Faculty Publications – College of Science and Health


A randomized trial of a brief intervention for obesity in college students

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What is already known about this subject

  • Brief motivational interventions have been found to be efficacious for obesity in older adult populations.

  • Brief motivational interventions including delivery of personalized feedback have been found to be efficacious for reducing college student drinking.

What this study adds

  • First study to test the efficacy of a one‐session, brief motivational intervention for obesity among college students.

  • One session brief motivational interventions may have an impact on the reduction of calorie‐dense foods and beverages.

  • A brief, one‐session motivational interview with personalized feedback may not be an intensive enough intervention for obesity treatment among college students.


Young adults are at an increased risk for weight gain as they begin college and this has implications for the onset of future health consequences. Brief motivational interventions (BMIs) have been found to be effective with college students for reducing risky health behaviours such as alcohol consumption, but have not been developed and tested with a primary goal of reducing obesity. BMIs have been developed and tested for the treatment of obesity and weight‐related health behaviours (WRHB) in other populations, such as adults and adolescents, with promising results. The purpose of the following study was to develop and test the efficacy of a BMI for weight loss among overweight and obese college students. Seventy undergraduate students (85.7% female, 57.1% African–American) completed an assessment about WRHBs and then were randomized to either receive a single 60‐min BMI plus a booster phone call or to assessment only. At 3 months post‐intervention, effect sizes within the intervention group were twice as large as within the assessment‐only group on reductions in high‐calorie foods and beverages. However, there were no statistically significant differences between groups on body mass index or WRHBs. The one‐session nature of the session might not have been enough to produce significant change in weight.