Qualitative Study of Spirituality in a Weight Loss Program: Contribution to Self-Efficacy and Locus of Control

Marla Reicks, Jordan Mills, Helen Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how spirituality affects intrapersonal characteristics associated with a weight loss program. Design: A series of 5 focus group interviews was conducted with women who were past participants of the Weigh Down Workshop, a spiritually based weight loss program. Setting: Three churches in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, metropolitan area. Participants: Focus group participants (N = 32) were white, fairly well educated, with moderate income levels. Their mean age was 50 years. Phenomena of Interest: Behavior changes, factors affecting self-efficacy for performing the behaviors, and locus of control. Analysis: Sessions were audiotaped and transcribed. Transcribed text was coded and analyzed using qualitative data analysis procedures. Results: Major changes in self-reported eating behaviors included eating only when experiencing true physiological hunger and stopping when sensing a feeling of fullness. Self-efficacy for these behaviors was reported to be enhanced by observing weight loss for themselves or others. Support from other group members, the simplicity of the program, and spiritual benefits through prayer and scripture reading were also reported to enhance confidence. Women indicated that they relied on an internal locus of control based on a sense of self-discipline. Conclusions and Implications: Traditional means to enhance self-efficacy were important for all women; however, for some women, spirituality was also an important aspect of adhering to program principles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • Locus of control
  • Self-efficacy
  • Spirituality
  • Weight loss program


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