Weight-control behaviors and subsequent weight change among adolescents and young adult females

Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jan;91(1):147-53. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28321. Epub 2009 Nov 4.


Background: Little is known about the effectiveness of behavioral strategies to prevent long-term weight gain among adolescents and young adults.

Objective: The objective was to assess the relation of dietary and physical activity weight-control strategies, alone and together, with subsequent weight change.

Design: This was a prospective study of 4456 female adolescents and young adults aged 14-22 y in the ongoing Growing Up Today Study. Weight-control behaviors, including dietary approaches and physical activity, were self-reported in 2001 and were used to predict weight change from 2001 to 2005.

Results: In 2001-2002, 23.7% of female adolescents and young adults were trying to maintain their weight and another 54.4% were trying to lose weight. Approximately 25% used each of the following weight-control strategies: not eating snacks, following low-calorie or low-fat diets, and limiting portion sizes. In addition, 47.7% reported exercising at least occasionally for weight control. During 4 y of follow-up, participants gained an average of 3.3 kg. None of the dietary approaches to weight control predicted less weight change; however, females who exercised > or =5 d/wk gained significantly less weight than did their peers (-0.9 kg; 95% CI: -1.4, -0.4). The most successful strategy for weight-gain prevention among the females was to limit portion sizes (-1.9 kg; 95% CI: -2.6, -1.1) combined with frequent exercise.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that physical activity is a necessary strategy for long-term weight control among adolescents and young adult females. Combining dietary weight-control approaches with physical activity is the most effective method for reducing weight gain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior Control / methods*
  • Behavior Control / psychology*
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight*
  • Diet, Reducing / statistics & numerical data
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Gain / physiology
  • Weight Loss / physiology*
  • Young Adult