ImpulsePal: developing a smartphone app to manage food temptations using intervention mapping

Samantha Barbara van Beurden, Colin James Greaves, Natalia Sophie Lawrence, Charles Abraham, Jane Rebecca Smith

Research output: Other contribution


Background: Impulsive processes driving eating behaviour can often undermine peoples’ attempts to lose weight and maintain weight loss.

Objective: To develop an impulse management intervention to support weight loss in adults.

Methods: Intervention Mapping (IM) was used to systematically develop the “ImpulsePal” intervention. The development involved: 1) a needs assessment including a qualitative study, service user workshops, a systematic review of impulse modification techniques, and consultations with intervention design and delivery experts; 2) specification of performance objectives, determinants, and change objectives; 3) selection of intervention strategies (mapping of taxonomy-related change techniques to the determinants of change); 4) creation of programme materials; 5) specification of adoption and implementation plans; 6) devising an evaluation plan.

Results: Application of the IM Protocol resulted in a smartphone app-based intervention aimed at reducing unhealthy snacking, overeating, and alcoholic and sugary drink consumption. The app includes inhibition training, mindfulness techniques, implementation intentions (if-then planning), visuospatial loading, use of physical activity as a craving-management technique, and context-specific reminders. An “Emergency Button” was also included to provide access to in-the-moment support when temptation is strong.

Conclusions: ImpulsePal is a novel, theory- and evidence-informed, person-centred app to improve impulse management and promote healthier eating. Intervention Mapping ensured that all app components are practical operationalisations of change techniques that target our specific change objectives and their associated theoretical determinants. Using this approach enhances transparency, provides a clear framework for analysis and increases replicability as well as the potential of the intervention to accomplish the desired outcome of supporting weight loss.
Original languageEnglish
Typeunreviewed pre-print
Media of outputJMIR Preprints website
PublisherJMIR Publications
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

© The authors. All rights reserved. This is a privileged document currently under peer-review/community review (or an accepted/rejected manuscript). Authors have provided JMIR Publications with an exclusive license to publish this preprint on it's website for review and ahead-of-print citation purposes only. While the final peer-reviewed paper may be licensed under a cc-by license on publication, at this stage authors and publisher expressively prohibit redistribution of this draft paper other than for review purposes.


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