Background/objectives: This study is an experiment of putting social sciences to work in developing a support intervention for healthy lifestyle changes that would be attractive and manageable in real-life settings. Starting with a hypothesis that a class of intervention methods based on an unconventional 'low-tension' strategy may offer an effective support of stable, long-term changes well integrated in everyday life, difficult to maintain with conventional dieting and self-control approaches, this study focuses on designing and optimizing an intervention model combining several low-tension methods: mindfulness, small steps and group support.
Subjects/methods: In three consecutive 'action research' cycles, the intervention was run in practice with groups of 20 overweight or obese citizens. Qualitative data, mainly in the form of recorded group sessions and individual interviews with group participants and group leaders, were systematically collected and analyzed, using a framework of social psychological theory to focus on difficulties, resources and meanings connected with habits and everyday life. This information was recycled into the design process for the next version of the intervention.
Results: We describe the user-involving development processes toward a more attractive and manageable intervention model. The model now exists as a well-articulated package whose effectiveness is being tested in a randomized controlled trial study.
Conclusions: Social science can be put to work in systematically integrating real-life experience in a development process. It answers a very different kind of question than clinical trials-filling another place in an overall research program to create useful knowledge of what helps-in complex, everyday, real life.