Objective: To explain, through mediation analyses, the mechanisms by which ATHENA (Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives), a primary prevention and health promotion intervention designed to deter unhealthy body shaping behaviors among female high school athletes, produced immediate changes in intentions for unhealthy weight loss and steroid/creatine use, and to examine the link to long-term follow-up intentions and behaviors.
Methods: In a randomized trial of 1668 athletes, intervention participants completed coach-led peer-facilitated sessions during their sport season. Participants provided pre-test, immediate post-test, and 9-month follow-up assessments.
Results: ATHENA decreased intentions for steroid/creatine use and intentions for unhealthy weight loss behaviors at post-test. These effects were most strongly mediated by social norms and self-efficacy for healthy eating. Low post-test intentions were maintained 9 months later and predicted subsequent behavior.
Conclusions: ATHENA successfully modified mediators that in turn related to athletic-enhancing substance use and unhealthy weight loss practices. Mediation analyses aid in the understanding of health promotion interventions and inform program development.