Open Access Research

Behavior and weight correlates of weight-control efforts in Australian women living in disadvantage: The READI study

Robert W Jeffery1*, Gavin Abbott2, Kylie Ball2 and David Crawford2

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minnesota, USA

2 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:52  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-52

Published: 26 April 2013



With increasing obesity rates worldwide, more and more people are actively attempting to lose weight or avoid weight gain, but relatively little is known about what specific behaviors comprise these efforts and which, if any, are associated with better weight control over time.


This paper reports relationships between body weight, weight-control efforts and related behaviors over a three-year period in 1,634 Australian women. The women were purposefully recruited from 80 disadvantaged neighborhoods in Victoria, Australia. Weight loss efforts were categorized as trying to lose weight, trying to prevent weight gain and no weight-control efforts. Behavioral correlates examined included different kinds of physical activity and consumption of a number of specific foods types.

Results and discussion

Self-reported body weight at baseline was higher in women trying to lose weight. Frequency of consumption of low energy density foods was positively associated with reported weight-control efforts, as was frequency of reported total and leisure-time physical activity. Longitudinal associations between changes in weight-control efforts and changes in behaviors were consistent with the cross-sectional findings. At three-year follow up, however, weight-control efforts were not associated with change in body weight. More detailed analyses of specific food choices suggested that part of the explanation of no effect of reported weight-control efforts and weight over time might be that people are not as well-informed as they should be about the energy density of some common foods. In particular, those reporting engagement in weight-control efforts reported reducing consumption of carbohydrate-containing foods such as bread and potatoes more than is justified by their energy content, while they reported increasing consumption of some high energy density foods (e.g., cheese and nuts).


It is tentatively concluded that women living in disadvantaged neighborhoods understand messages about weight-control (more activity and foods with lower fat and lower energy density) but that some foods eaten more by women engaged in weight control may reduce the effectiveness of these efforts.

Intentional; Weight-control; Food; Activity; Choice; Weight; Change