When you’re developing weight loss programs for niche populations, it may be important to understand the role that environment plays in successful outcomes.

One example comes from the Journal of Black Psychology (2012; 38 [1], 81–103). The study’s primary goal was to determine compliance among 55 overweight or obese African American women entering obesity treatment. For 13 weeks, 36 of the women were involved in a program held in churches; the other 19 attended a program in a university setting. Each woman was weighed and completed a physical fitness test. The participants were also placed into three stage-of-change (SOC) groups: contemplators (n = 31%), actors (n = 47%) and maintainers (n = 22%).

“Of the 45 women who reported post-treatment SOC, 7% regressed, 44% did not change and 31% progressed,” the study authors reported. They also noted that the setting could be a predictor of change. Their conclusion: “Pretreatment SOC predicted posttreatment weight loss in the church setting but not in the university setting. At churches, contemplators lost more weight than actors and maintainers. The church may be a more conducive setting for weight change behaviors for African American women who are categorized as contemplators in the SOC model.”