The use of self-efficacy in predicting weight-loss outcomes among college students in south Louisiana

Jacinda Sue Bonvillain


The morbidity and mortality rates of south Louisiana reflect poor eating habits that are typical of the Cajun culture. A change in eating habits during young adulthood may prevent the development of chronic diseases later in life. The objective of this study was to develop an intervention to promote healthy eating behaviors and weight loss among young adults in south Louisiana, using the construct of self-efficacy from the Social Cognitive Theory. The study used a pretest-postest control group design with a twelve-week intervention. Sixty-six students at a south Louisiana university with a BMI ≥ 25 were randomly assigned to intervention ( n = 48) or control ( n = 18). The intervention consisted of a weight loss program that provided nutrition education and incorporated techniques to improve self-efficacy for weight loss and eating behavior among participants. The control group attended group meetings in which nutrition education was provided. Eating habits, self-efficacy, and weight were measured at program initiation and conclusion. Statistical analysis of data included Pearson's correlation, t-tests, and analysis of covariance. There was a significant relationship between change in self-efficacy and weight loss ( r = -.536, p < .01) and between change in self-efficacy and change in eating behavior (r = -.388, p < .05) for the treatment group, but not for the control group. The treatment group experienced greater improvement in eating behavior than the control group (p < .05), but groups did not differ for post self-efficacy scores or weight loss. The intervention to increase self-efficacy for eating behaviors and weight loss was more effective than education on healthy eating and weight loss techniques alone in improving eating behaviors in a south Louisiana college student population. Nutritionists and health educators targeting college students should consider incorporating techniques to improve self-efficacy in weight control programs.