Supporting weight management during COVID-19 (SWiM-C): Twelve-month follow-up of a randomised controlled trial of a web-based, ACT-based, guided self-help intervention

Julia Mueller, Rebecca Richards, Rebecca A. Jones, Fiona Whittle, Jennifer Woolston, Marie Stubbings, Stephen J. Sharp, Simon J. Griffin, Jennifer Bostock, Carly A. Hughes, Andrew J. Hill, Clare E. Boothby, Amy L. Ahern

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Objectives: We developed a guided self-help intervention (Supporting Weight Management during COVID-19, “SWiM-C”) to support adults with overweight or obesity in their weight management during the COVID-19 pandemic. This parallel, two-group trial (ISRCTN12107048) evaluated the effect of SWiM-C on weight and determinants of weight management over twelve months.

Methods: Participants (≥18 years, body-mass-index ≥25 kg/m2) were randomised to the SWiM-C intervention or to a standard advice group (unblinded). Participants completed online questionnaires at baseline, four months, and twelve months. The primary outcome was change in self-reported weight from baseline to twelve months; secondary outcomes were eating behaviour (uncontrolled eating, emotional eating, cognitive restraint of food intake), experiential avoidance, depression, anxiety, stress, wellbeing and physical activity.

Interventions: SWiM-C is based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Participants had access to an online web platform with 12 weekly modules and email and telephone contact with a trained, non-specialist coach. Standard advice was a leaflet on managing weight and mood during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results: 388 participants were randomised (SWiM-C: n = 192, standard advice: n = 196). The baseline-adjusted difference in weight change between SWiM-C (n = 119) and standard advice (n = 147) was −0.81 kg (95% CI: −2.24 to 0.61 kg). SWiM-C participants reported a reduction in experiential avoidance (−2.45 [scale:10–70], 95% CI: −4.75 to −0.15), uncontrolled eating (−3.36 [scale: 0–100], 95% CI: −5.66 to −1.06), and emotional eating (−4.14 [scale:0–100], 95% CI: −7.25 to −1.02) and an increase in physical activity (8.96 [MET-min/week], 95% CI: 0.29 to 17.62) compared to standard advice participants. We found no evidence of an effect on remaining outcomes. No adverse events/side effects were reported.

Conclusions: Whilst we were unable to conclude that the intervention had an effect on weight, SWiM-C improved eating behaviours, experiential avoidance and physical activity. Further refinement of the intervention is necessary to ensure meaningful effects on weight prior to implementation in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51–59
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Early online date11 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

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