ImpulsePal: a smartphone app-based intervention to help people manage impulsive in-the-moment eating


  • S. van Beurden
  • C. Greaves
  • J. Smith
  • C. Abraham
  • N. Lawrence


Background: Impulsive processes can often undermine peoples’ attempts to lose and maintain weight. The ImpulsePal app’ was developed using the Intervention Mapping protocol and provides impulse management strategies using smartphone technology. This study aimed to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention and of conducting a randomised controlled trial to assess its clinical effectiveness. Methods: A mixed-methods feasibility study using action research was conducted to refine the intervention in close collaboration with its intended users. Ninety individuals (BMI > 25kg/m2) with access to an Android-based device were recruited into a 2-arm study incorporating two cycles of action research. Participants were randomised (2:1) to either the intervention or a wait-list control group with measures including observed weight and self-reported food consumption taken at baseline, 1-month, and 3-month follow-up. Qualitative interviews were conducted at 1-month with intervention participants only. Results: Qualitative findings from the first round of action research suggest strong engagement for many people with the content and features of the app. Participants considered ImpulsePal a useful tool for in-the-moment support and felt more able to resist temptation knowing that support is accessible at any time if really needed. Reasons for disengagement, such as a lack of reminding to engage with particular intervention components, were also identified and further addressed in round 2. Conclusion: Addressing impulsive processes which drive behaviour on a moment-to-moment basis may be a promising direction for weight management. Feasibility and acceptability of the techniques used are reasonably good, with ideas for further improvement under feasibility testing.





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