Social-Cognitive Determinants of Success in Online Communities for Weight Management

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Background: Online communities may be an effective, convenient, and relatively inexpensive intervention platform for individuals seeking assistance with weight management. Recent research suggests that these communities may be as effective as in-person treatments for weight management; however, very little is known about the characteristics that predict weight loss amongst those using an online community. Methods: Within a social-cognitive framework, we sought to identify the psychosocial characteristics that are associated with successful weight management for users of MyFitnessPal, a popular online community for weight management. We recruited participants who were new to the online community and asked them to complete 2 surveys (one at baseline and one 3 months later) that assessed various psychosocial constructs as well as self-reported height and weight. Results: Participants in our sample reported losing, on average, 4.55 kg during the 3-month time period. We found that engaging in weight control behaviors (e.g., monitoring food intake, weighing oneself, etc.) fully mediated the relationship between several of our variables of interest (i.e., baseline self-efficacy and perceived social support within the community) and weight loss. We also found that participants who expected to lose more weight at baseline were significantly more likely to have lost more weight at follow-up. Conclusions: On average, participants in our study lost a clinically meaningful amount of weight. Predictors of weight loss within this community included perceived support within the community (mediated by weight control behaviors), baseline self-efficacy (mediated by weight control behaviors), and baseline outcome expectations. Results of this study can ultimately serve to inform the design of future eHealth interventions for weight management.






Lane, Ilana Beth (2016). Social-Cognitive Determinants of Success in Online Communities for Weight Management. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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