Opinions from the experts: Experiences of adolescents with severe obesity participating in meal replacement therapy

Sarah Khayutin, Aaron S. Kelly, Claudia K. Fox, Justin R Ryder, Amy C. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Meal replacement therapy (MRT) is a structured treatment that is effective for short-term weight reduction in adolescents with severe obesity. However, like other interventions, MRT response is variable. Objective: The goal of the current study was to characterize the experience of adolescents with severe obesity participating in MRT. Methods: Seventeen adolescents with severe obesity participated in semi-structured, individual interviews about their experience participating in MRT. The authors used a biopsychosocial model as the theoretical framework and data was analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. A biopsychosocial model views an individual's health as a blend of biological characteristics, behavioural factors, and social conditions. Results: Results showed that adolescents with severe obesity described three biopsychosocial factors that were central to their experience with MRT: (1) scheduling and planning, (2) social support and pressure, and (3) intrapersonal factors. Specifically, adolescents with severe obesity identified that planning ahead, social support, and intrapersonal changes (e.g. self-confidence) can promote engagement in MRT. On the other hand, unplanned schedule changes, social pressures, and different intrapersonal factors (e.g., taste preference) can make engagement challenging. Conclusions: Adolescents provided information on factors that supported or hindered their engagement in MRT, and themes were consistent with prior literature on health behaviour change. Overall, adolescents would recommend MRT to other teenagers who carry extra weight. Future research can use the rich information provided by adolescents with severe obesity to enhance and individualize treatment options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12986
JournalPediatric Obesity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a “Vikings Grant” through the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Pediatric Obesity published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of World Obesity Federation.


  • adolescent
  • meal replacement
  • pediatric obesity
  • qualitative
  • severe obesity

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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