Behavior modification has been used to help people lose weight for the last three decades with several studies demonstrating success with behavior modification techniques. One such study involved 57 women from the ages 17 to 65. These women were middle class to upper-middle class, and %17 to %84 were above a healthy body weight.
In the study the women were assigned to different groups which met for 90 minutes a week for eight weeks straight. At each meeting participants were weighed-in privately, at these meetings the participants were taught specific behavior modification techniques to be used during the week. One group was taught situational management in which participants were taught to manipulate and control things in their environment that influenced them to over eat. These people also received training in self-control, exercise, and linking behaviors together in a chain to create new behaviors. The second group of people were taught to set their own standard and they were also taught the same things from the first group. The difference in this group is that the participants were instructed to write down standards each week to generate decreases in weight and eating. The people in this group set very specific and easily achievable goals. The third group was taught to systematically reward their selves. This group was provided with the same instruction as the other two groups. The main difference is that the third group created contracts with their selves every week in order to earn spoken and physical rewards when weight goals, daily goals, and changes in eating behaviors occurred. The people in the third group also gave researchers about $17 that would be returned in the form of small checks for changes in eating and weight loss, the participants could earn up to $2.50 per week for following through with changes. The participants from the three groups all demonstrated significant weight loss for the duration of the study. The second group recorded the greatest amount of weight loss.
The results demonstrate that teaching people to set realistic goals, and teaching them how to manipulate their environment are powerful components of a behavior modification program for weight loss. This means that when people are given the appropriate information and support that weight loss is possible. This is not a magical formula, the people in the study had to go home and make the changes to their environment and study their eating habits, and record information to help make future decisions about controlling their eating habits. The best part is that these are things we can all do and the effort we have to put in frails in comparison to the results we can achieve.
Stanley, C., & Balfour, J. (1978, December). Situational Management, Standard Setting, and Self-Reward in a Behavior Modification Weight Loss Program. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46(6), 1588-1589.