The effects of a web-based computer-tailored diet and physical activity intervention based on self-determination theory and motivational interviewing: A randomized controlled trial

Juul M J Coumans, Catherine A W Bolman, Anke Oenema, Lilian Lechner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


According to self-determination theory (SDT), autonomous forms of motivation are more likely to result in sustained behavioral changes than controlled forms. Principles of motivational interviewing (MI) can be applied to facilitate more autonomous forms of motivation. This study investigated whether a combined diet and physical activity (PA) web-based computer-tailored intervention based on SDT and MI, called MyLifestyleCoach, was effective in promoting dietary and PA behaviors.

A two-arm randomized controlled trial with 1142 Dutch adults was conducted. The intervention and control group completed questionnaires at baseline, 6, and 12 months from baseline. Only participants in the intervention condition had access to MyLifestyleCoach. The waiting list control condition had access to the intervention after completing the 12-month follow-up questionnaire. A modified food frequency questionnaire was used to measure dietary behaviors (fruit, vegetables, fish, and unhealthy snacks). The Dutch Short Questionnaire to ASsess Health was used to measure the weekly minutes of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA). Usage data, which is operationalized as completed sessions in this study, was objectively assessed by log data. We conducted two-step linear mixed effect models. In the first step, a model consisting of condition, time, potentially confounding variables and a random intercept for participants was tested. In the second step, an interaction term was added to investigate the intervention's (time × condition) and usage (time × opening session and time × completed sessions) effects over time for the dietary and PA outcomes.

The findings showed no differences between the groups for all four dietary behaviors and the weekly minutes of MVPA at any of the time points. In-depth analyses showed that participants who followed the opening session of the intervention, in which they received personalized feedback on their behaviors, had a stronger increase in fruit consumption at 6 months and 12 months than participants who did not follow the interventions' opening session. Lastly, participants who followed more sessions in the diet module had a stronger increase in fruit and vegetable consumption at 6 months, and a stronger decrease in the consumption frequency of unhealthy snacks at 12 months post-baseline.

Overall, the intervention was not effective in changing dietary and PA behavior. However, moderation analyses suggest that the intervention is effective in changing dietary behavior for those participants who used the intervention more intensively. Further research should focus on improving intervention use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100537
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages13
JournalInternet Interventions
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2022


  • Diet
  • Effectiveness
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Physical activity
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Self-determination theory
  • eHealth


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