The present study was a secondary data analysis of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to examine changes in depressive symptoms and eating-related cognitions in teens who participated in a nonclinic-based adolescent behavioral weight control treatment delivered by YMCA coaches. Differences in intervention effects were also examined by sex.
Adolescents (N = 66; 13–17 years; 60.6% girls) with overweight (10.6%) or obesity (53.0% with severe obesity) participated in an RCT comparing 2 versions of an evidence-based intervention. Adolescents completed measures of eating-related cognitions (Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire) and depressive symptoms (Children's Depressive Inventory-2) at baseline and end of active treatment (16 weeks).
There were no significant effects of group, time, or group by time interaction for depressive symptoms, global eating-related cognitions, dietary restraint, or eating concerns (ps > 0.05). Shape concerns (p = 0.04) and weight concerns (p = 0.02) significantly decreased over the intervention. Significant interactions between sex and time on global eating-related cognitions (p < 0.001), eating (p = 0.002), shape (p = 0.02), and weight concerns (p = 0.004) were detected such that female participants' scores decreased over the course of the treatment, but male participants' scores did not.
The results demonstrate some positive and no detrimental effects of a nonclinic-based behavioral weight control intervention on adolescents' eating-related cognitions and depressive symptoms. The findings may mitigate concerns that dissemination of structured, nonclinic-based weight management programs for adolescents will produce negative eating and mood outcomes; however, replication of results in larger trials is needed.