Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Lauren Gellar

Committee Members

Hollie Raynor, Clea McNeely


Background: One-third of US undergraduate students are overweight or obese, and weight gain may occur during the college years. Thus, there is a need for weight loss interventions for college students. Innovative technology-based programs may be a promising strategy to promote weight loss. Weight management interventions incorporating technology have been implemented in US university settings, with varying degrees of success.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of a pilot technology-based weight loss program to reduce overweight and obesity among college students.

Methods: The pilot study investigated the effectiveness of a technology-based weight loss intervention on reducing body mass index (BMI) among college students. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: (1) an 8-week technology-based weight loss program or (2) an 8-week email education program. A mixed methods approach, including online surveys and focus groups, was employed to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the pilot study. Feasibility was measured through recruitment and retention data and participant engagement.

Results: Twenty undergraduate students (90% female, age 20.4 ± 1.4 years, BMI 32.1 ± 4.6 kg/m2) participated in the study. The retention rate for the study was 95%, with 90% of the intervention group and 100% of the control group completing the 8-week assessments. The technology-based program was acceptable to the students. In addition, over half the respondents in the intervention group indicated that text messaging was most helpful as well as the website, exercise videos, nutrition facts, and smartphone applications. There were mixed responses about the forum, which was underutilized. Participants in the intervention group expressed a desire for additional accountability, support, and motivation and suggested using Skype group chats and mobile accessibility to further facilitate interaction among group members.

Conclusion: Technology-based weight loss interventions, which include a central peer support component and mobile accessibility, are a promising strategy for recruiting, retaining, and engaging overweight and obese college students. Further research is needed to enhance the development of effective technology-based programs for students.

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