an initial weight loss.CONCLUSIONS -Perceived risk of developing diabetes and other health beliefs did not predict performance in a behavioral weight loss program. These data suggest that efforts to modify health beliefs by educating high-risk individuals about their risk and benefits of weight loss may not be effective in improving long-term weight loss results.