Social learning variables as predictors of success in a behavioral weight loss program

Michael Prezioso, Fordham University


Although behavior therapy has markedly improved the treatment of obesity, current weight-loss programs are characterized by substantial variability in outcome, high attrition rates, and poor maintenance of results. Consequently, there has been increasing interest in identifying participant characteristics that will effectively predict successful outcome in these programs. The present study attempted to determine if cognitive variables specified by social learning theory would be useful in predicting outcome in a combined behavior therapy/very-low-calorie diet (VLCD) weight-loss program. The study participants were 67 men and women involved in a 22-week behavior therapy/VLCD weight-loss program. It was hypothesized that pretreatment measures of self-efficacy, locus of control, and health value would predict which individuals would be successful in the weight-loss program. The data were analyzed through hierarchical multiple regression on two separate criterion variables: weight loss as measured by a reduction index, and the number of program sessions attended. The results revealed that social learning variables added significantly to the variance in weight-loss outcome. Among the social learning variables, self-efficacy, as measured by the Eating Self-Efficacy Scale (ESES), accounted for a major portion of the variance in weight loss. Self-efficacy for control of eating during periods of negative affect (NA subscale) predicted weight loss, but self-efficacy for control of eating in social situations did not. Program attendance was predicted by the total ESES score but not by the individual subscales of the ESES. Contrary to expectations, locus of control orientation and outcome value (value placed on health) did not predict either weight loss or sessions attended. In addition, gender was found to be a significant predictor of weight loss. In the present study, women lost significantly less weight than men but attended the same number of sessions. Women also displayed significantly lower pretreatment levels of eating self-efficacy than men, particularly when experiencing periods of negative affect. The study underscored the need to further examine gender differences in efficacy expectations and how these differences influence the ability to lose weight.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences|Psychotherapy|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Prezioso, Michael, "Social learning variables as predictors of success in a behavioral weight loss program" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9511241.