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J Adolesc Health. 2007 Mar;40(3):245-51. Epub 2007 Jan 5.

Body image and self-esteem among adolescents undergoing an intervention targeting dietary and physical activity behaviors.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, USA.



To determine the effect of a one-year intervention targeting physical activity, sedentary, and diet behaviors among adolescents on self-reported body image and self-esteem. Health promotion interventions can lead to awareness of health risk and subsequent adoption of beneficial changes in behavior. However, it is possible that interventions targeting behaviors associated with childhood obesity may also increase the likelihood of unhealthy eating and physical activity obsessions and behaviors.


Body image and self-esteem were assessed for adolescents participating in the PACE+ study, a randomized controlled trial of a 1-year behavioral intervention targeting physical activity, sedentary, and dietary behaviors. The Body Dissatisfaction subscale of the Eating Disorder Inventory and Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale were used to assess body image and self-esteem, respectively, and measurements were performed at baseline, and at 6 and 12 months. Demographic characteristics and weight status of participants were also ascertained. Analysis of responses was performed via both between-group and within-group repeated measure analyses.


There were 657 adolescents who completed all measurements. Body image differences were found for age, gender, and weight status at baseline, whereas self-esteem differences were demonstrated for gender, ethnicity, and weight status. There were no intervention effects on body image or self-esteem for either girls or boys. Self-esteem and body satisfaction did not worsen as a result of participating in the PACE+ intervention for either boys or girls whether or not they lost or maintained their weight or gained weight. Girls assigned to the PACE intervention who experienced weight reduction or weight maintenance at either 6 or 12 months reported improvements in body image satisfaction (p = .02) over time compared with subjects who had experienced weight gain during the 12-month study period.


Adverse effects on body satisfaction and self-esteem were not observed among adolescents undergoing this behavioral intervention. These results suggest that a behavioral intervention directed at improving physical activity and diet habits may be safely undertaken by adolescents, including those who are overweight and at risk for overweight, without adverse psychological consequences. Inclusion of specific elements in the intervention that directly addressed body image and self-esteem issues may have reduced the risk for negative psychological effects.

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