We conducted a systematic review of qualitative studies to examine the strategies people employ as part of self-directed weight loss attempts, map these to an existing behaviour change taxonomy and explore attitudes and beliefs surrounding these strategies.Seven electronic databases were searched in December 2015 for qualitative studies in overweight and obese adults attempting to lose weight through behaviour change. We were interested in strategies used by participants in self-directed efforts to lose weight. Two reviewers extracted data from included studies. Thematic and narrative synthesis techniques were used.Thirty one studies, representing over 1,000 participants, were included. Quality of the included studies was mixed. The most commonly covered types of strategies were restrictions, self-monitoring, scheduling, professional support and weight management aids. With the exception of scheduling, for which participant experiences were predominantly positive, participants' attitudes and beliefs surrounding implementation of these groups of strategies were mixed. Two new groups of strategies were added to the existing taxonomy: reframing and self-experimentation.This review demonstrates that at present, interventions targeting individuals engaged in self-management of weight do not necessarily reflect lived experiences of self-directed weight loss.

Original publication




Journal article


Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity

Publication Date





335 - 349


Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


Humans, Obesity, Weight Loss, Self Care, Cognition, Overweight