Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Thirty-five percent of college students have overweight or obesity and are in need of brief and simple weight loss interventions that complement their unstructured lifestyles. Implementation intentions, a simple strategy that connects a goal-aligned behavior to a cue, facilitate goal-attainment for a wide variety of health-behaviors and may be particularly useful for individuals who have lower inhibitory control skills, a cognitive deficit that makes adherence to weight loss intervention recommendations more difficult. Implementation intentions have not been tested as a stand-alone treatment for dietary change and weight loss. College students with overweight or 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). All groups were asked to work toward the same dietary goals for weight loss over four weeks. Participants completed anthropometric, self-report and inhibitory control assessments to determine treatment effects. Participants also completed experience-sampling assessments during the first and last week of the study to assess how implementation intentions contribute more directly to behavior change. Most students (87%) completed the study, demonstrating acceptability of the interventions. No differences were found for weight and diet outcomes between conditions, although across the sample, students lost a significant amount of weight, improved diet quality, and reduced caloric intake (ps<0.05). Inhibitory control was not a significant moderator of treatment. Multilevel modeling analyses revealed that IMP and IMP+ groups reported significantly more goal-congruent behaviors than did the GOL group; further, the IMP+ group demonstrated significantly increased adherence to implementation intentions compared to the IMP group. Although implementation intentions did not lead to weight loss or dietary changes in the current sample compared to an active control, exploratory analyses indicated that setting implementation intentions was associated with an increased number of dietary behaviors consistent with weight loss goals. Moreover, participants in all three groups lost a statistically-significant amount of weight, suggesting a simple intervention may be beneficial for college students with overweight/obesity.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Denise E. Wilfley

Committee Members

Mark A. McDaniel, Michael J. Strube, Renee J. Thompason, Warren K. Bickel,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/9jg2-5w95

Available for download on Tuesday, August 15, 2119