A pilot study exploring the efficacy of an acceptance and commitment therapy intervention for emotional eating and weight loss maintenance

by Emma Gallagher

Institution: Monash University
Department: School of Psychological Sciences
Year: 2015
Keywords: Emotional eating; Acceptance and commitment therapy; Weight loss maintenance; Experiential avoidance; Cognitive fusion
Record ID: 1070211
Full text PDF: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/1158430


Weight loss maintenance has emerged as a significant challenge in efforts tackling overweight and obesity, and their associated risks of morbidity and mortality (Colagiuri et al., 2010; NHMRC, 2013; Stubbs & Lavin, 2013). The antidote to the health risks associated with overweight and obesity is weight loss; however, only successful weight loss maintenance results in sustained health benefits (NHMRC, 2013). The statistics show that, while most people can lose weight using traditional behavioural based weight loss strategies, most people regain this lost weight (Wing & Phelan, 2005). Limited, yet cumulative, evidence suggests that the hitherto under explored variable of emotional eating, along with its theoretical underlying mechanism of action, avoidance, may explain significant unaccounted for variance within the weight loss maintenance puzzle (Bryne, 2002; Kayman, Bruvold & Stern, 1990; van Strien, Herman, & Verheijden, 2012). Within the literature addressing overweight and obesity there has been a limited, yet collective, call for researchers to explore novel psychological treatment interventions targeting emotional eating in the context of weight loss maintenance (Koenders & van Strien, 2011; Neve, Morgan & Collins, 2011; Teixeria et al., 2010). An aim of this thesis is to answer this call. In reviewing the problem of emotional eating and weight loss maintenance, as well as the theoretical understanding that avoidance develops and maintains this behaviour, it was reasoned that the psychological treatment intervention Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) would be best suited to tackling this challenge (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 2012). This was reasoned because ACT explicitly targets avoidance and related psychological processes within its therapeutic treatment interventions. Consequently, this thesis constitutes the first treatment intervention study to quantitatively bring together ACT and its two core processes of experiential avoidance and cognitive fusion with emotional eating in the context of weight loss maintenance. The global aim of the study was to evaluate the efficacy of a 1-day ACT group workshop treatment intervention for people who had recently lost weight targeting emotional eating to facilitate weight loss maintenance, using a randomised controlled trial design comparing a treatment group to a wait-list control group. Participants (N = 111) volunteered after responding to research advertisements inviting people who struggle with emotional eating and weight loss maintenance to participate. Participants were randomly assigned to the 1-day ACTing on Weight group workshop which was the treatment group, or to the wait-list condition (i.e., the control group). Pre and post-treatment data was collected. The number of people who completed the pre-measures was n = 43 for the treatment group and n = 56 for the control group, and for the post-measures at three months the number of participants was n = 28 and n = 32 respectively. The following variables were psychometrically measured and analysed using…