Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Health Kick: Promoting healthy eating in youth sport using an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy based intervention

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Lynn Darby (Other)

Third Advisor

Drwy Dworsky (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

William O'Brien (Committee Member)


Prior research has called into question the health benefit of participating in youth athletics for children. This two-part study identified the need for, developed and implemented, and assessed an ACT-based healthy eating intervention for parents of youth athletes ages 8-14. Participants of Study I (N = 29) responded to twelve Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) prompts, and indicated that youth athletes consumed significantly more fast food on game days than practice days (t(21) = 3.4, p = 0.002) or non-sport days (t(24) = 4.4, p < 0.001). Based on these results, fast food consumption on game days was targeted most centrally during the Study II intervention.

Participants of Study II (N = 31) attended an individual 1-hour ACT-based healthy eating intervention that included psychoeducation and experiential components incorporating defusion, values, and committed action. Theory of Planned Behavior measures were given before and immediately following the workshop, and at two month follow-up. Behavioral intention and perceived behavioral control to provide homemade meals and snacks on game days significantly increased from pre-workshop to immediate follow up (t(30) = 4.1, p < 0.001; t(30) = 2.2, p = 0.038), and was maintained at two-month follow up (t(24) = 3.3, p = 0.003; t(24) = 2.1, p = 0.05). Subjective norms about other’s views increased from pre-workshop levels to two-month follow up (t(24) = 2.3, p = 0.029), and attitudes shifted more positively immediately following the workshop (t(30) = 4.7, p < 0.001). Analysis using the SPSS PROCESS macro found significant effects of attitudes on intention (b = 0.8, SE = 0.3, p = 0.0097). Intention did not significantly predict fast food consumption on game days (b = -0.1, SE = 0.1, p > 0.05), but subjective norms had a significant direct effect on fast food consumption (b = 0.3, SE = 0.1, p = .0207). Indirect effects on fast food consumption through intention were not significant, thus the model does not support mediation. Consumption of fast food decreased somewhat from Study I to Study II (t(26) = 1.6, p = 0.123), but this change was not significant. Implications and future directions are discussed.