Implementation intentions for weight loss in college students with overweight and obesity: A proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial

Jacqueline F. Hayes*, Katherine N. Balantekin, Andrea K. Graham, Michael J. Strube, Warren K. Bickel, Denise E. Wilfley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


One in three college students have overweight or obesity and are in need of brief, simple weight loss interventions. Implementation intentions, a strategy that connects a goal-aligned behavior to a cue, facilitate goal attainment of health behaviors but have not been applied as a standalone treatment for weight loss. The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of an implementation intention weight loss intervention in college students. In this three-arm, proof-of-concept, randomized controlled trial, college students with overweight/obesity (N = 95) were randomized to one of three conditions: an implementation intention group (IMP), an enhanced implementation intention group (IMP+) that included text message reminders and fluency training (i.e., training for speed and accuracy), and a control goal intention group (GOL) for 4 weeks. Participants completed anthropometric and self-report assessments pretreatment and posttreatment and experience-sampling assessments during the study to assess how implementation intentions contribute to behavior change. Across the sample, IMP and IMP+ groups reported significantly more goal-congruent behaviors than the GOL group. However, no between-condition differences emerged for weight and diet outcomes. Across conditions, students lost a statistically significant amount of weight, improved diet quality, and reduced caloric intake (ps <. 05). Setting implementation intentions was associated with increased behaviors consistent with weight loss goals. Moreover, participants in all groups lost a statistically significant amount of weight. Incorporating implementation intentions into weight loss interventions, and testing the efficacy of this approach on weight loss over a longer duration, may be beneficial for college students with overweight/obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-368
Number of pages10
JournalTranslational behavioral medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • College students
  • Implementation intentions
  • Obesity treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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