Objective: To investigate the prevalence and predictors of weight maintenance over time in a large sample of young Australian women.
Design: This population study examined baseline and 4 y follow-up data from the cohort of young women participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.
Subjects: A total of 8726 young women aged 18-23 y at baseline.
Measures: Height, weight and body mass index (BMI); physical activity; time spent sitting; selected eating behaviours (eg dieting, disordered eating, takeaway food consumption); cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption; parity; and sociodemographic characteristics.
Results: Only 44% of the women reported their BMI at follow-up to be within 5% of their baseline BMI (maintainers); 41% had gained weight and 15% had lost weight. Weight maintainers were more likely to be in managerial or professional occupations; to have never married; to be currently studying; and not to be mothers. Controlling for sociodemographic factors, weight maintainers were more likely to be in a healthy weight range at baseline, and to report that they spent less time sitting, and consumed less takeaway food, than women who gained weight.
Conclusions: Fewer than half the young women in this community sample maintained their weight over this 4 y period in their early twenties. Findings of widespread weight gain, particularly among those already overweight, suggest that early adulthood, which is a time of significant life changes for many women, may be an important time for implementing strategies to promote maintenance of healthy weight. Strategies which encourage decreased sitting time and less takeaway food consumption may be effective for encouraging weight maintenance at this life stage.