Are current health behavioral change models helpful in guiding prevention of weight gain efforts?

Obes Res. 2003 Oct;11 Suppl:23S-43S. doi: 10.1038/oby.2003.222.


Effective procedures are needed to prevent the substantial increases in adiposity that have been occurring among children and adults. Behavioral change may occur as a result of changes in variables that mediate interventions. These mediating variables have typically come from the theories or models used to understand behavior. Seven categories of theories and models are reviewed to define the concepts and to identify the motivational mechanism(s), the resources that a person needs for change, the processes by which behavioral change is likely to occur, and the procedures necessary to promote change. Although each model has something to offer obesity prevention, the early promise can be achieved only with substantial additional research in which these models are applied to diet and physical activity in regard to obesity. The most promising avenues for such research seem to be using the latest variants of the Theory of Planned Behavior and Social Ecology. Synergy may be achieved by taking the most promising concepts from each model and integrating them for use with specific populations. Biology-based steps in an eating or physical activity event are identified, and research issues are suggested to integrate behavioral and biological approaches to understanding eating and physical activity behaviors. Social marketing procedures have much to offer in terms of organizing and strategizing behavioral change programs to incorporate these theoretical ideas. More research is needed to assess the true potential for these models to contribute to our understanding of obesity-related diet and physical activity practices, and in turn, to obesity prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior
  • Diet*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • United States / epidemiology