Learn to Portion: Effects of a Nutrition and Behavioral Intervention on Adults Seeking Healthier Lifestyles

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences

First Advisor

Farzaneh Daghigh, PhD

Second Advisor

Michelle Lent, PhD

Third Advisor

Tracy Oliver, PhD, RDN, LDN


Obesity is a public health crisis that affects children and adults worldwide. In the United States, two-thirds of adults are considered to have overweight (body mass index or BMI 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2) or obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m2). Individuals with obesity are at risk for weight-related co-morbidities including, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol, and some cancers. Excess weight has been shown to have detrimental effects on physical health, behavioral health, and quality of life. The Learn to Portion (LP) study was a prospective, pilot cohort study with pre-post assessments. Baseline measurements of weight, BMI, waist circumference, percentage body fat, cholesterol levels, glucose and blood pressure were assessed at an initial intake visit. The program length was 20 weeks consisting of 10 weekly group sessions and 4 biweekly group sessions. Participants selected a health-related goal (e.g., physical fitness, weight loss, improvements in cholesterol, physical activity). Participants with a weight loss goal were encouraged to follow a reduced-calorie diet. Group lessons introduced nutrition topics, physical activity or behavior change strategy associated with achieving or maintaining a healthy weight. In addition to nutrition and physical activity, content also included information on mindfulness as well as portion control and its relationship to hunger, satiety, and long-term health. The primary study endpoint was level of nutrition education, with secondary outcomes of weight change, behavior change and improved metabolic functioning.

Data are presented for the third cohort of this program (November 2018 - April 2019, N = 12). Eight participants (66%) completed the final visit. Participants lost an average of - 8.6+5.9 lbs. by week 20. Participants also increased adoption of program target behaviors, monitoring food and beverage intake. Participants (n=7) reported they were very satisfied with the quality (n=6, 85%) and strategies (n=6, 85%) presented. Learn to Portion appeared to be effective in facilitating short-term modest weight loss. Weekly attendance, rather than increased facilitator contact, appeared to have greater influence on weight loss per week. Larger sample sizes and long-term follow-up are needed to assess the overall effectiveness of the program.

This document is currently not available here.