Obesity is a major concern in the United States and Black Americans are among those with the highest rates of overweight, obesity, and related co- morbidities. While weight loss among Black women has been studied within the context of a faith-based setting, there is little information about the relationship between spirituality, or relationship with the transcendent, and self-efficacy in the achievement and maintenance of a healthy weight.


The purpose of this study was to analyze the relationships among spirituality, self-efficacy for physical activity and healthy eating, and body composition measures among Black women over the period of participation in an existing weight management program.


Participants were a convenience sample of 83 overweight or obese Black women (M age = 46, SD = 11.6) enrolled in one of five participating 7-week Curves for Women weight management classes offered in California. Spirituality was assessed at baseline, while self-efficacy, behavior, and body composition measurements were collected at baseline, 4 and 7 weeks.


Baseline self-efficacy was significantly positively correlated with spiritual experiences (r = .43, p < .001) and congregational support through love and care (r = .28, p = .02). Baseline self-efficacy and daily spiritual experiences independently explained end-of-program self-efficacy for physical activity (R2 = .53, β = .218, p = .03) and eating variables (R2 = .35, β = .270, p = .01), controlling for age. Self-efficacy to overcome exercise barriers (72.2 vs. 44.6, p < .001) and to continue exercise (87.8 vs. 61.7, p = .03) was was significantly higher among those who met physical activity recommendations during the program, indicating that self-efficacy was related to behavior.

Conclusion and Significance to Health Education

Interventions with a spiritual component that appeal to Black women for whom spirituality is important, have the potential to be more effective than basic weight management programs without such a component. This study supports the hypothesis that spirituality affects self-efficacy for exercise and eating behaviors, which may ultimately translate into more effective weight management outcomes. Further research is needed to test whether the addition of spirituality as a component of culturally sensitive health education and behavior change programs and practices involving Black women is effective in improving weight loss.


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Helen Hopp Marshak

Second Advisor

Patti Herring

Third Advisor

Brenda Rea

Fourth Advisor

Desiree Backman

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Obesity in women -- Prevention; Women, Black -- Psychology; African American women -- Religious life; Women and religion; Spirituality -- Comparative studies; Obesity -- Prevention and control; Obesity -- Ethnology; African-Americans; Body Weights and Measures -- Ethnology; African-Americans; Women's Health; Religion and Medicine



Page Count

x; 130

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives