"How-To" Guide

Which types of feedback best promote weight loss?



In our last entry, we discussed the invaluable elements of support and interaction for clients seeking weight loss. Feedback occurs where support and interaction intersect, and arms health professionals with the weaponry required to help clients achieve lasting weight loss. But not just any form of feedback will do.


You’ve been counseling John for 3 months. He generally sticks to the plan you’ve collaboratively set up for him, but as you browse through his food log, you notice that he deviated yesterday. How would you respond?

Option A

Option B

Do you think John is more likely to stick to his eating plan when he feels more or less intrinsically motivated and competent? It’s a no-brainer.


Option A


Option B


  • Option A could have been copied and pasted.
  • Option B makes it clear that the health professional actually saw the photo and is responding specifically to it.

Which do you think makes the client feel more seen and cared for? As you can see, offering positive reinforcement is great, but it’s not enough.

Feedback tailored to the client proves far more valuable and impactful than generalized feedback, regardless of whether it’s offered during an in-person session or via internet counseling. As noted in a review of the literature on computer-based nutrition education, tailored feedback is more likely to be read, remembered, and experienced as personally relevant than generalized feedback. Tailored nutrition education also appears to have a greater impact in motivating people to change their diet, their fat intake in particular.


Clients succeed or fail by the quality of feedback they receive. This makes intuitive sense, but is also confirmed in the literature. One paper reviewed studies using technology-based interventions for weight loss. The authors identified the five most crucial components for facilitating weight loss:

  1. Self-monitoring
  2. Counselor feedback and communication
  3. Social support
  4. Use of a structured program
  5. Use of an individually tailored program

Notice how two of the five pillars of a successful dietary intervention relate to personalizing a program and the feedback that acts as its lifeblood? Their importance can’t be overstated.

What tips or tricks do you use to help your clients feel seen and understood? What tools do you use and what guidelines do you follow to provide clients with effective feedback? Many of us implement motivational interviewing in our in-person practices, but how would you translate this into an app- or web-based interface?


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