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

Int J Obes (Lond). 2023 Jan;47(1):51-59. doi: 10.1038/s41366-022-01232-x. Epub 2022 Nov 11.


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.

Trial registration number: ISRCTN 12107048.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy*
  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Pandemics
  • Swimming

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN12107048