Zhen Xu

Zhen's Research Interests

Zhen Xu is a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University in Clinical Psychology. She is currently in her fifth year of doctoral studies. Her research interests focus on health behaviour. Specifically, she is interested in emotional and cognitive determinants of health, as well as health behaviour interventions that help individuals achieve greater psychological well-being and improved physical health. 

Currently, her research projects aim to examine the quality of implementation intentions (if-then plans of when, where, and how to carry out an action) that facilitate the formation of healthier eating and physical activity habits in overweight individuals. She is interested in examining how habit strength of eating and physical activity behaviours influences one’s weight loss, calorie consumption, amount of physical activity, specific eating and exercising cue awareness, self-efficacy, as well as people's natural ability to pay attention to internal and external cues (i.e. how aware someone is in general) in the overweight/obese population. Additional projects focus on personality factors that may play a role in habit formation and weight loss.

Picture Zhen

 

Zhen Xu       
PhD Candidate       
zhen.xu [at] mail.mgill.ca     

 

  

Education

  • 2013 - present | Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec.
  • 2007 - 2012 | Honours Bachelor of Science with Specialization in Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario.

Publications

  • Xu, Z., Rice, D. B., & Sigman, M. (Preparing for submission). Requesting a compulsory treatment order: Psychology's view from the witness stand.
  • Knäuper, B., Carrière, K., Chamandy, M., Xu, Z., Schwarz, N., & Rosen, N. (2016). How aging affects self-reports. European Journal of Ageing, p. 1-9.
  • Xu, Z., Chamandy, M., Ivanova, E., Grover, S., Lowensteyn, I., Luszczynska, A., & Knäuper, B. (2014, August). Preliminary Results from the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Study [Abstract]. Obesity Surgery, 24:8.
  • Knäuper, B., Ivanova, E., Xu, Z., Chamandy, M., , Lowensteyn, I., Joseph, L., Luszczynska, A., & Grover, S. (2014). Increasing the effectiveness of the Diabetes Prevention Program through if-then plans: Study protocol for the randomized controlled trial of the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Program. BMC Public Health, 14:470.
  • Ivanova, E. L., Xu, Z., Jin, E., Grover, S., Lowensteyn, I., Joseph, L., Luszczynska, A., & Knäuper, B. (2013, May). Increasing the effectiveness of the Diabetes Prevention Program through if-then plans and mental practice: Study protocol for a parallel randomized controlled trial [Abstract]. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 2, 27.

Encyclopedia entry

  • Xu, Z. & Knäuper, B. (2017). Retrospective reports. In A. Wenzel (Ed.), The sage encyclopedia of abnormal and clinical psychology (Vol. 7, pp. 2885-2886). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Conference abstract

  • Xu, Z., Chamandy, M., Ivanova, E., Grover, S., Lowensteyn, I., Luszczynska, A., & Knäuper, B. (2014, August). Preliminary Results from the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Study [Abstract]. Obesity Surgery, 24:8.
  • Ivanova, E. L., Xu, Z., Jin, E., Grover, S., Lowensteyn, I., Joseph, L., Luszczynska, A., & Knäuper, B. (2013, May). Increasing the effectiveness of the Diabetes Prevention Program through if-then plans and mental practice: Study protocol for a parallel randomized controlled trial [Abstract]. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 2:27.
  • Gaudreau, P., Sayeed, S., Morinville, A., Xu. Z., Franche, V., & Gareau, A. (2012, June). A review of the achievement-related variables measured in the sport domain: Toward a multi-faceted conceptual framework [Abstract]. Canadian Psychology, 53:2a.

Conference Presentations

  • Islam, F., Xu, Z., Ames-Bull, A., Carrière, K., Voloshyn, A., Sasson, M., Chamandy, M., Ivanova, E., & Knäuper, B. (2017, November). Action planning for losing weight: Number and specificity of physical-activity plans for weight loss. To be presented at the 10th European Public Health Conference, Stockholmsmässan, Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Xu, Z., Islam, F., Ames-Bull, A., Sadikaj, G., Knäuper, B., & the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Program Investigators. (2017, June). If-then plans predicting weight loss: Exploring physical activity increase as a potential mediator. GIMME-5 oral presentation at the Canadian Psychological Association Annual Convention, Toronto, Ontario.
  • Xu, Z., Saint-Martin, A.*, Sadikaj, G., Knäuper, B., & the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Program Investigators. (2017, June). Long-term effectiveness of food-related if-then plans for weight loss and maintenance. Poster presented at the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Annual Meeting, Victoria, British Columbia.
  • Xu, Z., Islam, F.*, Sadikaj, G., Ames-Bull, A., Carrière, K., Voloshyn, A., Sasson, M., Chamandy, M., Luszczynska, A., Lowensteyn, I., & Knäuper, B. (2016, Octorber). How specificity of physical activity related if-then plans predict weight loss in the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Program. Poster presentation at the Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology (SCAPPS) Annual Conference, Waterloo, Ontario.
  • Islam, F., Xu, Z., Ames-Bull, A., Carrière, K., Voloshyn, A., Ivanova, E., Sasson, M., Chamandy, M., Knäuper, B. (2016, October). The Influence of Different Types of Daily Life Physical Activity If-Then Plans on 3-, 12-, and 24-month Weight Loss Success in a Behavioural Weight Loss Program. Paper or poster to be presented at the Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology (SCAPPS) Annual Conference, Waterloo, Ontario.
  • Xu, Z., Islam, F., Sadikaj, G., Knäuper, B., & the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Program Investigators (2016, October). Do people need to hit the gym to lose weight? The effect of daily life physical activity versus gym-related physical activity if-then plans on weight loss success. Poster or oral presentation at the Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology (SCAPPS) Annual Conference, Waterloo, Ontario.
  • Islam, F., Xu, Z., Ames-Bull, A., Carrière, K., Voloshyn, A., Ivanova, E., Sasson, M., Chamandy, M., & Knäuper, B. (2016, March). Can weight loss be achieved without hitting the gym? The effectiveness of structured vs. daily life physical activity plans. 15th Annual Education Graduate Students Conference, Montreal, Quebec. 
  • *Islam, F., Xu, Z., *Sasson, M., Chamandy, M., Ivanova, E., *Voloshyn, A., Rogers, V., Carrière, K., Ames-Bull, A., Knäuper, B. (2015, October). Effects of the Quality of Implementation Intentions for Physical Activity on Achieving Weight Loss. Poster presentation at the Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology (SCAPPS) Annual Conference, Edmonton, Alberta.
  • Chamandy, M., *Sasson, M., Ivanova, E., Rogers, V., Xu, Z., & Knäuper, B. (2015, March). Examining the Quality of If-Then Plans and their Relation to Hours of Sedentary Behavior. Oral presentation at the 19th Annual Eastern Canada Sport and Exercise Psychology Symposium (ECSEPS), Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Xu, Z., Chamandy, M., Ivanova, E., Grover, S., Lowensteyn, I., Joseph, L., Luszczynska, A., & Knäuper, B. (August 2014). Preliminary Results from the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Study. Poster presented at the 19th World Congress of International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity & Metabolic Disorders (IFSO), Montreal, Canada.
  • Ivanova, E., Xu, Z., Jin, E., Grover, S., Lowensteyn, I., Joseph, L., Luszczynska, A., & Knäuper, B. (2013, May). Increasing the effectiveness of the Diabetes Prevention Program through if-then plans and mental practice: Study protocol for a parallel randomized controlled trial. Poster presented at the 3rd Canadian Obesity Summit, Vancouver, Canada.
  • Gaudreau, P., Sayeed, S., Morinville, A., Xu. Z., Franche, V., & Gareau, A. (2012, June). A review of the achievement-related variables measured in the sport domain: Toward a multi-faceted conceptual framework. Keynote address at the Annual Canadian Psychological Association Convention, Halifax, Canada.
  • Xu, Z., & Gaudreau, P. (2012, April). The roles of goal attainment and relationship quality in the 2 x 2 model of dispositional perfectionism in dyadic sports. Poster presented at the 42nd Ontario Undergraduate Psychology Thesis Conference, Toronto, Canada.
  • Xu, Z., & Gaudreau, P. (2012, March). The roles of goal attainment and relationship quality in the 2 x 2 model of dispositional perfectionism in dyadic sports. Poster presented at the University of Ottawa Annual Honours Thesis Conference, Ottawa, Canada.

Projects

  • Increasing the effectiveness of the Diabetes Prevention Program

Funding: CIHR

Current Project:

A randomized controlled trial (RCT) that compares two lifestyle change interventions, we are teaching participants to make if-then plans (concrete plans of when, where and how to perform the new habit, Gollwitzer, 1993; 1999) to improve their eating and exercising behaviours. The goal of this project is to examine how the quality of the if-then plans that participants formed is related to how much weight they lose over the 12-week program. A coding scheme that captures the quality of the if-then plans related to eating behaviours (e.g. concreteness, feasibility, linguistic structure) was developed. Subsequently, statistical analyses have been performed to relate the codes to the weight loss that participants achieved over the first 12 weeks in the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Program to determine whether better quality if-then plans are related to greater weight loss. 

We are also working on improving our coding scheme for the if-then plans related to physical activity behaviours and performing statistical analyses to relate the codes to the weight loss that participants achieved over the first 12 weeks as well as over the full year of the study. 

Knäuper, B., Ivanova, E., Xu, Z., Chamandy, M., , Lowensteyn, I., Joseph, L., Luszczynska, A., & Grover, S. (2014). Increasing the effectiveness of the Diabetes Prevention Program through if-then plans: Study protocol for the randomized controlled trial of the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Program. BMC Public Health, 14:470.

Long-Term Project:

Extensive research has shown that if-then plans help with habit formation because they raise people’s awareness of the cues that signal them to act in the pre-planned way. For example, the cue of seeing the scale in the bathroom reminds people to do what they had planned to do when seeing the scale, namely to weigh themselves. If people are taught to form if-then plans, then they should become more aware of the external, emotional, cognitive and sensual cues to which they are taught to pay attention to in the McGill CHIP Healthy Weight Program. This project examines whether specific eating and exercising cue awareness and general awareness (how aware people are in general) can influence the relationship between eating/exercising behaviours and increases in strength of newly formed healthy eating/exercising habits. We will also examine how habit strength may potentially mediate the relationship between condition (experimental vs control) and eating/exercising habits.

Funding

  • 2015 - 2018 | Fonds de recherche Santé Québec (FRSQ)
    Programme de bourses de formation doctoral (Doctoral Scholarship), Government of Quebec, $60,000
  • 2014 - 2015 | Frederick Banting and Charles Best CGS Master’s Award: $17,500
    Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
  • 2014 - 2016 | Fonds de recherche Santé Québec (FRSQ)
    Programme de bourses de formation de maîtrise (Master's scholarship), Government of Quebec, $30,000  *Declined in favour of CIHR award