Improving women's weight perceptions and weight-loss goals: An internet-based educational approach
Overweight and obesity are increasing problems among women within the United States. Billions of consumer and health care dollars are spent on this problem and associated comorbities annually. In an effort to address the problem, the National Institutes of Health issued Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults in July 1998. The guidelines (CPGs) are intended to provide a research-based approach to clinical practice. The purpose of this study was to: (a) compare women's weight perceptions and goals with CPGs to determine the degree of discrepancy, and (b) evaluate the effects of an Internet-based educational program on women's weight perceptions, goals, and weight patterns. The study sample consisted of 92 normal, overweight, and obese women between the ages of 20 and 50 (M = 37.6). The sample was predominately Caucasian (91.3%), married (69.6%), educated beyond high school (78.2%), with moderate income. Data were collected using a Weight Perceptions and Goals Questionnaire, the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, and an Educational Evaluation Form. An interactive Internet-based educational program designed specifically for the study included information about weight classification, weight-related health risks, NIH guidelines, and approaches to weight loss. Overweight and obese women randomized to the experimental groups participated in this education.
Analysis of the five study hypotheses revealed that women's weight perceptions and goals are significantly different from CPGs' recommendations, and that obese women have greater discrepancy from CPGs than normal weight or overweight women. Women exhibited a moderate degree of satisfaction with the CPGs' recommendations. The Internet-based education received positive evaluation, but did not (a) decrease discrepancy scores for exercise or diet, or (b) increase ratings of importance of health-related factors in weight-loss decisions, motivation for weight loss, or satisfaction with CPGs. Over three months, the educational program made no significant difference in weight satisfaction, weight loss, or six-month weight loss goal setting.