Objective: To determine whether acceptance-based behavioral treatment (ABT) would result in greater weight loss than standard behavioral treatment (SBT), and whether treatment effects were moderated by interventionist expertise or participants' susceptibility to eating cues. Recent research suggests that poor long-term weight-control outcomes are due to lapses in adherence to weight-control behaviors and that adherence might be improved by enhancing SBT with acceptance-based behavioral strategies.
Design and Methods: Overweight participants (n = 128) were randomly assigned to 40 weeks of SBT or ABT.
Results: Both groups produced significant weight loss, and when administered by experts, weight loss was significantly higher in ABT than SBT at post-treatment (13.17% vs. 7.54%) and 6-month follow-up (10.98% vs. 4.83%). Moreover, 64% of those receiving ABT from experts (vs. 46% for SBT) maintained at least a 10% weight loss by follow-up. Moderation analyses revealed a powerful advantage, at follow-up, of ABT over SBT in those potentially more susceptible to eating cues. For participants with greater baseline depression symptomology, weight loss at follow-up was 11.18% in ABT versus 4.63% in SBT; other comparisons were 10.51% versus 6.00% (emotional eating), 8.29% versus 6.35% (disinhibition), and 9.70% versus 4.46% (responsivity to food cues). Mediation analyses produced partial support for theorized food-related psychological acceptance as a mechanism of action.
Conclusions: Results offer strong support for the incorporation of acceptance-based skills into behavioral weight loss treatments, particularly among those with greater levels of depression, responsivity to the food environment, disinhibition, and emotional eating, and especially when interventions are provided by weight-control experts.