Patterns of weight control behavior persisting beyond young adulthood: Results from a 15-year longitudinal study

Ann F. Haynos, Melanie M. Wall, Chen Chen, Shirley B. Wang, Katie Loth, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

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32 Scopus citations


Objective: Dieting and unhealthy weight control behaviors have been associated with negative outcomes. Most research has examined the prevalence of these behaviors in adolescence and young adulthood. Less is known about whether they persist further into adulthood. We examined patterns of weight control behaviors beyond young adulthood using data from 1,455 males and females participating in Project EAT (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults), a 15-year population-based, longitudinal study. Method: Participants completed surveys assessing dieting, high-frequency dieting (i.e., 5+ times/year), unhealthy weight control (e.g., fasting), and extreme weight control (e.g., vomiting) at each 5-year assessment (Waves 1–4). Longitudinal logistic regression models tested trends in weight control behaviors across the waves. Likelihood of persisting or discontinuing each behavior from Wave 3 to Wave 4 was examined through cross tabulations. Results: Between Waves 3 and 4 in adulthood, dieting increased for both genders (Women: p <.001; Men: p =.004) and high-frequency dieting (p <.001) and unhealthy weight control behaviors (p =.011) increased for men. For both genders, dieting and unhealthy weight control patterns initiated in prior to young adulthood were more likely to persist than cease in adulthood (ps <.001). Discussion: Weight control behaviors continue to be prevalent in adulthood, and to especially increase among men. Research is needed to understand the consequences of weight control behaviors in different life stages; however, the results suggest that interventions to decrease unhealthy weight management practices may be needed well into adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1090-1097
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • dieting
  • disordered eating
  • eating disorder
  • longitudinal
  • restrictive eating
  • unhealthy weight control


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