Strengthening Behavioral Interventions for Weight Loss: A Randomized Trial of Food Provision and Monetary Incentives

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Abstract

Behavioral treatments for obesity seek to modify eating and exercise behaviors by a change in their antecedents and consequences. More direct modification of antecedents and consequences by (a) the provision of food to patients and (b) the provision of financial rewards for weight loss was hypothesized to improve treatment outcomes. Two hundred two men and women were randomly assigned to no treatment, standard behavioral treatment (SBT), SBT plus food provision, SBT plus incentives, or SBT plus food provision and incentives. The major finding was that food provision significantly enhanced weight loss. Weight losses with SBT averaged 7.7, 4.5, and 4.1 kg at 6, 12, and 18 months, respectively, compared with 10.1, 9.1, and 6.4 kg, respectively, at the same intervals with the addition of food. Food provision also enhanced attendance, completion of food records, quality of diet, and nutrition knowledge. We conclude that the provision of food to weight-loss patients is a promising methodology that deserves further exploration.

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