Using the Habit App for Weight Loss Problem Solving: Development and Feasibility Study

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2018 Jun 20;6(6):e145. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.9801.


Background: Reviews of weight loss mobile apps have revealed they include very few evidence-based features, relying mostly on self-monitoring. Unfortunately, adherence to self-monitoring is often low, especially among patients with motivational challenges. One behavioral strategy that is leveraged in virtually every visit of behavioral weight loss interventions and is specifically used to deal with adherence and motivational issues is problem solving. Problem solving has been successfully implemented in depression mobile apps, but not yet in weight loss apps.

Objective: This study describes the development and feasibility testing of the Habit app, which was designed to automate problem-solving therapy for weight loss.

Methods: Two iterative single-arm pilot studies were conducted to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the Habit app. In each pilot study, adults who were overweight or obese were enrolled in an 8-week intervention that included the Habit app plus support via a private Facebook group. Feasibility outcomes included retention, app usage, usability, and acceptability. Changes in problem-solving skills and weight over 8 weeks are described, as well as app usage and weight change at 16 weeks.

Results: Results from both pilots show acceptable use of the Habit app over 8 weeks with on average two to three uses per week, the recommended rate of use. Acceptability ratings were mixed such that 54% (13/24) and 73% (11/15) of participants found the diet solutions helpful and 71% (17/24) and 80% (12/15) found setting reminders for habits helpful in pilots 1 and 2, respectively. In both pilots, participants lost significant weight (P=.005 and P=.03, respectively). In neither pilot was an effect on problem-solving skills observed (P=.62 and P=.27, respectively).

Conclusions: Problem-solving therapy for weight loss is feasible to implement in a mobile app environment; however, automated delivery may not impact problem-solving skills as has been observed previously via human delivery.

Trial registration: NCT02192905; (Archived by WebCite at

Keywords: mHealth; mobile app; obesity; problem solving; weight loss.

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