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Weight loss strategies used by African American women: possible implications for tailored messages


D. C. S. James, Department of Health Education and Behavior, Room 5 Florida Gym, University of Florida, Gainesville, PO Box 118210, FL 32611-2034, USA.
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How to cite this article
James D. C. S. (2012) Weight loss strategies used by African American women: possible implications for tailored messages. J Hum Nutr Diet. 26, 71–77


Background:  African American women have the highest rates of obesity in the USA. They are less likely to participate in weight loss programmes and are less successful in their weight loss attempts. The present study aimed to identify weight loss strategies used by African American women and to determine whether those strategies varied by weight status. The study also examined the emotional issues that lead to compulsive overeating and identified the types of information that African American women need to help manage their weight.

Methods:  A self-administered survey was completed by 413 adult African American women in 2009. Participants were weighed and measured by a member of the research team.

Results:  Based on body mass index classification, 43% of women were obese, 25% were overweight, 30% were normal weight and 2% were underweight. Sixty percent had tried to lose weight in the past 12 months. Weight loss practices included: cutting back on fried foods (53%), cutting back on sweets (51%) and increasing physical activity, skipping meals (22%), fasting (17%), and using diet pills (7%). Obese women were significantly more likely to fast and use diet pills than overweight women (< 0.001). Obese women also were significantly more likely to say they wanted information on how to choose a weight loss programme (< 0.001), manage stress (< 0.001) and increase self-esteem (< 0.001).

Conclusions:  Our findings suggest that weight loss messages and programmes may need to be specifically developed for obese women compared to overweight and normal weight women who just need to ‘lose a few pounds’.