Weight-loss strategies of South African female university students and comparison of weight management-related characteristics between dieters and non-dieters

Marjanne Senekal, Gabrielle L. Lasker, Lindsay Van Velden, Ria Laubscher, Norman J. Temple

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Female university students are at risk for weight gain and use of inappropriate weight-loss strategies. By gaining a greater understanding of the weight-loss strategies used by and weight management related characteristics of these students, effective weight management interventions for this vulnerable group can be developed. Methods: Two hundred and fifty female students from South Africa universities, aged 18-25 years, participated in this cross-sectional study; 162 attempted weight loss during the year preceding the study (dieters) and 88 were non-dieters. Weight and height were measured and BMI (kg/m2) computed. A self-administered questionnaire was used to record all other variables. Weight loss strategies were described for dieters and compared between BMI groups within the dieters group. Weight management related characteristics were compared between dieters and non-dieters. Statistical tests included Pearson Chi-square test, independent samples t-test or Mann-Whitney U test (depending on distribution of the data). Predictors for a higher BMI and being overweight/obese (BMI ≥25 kg/m2) were identified using regression models. Results: Healthy weight-loss strategies included increased exercise and fruit/vegetable intake and decreased intake of sugar and fat containing items; unhealthy methods included eating little food and skipping meals; and extreme weight loss strategies included laxatives and vomiting. The most commonly used weight-loss product was Herbex. Dieters were characterized by a higher BMI, overestimation of their weight (especially normal weight students), dissatisfaction with weight and select body parts, higher intake of breakfast and healthy foods, lower intake of unhealthy foods, higher levels of vigorous physical activity, higher use of select informal weight-loss information sources and experiencing more pressure to lose weight from mothers, siblings and friends. Predictors of higher BMI and/or increased risk for BMI ≥25 included weight-loss attempt during the past year, race, dissatisfaction with waist, perception of currently being "chubby," and higher frequencies of intake of a snack and fatty foods. Conclusion: Attempting weight-loss is common among female students and predicts BMI. Healthy (mainly), unhealthy and extreme weight loss methods are used. Dieters are characterized by a less realistic body image, lower body satisfaction, higher pressure to lose weight, use of informal weight-management information and a healthier life-style.

Original languageEnglish
Article number918
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep. 2016


  • BMI predictors
  • Female students
  • Weight management
  • Weight-loss pressure
  • Weight-loss strategies


Dive into the research topics of 'Weight-loss strategies of South African female university students and comparison of weight management-related characteristics between dieters and non-dieters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this