Perceptions of Strategies for Successful Weight Loss in Persons With Serious Mental Illness Participating in a Behavioral Weight Loss Intervention: A Qualitative Study

Roza Vazin, Emma Beth McGinty, Faith Dickerson, Arlene Dalcin, Stacy Goldsholl, Meghan Oefinger Enriquez, Gerald J. Jerome, Joseph V. Gennusa, Gail L Daumit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe perceptions of weight loss strategies, benefits, and barriers among persons with serious mental illness who lost weight in the ACHIEVE behavioral weight loss intervention. Methods: Semistructured interviews with 20 ACHIEVE participants were conducted and analyzed using an inductive coding approach. Results: Participants perceived tailored exercise sessions, social support, and dietary strategies taught in ACHIEVE-such as reducing portion sizes and avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages-as useful weight loss strategies. Health benefits, improved physical appearance, self-efficacy, and enhanced ability to perform activities of daily living were commonly cited benefits of intervention participation and weight loss. Some participants reported challenges with giving up snack food and reducing portion sizes, and barriers to exercise related to medical conditions. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: There is emerging evidence that behavioral weight loss interventions can lead to clinically meaningful reductions in body weight among persons with serious mental illness. The perspective of persons with serious mental illness regarding strategies for, benefits of, and barriers to weight loss during participation in behavioral weight loss programs provide insight into which elements of multicomponent interventions such as ACHIEVE are most effective. The results of this study suggest that tailored exercise programs, social support, and emphasis on nonclinical benefits of intervention participation, such as improvements in self-efficacy and the ability to participate more actively in family and community activities, are promising facilitators of engagement and success in behavioral weight loss interventions for the population with serious mental illness. (PsycINFO Database Record

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychiatric Rehabilitation Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Apr 7 2016



  • Intervention
  • Qualitative
  • Serious mental illness
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)

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