Differential effectiveness of a deposit contract as a concomitant to a weight reduction program



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The present study attempted to investigate the differential effectiveness of deposit contracts both in terms of short and long-term gains. It was hypothesized that behavior change attributed to oneself would be maintained to a greater extent than behavior change attributed to an external source, namely, a deposit contract. A ten-week therapy program for the treatment of obesity, emphasizing situation control and a balance between caloric intake and energy expenditure, was conducted over a thirteen-week time period. Thirty-eight obese subjects were assigned from stratified blocks, according to degree of overweight, to one of four experimental conditions: 1) therapist A, no-deposit, 2) therapist A, deposit, 3) therapist B, no-deposit, 4) therapist B, deposit. Measures of weight loss, which included absolute pounds lost, percentage body weight lost, reduction indices, and changes in body density, were assessed from pre- to posttreatment and at a two-month follow-up. The data indicate that the self-management procedures were effective in the reduction and maintenance of weight and in changing eating and exercise habits; that deposit contracts, as compared with no deposit contracts, were not superior in facilitating weight loss; and that weight maintenance was due to a complex interaction of therapist variables and experimental condition. The relationship between weight maintenance and whether subjects attribute behavior change to themselves or an external source remains unclear. There was a substantial attrition rate and marked variability in treatment response. The need for improved screening procedures and ways of insuring maintenance of treatment effects were discussed. Furthermore, the assumptions that underlie a behavioral approach to the treatment of obesity were questioned, and a broader conceptualization of obesity, whereby multiple etiological factors are considered in formulating a treatment strategy, was suggested.