Prevalence and correlates of dieting in college women: a cross sectional study
Flavia Fayet,1 Peter Petocz,2 Samir Samman1
1Discipline of Nutrition and Metabolism, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney, 2Department of Statistics, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Background: Dieting is a common practice among young women, irrespective of age, race, ethnicity, and weight. We aimed to determine the prevalence of dieting and its relationship with eating behavior, body weight, and body mass index (BMI) in college women.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey of female students aged 18–35 years (n = 308). Measures included BMI, restraint, disinhibition, hunger, dieting, weight loss, and perceived weight.
Results: A high percentage of college females consider themselves overweight or obese, despite having a BMI in the normal range. Dieting was practised by 43%, and 32% were avoiding weight gain, despite 78% having a healthy BMI. Women classified themselves as overweight or obese (27%), while only 11% were actually in these categories. Exercise was a common method of weight loss and positive associations were observed between dieting and BMI. Assessment of eating behavior showed that 27% were classified as high-restraint. Restraint and disinhibition were positively correlated with BMI.
Conclusion: Despite the widespread availability of nutrition information, there is incongruity in measured and perceived BMI in young educated women. Dieting practices and BMI are associated with restraint and disinhibition. Nutrition professionals should consider educating college women about healthy body weight regardless of their clients’ BMI.
Keywords: body mass index, college women, dieting, eating behavior
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