Treatment of Overweight Adolescents

The University of Chicago is conducting a research study designed to examine two treatments for adolescent obesity.

  • You are eligible if you are a family with an adolescent (13-17 years old) who is overweight.
  • The study requires that the adolescent and his/her parents be interviewed, fill out questionnaires, and then be assigned to one of two possible treatments.
  • Both treatments consist of 16 sessions over a period of 24 weeks.

If you are interested and would like more information, please call us at 773-834-5677 or email

Aims of the Project

Rates of pediatric overweight (PO) among Americans are increasing and associated with significant psychological, social, quality of life, and health related outcomes. Because of the broad mental and physical health implications of PO and the difficulty in sustaining weight loss as an adult, it is of interest to find successful methods of weight loss and/or prevention of weight gain for obese children and adolescents. The family unit is a logical and empirically supported point of intervention for PO. Interventions on this level have shown good long term efficacy in young children, but there is very little research on adolescent family intervention. Within the eating disorder literature, there is growing support for the efficacy of family-based interventions (FBI) for adolescents. Given its trans-developmental applicability, focus on family as the unit of intervention, and utility in creating a healthy eating environment, FBI is a logical candidate for adaptation to intervene in PO as well as for adolescents at risk for becoming overweight. The focus of the current project is to test the feasibility and efficacy of an adapted FBI manual for overweight adolescents as well as adolescents that are at risk for becoming overweight, compared to a nutritional educational control (NEC). This study will be conducted in an outpatient eating and weight disorders clinic.


The primary participants will be females and males who are overweight. Each patient must be living with one parent or guardian who is willing to participate in treatment. Below are the criteria for the patient that must be met to be included in this treatment study.

Primary Subjects

  1. Age: 13-17
  2. Male or Female
  3. Medically stable
  4. A BMI percentile between 85% and 99.5% for gender and age (e.g., overweight or at risk for becoming overweight)


Parents must be willing to participate


Once the study has been explained to you and all your questions have been answered, you will be asked if you want to continue participating. If so, you and your child will be asked to come in to further discuss this study as well as fill out the necessary consent and assent forms. Additionally, at that time we will be conducting an interview and will ask you and your child to fill out some questionnaires to confirm that you meet the above inclusion criteria for participation.


You will stand an equal chance of being randomized (a process similar to flipping a coin) to one of two possible treatments:

Family-based Intervention: This treatment involves three parts, Phase I (sessions 1-6) focuses on eating patterns and lack of physical activity. The therapist encourages the parents to work together to find ways to improve their child’s eating habits and physical activity. In Phase II, (Sessions 6-9) the child is given more control over his or her eating. In Phase III, (Sessions 10-18) the focus of the treatment shifts from eating to normal development issues.

Nutritional Education Condition Treatment (NEC): This treatment involves receiving nutrition and physical activity education curriculum. Parents and their adolescents receive the same information regarding food and exercise choices. The education program will cover basic nutritional concepts such as the food guide pyramid, portion control, snacking, eating out, menu planning, and reduction of sweetened beverages. The physical activity component will focus on simple exercises that can be done at home such as walking, jump robe, and dancing. Although the content is the same, NEC will be delivered separately to the adolescents and parents within each session.

More Information

If you are interested and would like more information, please contact Kali Ludwig at773-834-5677 or email


Daniel le Grange, PhD of the Eating Disorders Clinic in the Department of Psychiatry at The University of Chicago.