Psychological strategies for weight loss

What is the project about?

Staying motivated is one of the hardest aspects of weight loss. Functional Imagery Training (FIT) is a new, brief intervention that teaches mental strategies to help people stay motivated. In a clinical trial, FIT delivered to individuals helped them lose more weight than an established intervention. We are hoping to introduce FIT into healthcare settings. As part of this process, we need to find out if FIT is still successful when used in a group setting and how it compares with the current NHS programme.

Would you like to try something new to help you lose weight? If you join this study, you will be randomly assigned to one of two conditions: FIT or NHS.  In the FIT condition, you will learn motivation skills in a small group, meeting virtually via Zoom or Teams, once a week for four weeks. In the NHS condition, you will follow a 12-week self-guided programme based on established evidence for weight loss. Each person who signs up to the study will randomised on a 2:1 ratio. This means that for every one person who is placed in the NHS condition, two people will be placed in the FIT condition. You won’t be able to choose which condition you will be assigned to but both are designed to help you lose weight.

What are the criteria for taking part?

To take part in this study you will need to have access to a device that has a camera, microphone and the internet. You will need to be able to speak English well enough to take part in the group sessions. You will also need to have a set of weighing scales at home and a tape measure to be able to weigh and measure yourself. We are looking for participants with a BMI over 30. Work out your BMI via the NHS BMI calculator

You won’t be able to take part in this study if you are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant in the next 12 months, if you are currently using any other weight management service such as Weight Watchers or if you have any current or previous eating disorders such as binge-eating or anorexia nervosa.

What is my involvement?

The NHS group is due to begin in September 2021 and the FIT sessions will run across three months, so your first session will be in either September, October or November.

If you are interested in signing up to the study and you are assigned to the FIT group you would be asked to take part in four sessions using your laptop, computer or phone to speak on video-chat with the group facilitator and three to seven other participants. You would be able to see and hear each of the other group members and the facilitator and they can also see and hear you. 

These sessions will be recorded to ensure that the programme is being delivered the same each time, only the immediate research team will have access to these recordings and none of the recorded information will be used or displayed anywhere. We would like you to practice the imagery techniques that we teach you in the sessions in your day-to-day life.

Before the first session you would be asked to complete some questions about your health and wellbeing. You will also be asked to weigh yourself, measure your height and measure your waist circumference. If you choose to take part you will be given more details about this aspect.

We would then like to invite you to take part in a follow up group session after three months, some participants will be asked to complete an interview that would last about an hour, participants are chosen at random and you can decline just this aspect if you wish.

All participants will be asked to complete some questionnaires by Zoom and also re-weigh and measure yourself. We would also like repeat these 12 months after the first session. After you have completed the study you will then be posted a survey with a few questions to gain your feedback. This timeline is displayed in more detail below.

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Functional Imagery Training (FIT) online group study timeline

Pre-assessment

At this session you will be asked to complete some online questionnaires. This will be before your first FIT session and you will be contacted by telephone or email to arrange this.

Length: approximately 20 minutes.

Week one

At this session we will discuss topics such as confidentiality and the importance of not sharing anyone’s information outside of the group sessions, introduction to FIT and imagery. We will also discuss what the rest of the sessions will be about. You will be contacted by telephone or email to be given a date and time for your online session.

Length: one hour

Weeks two and three

In sessions two and three, we will be looking at using FIT’s imagery techniques to support you to reach your goals and your motivation to lose weight and increase your physical activity. These will be weekly sessions using video-chat

Length: one hour

Week four

This session using video-chat will look at putting all of the information and training you have had on FIT together and how to use it in your daily lives.

Length: one hour

Individual interview and questionnaires

(£10 payment will be made to you at the end of this session for the interview)

Six to eight weeks after the final session you may be invited to take part in an interview, it will be completed individually, and it will be audio recorded but kept confidential and anonymised. You will be asked questions about how you have been getting on, the challenges and successes since you began your FIT training.

You will be randomly assigned to be invited to the interview and you can decline just this aspect of the study if you wish to. Individual appointments will be made by phone and will take place either by phone or using video-chat.

Length: approximately 60-90 minutes.

Three month follow up

Participants will be invited to a follow-up booster session, this will include discussing how you have been getting on, and answering any questions you have about FIT, celebrate successes and use imagery to overcome any challenges.

During this session you will be asked to individually complete the same questions from the pre-assessment. You will also be asked to submit your weight and waist measurements, privately, not in the group. This will be a zoom session.

Length: one hour.

12 month follow up

(£20 amazon payment will be made to you at the end of this session)

This will involve completing the questionnaires that you did at the start of the study and provide your weight and waist measurements. This will be 12 months after your week one session and will take place either by phone or using video-chat.

Length: 30-45 minutes

12 month follow up survey

You will be posted a survey with a few questions about taking part in the study and for us to gain some feedback from you. This survey will be anonymous.


If you choose to sign up to the study and are assigned to the NHS online group then you will be asked to complete some online questionnaires where you will be asked some questions about your health and wellbeing. You will also be asked to weigh yourself,measure your height and measure your waist circumference. If you choose to take part you will be given more details about this aspect.

You will then be directed to the NHS website and where you can find their 12 week programme. This programme has advice on nutrition, exercise and other helpful tips to help you on your journey towards losing weight.

After three months we would then like to invite you to take part in a follow up session, some participants will be asked to complete an interview that would last about an hour, participants are chosen at random and you can decline just this aspect if you wish. All participants will be asked to complete some questionnaires and also re-weigh and measure yourself. We would also like repeat these at 12 months after the first session. After you have completed the study you will then be posted a survey with a few questions to gain your feedback. This timeline is displayed in more detail below.

NHS online group study timeline

Pre-assessment

In this session you will be asked to complete some online questionnaires. This will be before you begin the 12 week programme and you will be contacted by telephone or email to arrange this.

Length: approximately 20 minutes

Individual interview and questionnaires

(£10 payment will be made to you at the end of this session for the interview)

Twelve weeks after the initial phone assessment you may be invited to take part in an interview, it will be completed individually, and it will be audio recorded but kept confidential and anonymised. You will be asked questions about how you have been getting on, the challenges and successes. Participants will be randomly assigned to be invited to the interview and you can decline just this aspect of the study if you wish to. All participants will be asked to complete the same questionnaires from session one and provide your weight, height and waist measurements. Individual appointments will be made by phone and will take place either at the University of Plymouth or using video-chat.

Length: approximately 60-90 minutes


12 month follow up

(£20 payment will be made to you at the end of this session)

Twelve months after your week one session this will involve completing the questionnaires that you did at the start of the study and provide your weight and waist measurements. It will take place either by phone or using video-chat.

Length: 30-45 minutes

12 month follow up survey

You will be posted a survey with a few questions about taking part in the study and for us to gain some feedback from you. This survey will be anonymous.

How will my information be kept confidential and anonymous? 

All of the audio and video recordings will be kept confidential. Your information will be anonymised and once anonymous it will be made available to other researchers.. The interview that you do will be audio recorded and then transcribed verbatim directly onto a password secured, University laptop. You will be allocated an ID number and all identifying information will be edited within the transcript document. All data will be securely stored within University of Plymouth One Drive for Business. We may use the information we gather in publications, journal articles or posters however your information will be anonymous and no information that would identify you individually will be shared outside of the research team. The anonymous data will be archived at the University of Plymouth for 10 years after the study following the University’s data management policies.

Do I have to take part?

You do not have to take part in the project and your relationship with the University of Plymouth will not be effected by this.


Right to withdraw

You can withdraw from the study if you change your mind, up until the point when the data has been anonymised and collated with the other data. You do not have to provide justification and all data pertaining to you will be confidentially disposed of (please contact the principle investigator in order to do this).

How do I take part?

If you are interested in taking part in this study please follow this link and complete the forms.

If you have any questions about the study or the forms please use the contact details below, thank you.

Contact details

If you feel that this project is something you would be interested in taking part in or have any questions about the project please contact us.

Please contact Sarah Greene (PhD student) as the first port of call: sarah.greene@plymouth.ac.uk

Researchers involved in the study:

Jackie Andrade
Tracey Parkin
Linda Solbrig 
Ben Whalley