Dieting Practices and Eating Behaviors of Elderly Women

L. A. Vaughan, K. A. Merrill

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    167 community dwelling elderly women (60-97y; X = 74y, SD = 8y) were interviewed to determine current and previous dieting practices, as well as current eating behaviors. The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) and the restraint subscale of the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire were used, not for diagnostic purposes, but for identification of dieting attitudes and behaviors in these elderly women. Selected anthropometric, dietary and demographic data were also obtained. Subjects were primarily Caucasian (86%); 11 % Hispanic; 4% other. Mean body mass index (BMI) was 27.6±.5.9 kg/m2; 49% of subjects had BMI > 27. Mean waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) was 0.84±0.07; 64% of subjects had WHR>0.80. Although 60% of subjects were unhappy with their present weight (on average, 7.7 kg (17 lb) above "goal weight"), only 33% felt pressured to maintain a certain weight. The mean score on the 21-item restraint subscale was 7.4. ±4.8 (range: 0-19), indicating a low level of congnitive dietary restraint among most of these subjects. Ten percent of subjects who completed the restraint subscale scored ≥.15, indicating a high degree of conscious restraint in this small subgroup. Approximately 50% of subjects currently limit junk food intake and 54% often or always purchase low/no fat versions of commercial foods. Frequency of dieting for weight loss, as measured on a scale from "never" to "very often", increased in these subjects from the second to fifth decade of life. Exercise was the most common approach for reaching or maintaining body weight (39%); fewer than 20% of subjects counted calories or reported current or prior use of specific diets such as low calorie, low fat or commercial diet plans. Fewer than 5% reported use of laxatives or purging as a weight control approach. In conclusion, this group of elderly women exhibited a high rate of abdominal obesity and, although frequently dissatisfied with their current weight, did not view themselves as actually dieting to lose weight. A majority had modified food purchasing and activity habits but most subjects were unlikely to have consciously restrained their eating habits in an effort to lose weight. Although unhealthy dieting practices and disordered eating behaviors are usually associated with young females, dietitians working with elderly female clients should assess the degree to which dieting practices and eating behaviors impact food choices and, potentially, nutrient intake.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)A58
    JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
    Issue number9 SUPPL.
    StatePublished - Sep 1 1995

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Food Science
    • Nutrition and Dietetics


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