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© 2020 Astbury et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Introduction The participants' experience of low-energy total diet replacement (TDR) programmes delivered by lay counsellors in the community for the routine treatment of obesity is currently unclear. We interviewed a sample of twelve participants who took part in the Doctor Referral of Overweight People to Low-Energy total diet replacement Treatment (DROPLET) trial and were randomised to the TDR programme. Methods We purposively sampled twelve patients who took part in the DROPLET trial, and conducted in-depth telephone interviews, which were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Interview questions focused on participants' experiences and perceptions of the TDR programme. We conducted a thematic analysis, actively developing themes from the data, and used the one sheet of paper (OSOP) technique to develop higher-level concepts. Results Nine key themes were identified; Reasons for taking part, Expectations, Support and guidance from the counsellor, Time to build a personal relationship, Following the TDR Programme, Adverse events, Outcomes from the TDR, Weight Loss Maintenance, Recommending TDR to others. The relationship between participants and the counsellor was central to many of the themes. Close relationships with counsellors facilitated TDR adherence through providing one-to-one support (including during difficult times), sharing expert knowledge, and building a close relationship. Adherence was also supported by the rapid weight loss that patients reported experiencing. Overall participants reported positive experiences of the TDR, and emphasised the positive impact on their wellbeing. Discussion Patients reported that a TDR programme delivered by lay counsellors in the community was a positive experience and effective in helping them to lose weight. Future trials should consider the central role of the person providing support and advice as a key component in the programme.

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