Weight loss dieting facts

  • Weight loss dieting research shows that: '1/3 to 2/3 of the weight is regained within one year, and almost all is regained within 5 years.'
  • For many adolescents, dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain.
  • Australian figures show that 92% of young women and 44% of middle aged women have dieted to lose weight at least once.  A second study showed that 47% of people had tried to lose weight in the 12 months before the survey; and importantly, of this group of dieters, 45% had tried to lose weight once, 43% between two and five times, and 12% had tried to lose weight six or more times.
  • Adolescent girls who diet only moderately, are 5 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who don't diet, and those who diet severely are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
  • Young Australian women who start dieting before the age of 15, are more likely to experience depression, binge eating, purging, and physical symptoms such as tiredness, low iron levels and menstrual irregularities.
  • The chances of an active Australian woman, (18 - 35 yrs) having the same weight, height, waist and hip measurements of a mannequin is 1.1%, and she has no chance at all of matching the measurements of Barbie.
  • 50% of primary school children wanted to weigh less according to a survey of pre-adolescent Sydney children.
  • 26-30% of boys want to be thinner.  However prevailing cultural values encourage many boys to desire increased size and muscle mass.
  • A Melbourne survey of 1800 teenagers found that nearly 20% of boys had dieted to lose weight.
  • The more strongly teenage girls want to be thin, the more likely they are to have nutritionally inadequate diets.
  • While teenagers recognise the importance of food in preventing future illness, they attach more importance to their current looks and energy levels.
  • Parents who are more controlling of their children's intake, have children who are less able to stop when they are satisfied, and so at a greater risk of becoming above their most healthy weight.
  • 42% of young women from different cultural backgrounds (European and Asian), who are already underweight, want to weigh even less.
  • Increasing numbers of men are saying they are not satisfied with their bodies.  It is their chest, abdomen and muscle tone that causes most of the problem.
  • 30% of 65-74 year old women have dieted in the last five years.  62% of these were at a normal weight.
  • Positive self esteem in older men and women is related to feeling healthy and fit more than weight.
  • Men are more likely than women to think that unsuccessful dieting is due to lack of effort.


  • 'Annals of Internal Medicine', vol.119, no.7 (part 2), Oct.1993, pp.764-70.
  • Field. A et al. 'Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents', 'Pediatrics', vol.112, no.4, October 2003, pp.900-906
  • Higgins L, Gray W.  What do anti-dieting programs achieve?  A review of the research.  Aust J Nutrition Dietetics, 1999;56(3): 128-36.  Paxton S, Sculthorpe A, Gibbons K.  Weight loss strategies and beliefs in high and low socioeconomic areas of Melbourne.  Aust J Public Health 1994;18: 412-427
  • Patton, G.C. et al (1999)  Onset of adolescent eating disorders: population based cohort study over 3 years.  British Medical Journal, 318: 765-768.
  • Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (1999).
  • Olds, T. and Norton, K. (1999)  How to become a supermodel: the anthropometric characteristics of ideal bodies.  School of Physical Education, Exercise and Sport Studies, University of South Australia.
  • Roncolato, W., Huon, G., Braganza, C., & Ritchie, J. (1998)  Nutritional knowledge, food-related and body-related attitudes among pre-adolescent children.  Aust J Nutr & Diet  55:4, 195-202.
  • Ricciardelli, L. (1999)  Body Image and Children.  Research Summary of Body Image and Health Inc.
  • Hill, M. et al (1997)  Relationship of dietary restraints and activity patterns to Body Mass Index in Melbourne primary and secondary school children: a preliminary study.  Aust J Nutr & Diet 54:3, 118-125.
  • Gibbons, K. et al (1995)  Nutrient intake of adolescents and its relationship to desire for thinness, weight loss behaviours and bulimic tendencies.  Aust J Nutr & Diet 52:2, 69-74.
  • Nowak, M. and Crawford, D. (1998)  Getting the message across: adolescents' health concerns and views about the importance of food.  Aust J Nutr & Diet 55: 1, 3-8.
  • Johnson and Birch (1994)  Parents' and Children's Adiposity and Eating Style.  Paediatrics, 94: 653-660.
  • O'Dea, J. (1998)  The body size preferences of underweight young women from different cultural backgrounds.  Aust J Nutr  & Diet  55:2, 75-79.
  • Fawkner, H. & McMuarry, N. (1999) Body Image in Men.  Research Summary of Body Image and Health Inc.
  • Allaz et al (1998)  Body weight pre-occupation in middle age and ageing women.  A general population survey.  Int J of Eat Disorders  32: 287-294.
  • Paxton, S.J. and Phythian, K. (1999)  Body Image, Self-Esteem and Health Status in Middle and Later Adulthood.  (In Press)
  • Campbell K. and Crawford, D. (1998)  Men's and women's dieting beliefs. Aust J Nutr & Diet 55 (3) 122-29.

Acknowledgement to Body Image and Health Inc.

< Back