Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial of ImpulsePal: Smartphone App-Based Weight Management Intervention to Reduce Impulsive Eating in Overweight Adults

JMIR Form Res. 2019 Apr 30;3(2):e11586. doi: 10.2196/11586.


Background: ImpulsePal is a theory-driven (dual-process), evidence-informed, and person-centered smartphone app intervention designed to help people manage impulsive processes that prompt unhealthy eating to facilitate dietary change and weight loss.

Objective: The aims of this study were to (1) assess the feasibility of trial procedures for evaluation of the ImpulsePal intervention, (2) estimate standard deviations of outcomes, and (3) assess usability of, and satisfaction with, ImpulsePal.

Methods: We conducted an individually randomized parallel two-arm nonblinded feasibility trial. The eligibility criteria included being aged ≥16 years, having a body mass index of ≥25 kg/m2, and having access to an Android-based device. Weight was measured (as the proposed primary outcome for a full-scale trial) at baseline, 1 month, and 3 months of follow-up. Participants were randomized in a 2:1 allocation ratio to the ImpulsePal intervention or a waiting list control group. A nested action-research study allowed for data-driven refinement of the intervention across 2 cycles of feedback.

Results: We screened 179 participants for eligibility, and 58 were randomized to the intervention group and 30 to the control group. Data were available for 74 (84%, 74/88) participants at 1 month and 67 (76%, 67/88) participants at 3 months. The intervention group (n=43) lost 1.03 kg (95% CI 0.33 to 1.74) more than controls (n=26) at 1 month and 1.01 kg (95% CI -0.45 to 2.47) more than controls (n=43 and n=24, respectively) at 3 months. Feedback suggested changes to intervention design were required to (1) improve receipt and understanding of instructions and (2) facilitate further engagement with the app and its strategies.

Conclusions: The evaluation methods and delivery of the ImpulsePal app intervention are feasible, and the trial procedures, measures, and intervention are acceptable and satisfactory to the participants.

Trial registration: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 14886370; http://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN14886370 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/76WcEpZ51).

Keywords: digital behavior change; dual-process; mHealth; obesity; weight loss.