Table 1

Content of the discussions at each focus group session

Session 1 (awareness)The group discussion addressed how unhealthy lifestyle habits predict risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as discussions on nutritional contents of different foods.
Session 2 (motivation/getting started)It focused on understanding the participant’s current dietary and physical activity habits. The action plan was introduced as a tool that helped to formulate goals for lifestyle change and to support motivation for implementing lifestyle change, that is, to write the personal goal and describing how a participant would reach it.
Session 3 (taking Action/maintaining the change)It was designed to get started by putting dietary change into an action plan, by stimulating motivation for dietary change and PA and further by discussing how to achieve the postulated goals. The session also included discussions on common cooking methods for Iraqi food and how to make dishes healthier, that is, consisting of less fat, sugar and more fibres.
Session 4 (cooking session)In the cooking session, participants were encouraged to bring the recipe of their favourite dish. This recipe was then modified by a professional chef at the cooking session to include healthier dishes including more fibres, less fat as well as less carbohydrates in the diet. The goal of this session was to highlight how cooking method, food preparation and portion size were vital components for effective lifestyle change.
Session 5 (relapse—maintaining the change)To follow-up the action plan, and to identify barriers to its implementation, as well as experiences regarding social support and family engagement towards the intervention. Facilitated rewrote action plan.
Session 6 (review and feedback)Participants had documented their everyday PA in a diary and this session included discussions on the final outcomes of lifestyle change, importance of maintaining lifestyle change, motivation to set new goals and discussions on external social support/network to reach those goals. The session also included feedback from the participants.
Session 7 (setting goals and self-empowerment)This session highlighted the importance of regularly setting new goals and reviewing these goals. This session also focused on empowering the participants and addressed how they had handled barriers and how they had evolved and reached their goals throughout the process.
  • PA, physical activity.