Weight Control Behavior and Women: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

By Walcott-McQuigg, Jacqueline A. | Journal of International Women's Studies, November 15, 2005 | Go to article overview

Weight Control Behavior and Women: A Cross-Cultural Perspective


Walcott-McQuigg, Jacqueline A., Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract (2)

The objective of this study was to seek directly from culturally diverse women information on their weight control behavior. Specific questions were: What types of weight control behavior are practiced by women? 2) What factors influence participation in weight control behavior? and 3) what are the cultural influences on women's motivation and ability to participate in weight control behavior? Face-to-face indepth interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 135 middle-income women (African American, Caucasian, Mexican American, Puerto Rican) in their homes, offices, and at other places in their neighborhoods. Additional data collection included measuring body weight and height. The lived experiences of weight control behavior were similar for culturally diverse women and many factors, including, cultural influences, affect women's ability and motivation to participate in weight control behavior. Conclusions suggest that weight control experiences of culturally diverse women need to be reflected in obesity risk reduction programs.

Keywords: African-American Women, Hispanic Women, Obesity, Weight Control

Introduction

Despite the proliferation of diet-related products and programs, rates of obesity increased dramatically over the last three decades (Flegal, Carrol, Kuczmarski, & Johnson, 1998; Mokdad, Bowman, Ford, Vinicor, Marks, Kaplan, 2001) in all races and age groups. In the United States, obesity and its associated morbidities cost over $100 billion annually and account for approximately 6.8% of direct health care costs (Rigby, Kumanyika, & James, 2004; Surgeon General, 2001). Although there has been an increase in studies exploring factors influencing weight control behavior of obesity in African-American and Caucasian women, few cross-cultural studies have explored factors influencing the behaviors among Mexican American and Puerto Rican women. The purpose of this article is to examine psychosocial factors influencing weight control behavior in culturally diverse women through a series of approximate replication studies. These studies were conducted with 135 middle-income women (68 African-American, 28 Caucasian, 22 Mexican-American, 17 Puerto Rican). Approximate replication involves repeating studies under similar conditions and methods (Bums & Grove, 2003). The intent was to explore cross-cultural similarities and differences in women's experiences with weight control behavior. Weight control behavior is defined as participation in activities that influence weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Weight control practices can include decreasing caloric and sugar intake, engaging in physical activity, taking special products such as diet pills and liquid supplements, or participating in an organized weight control program.

Previous Findings

Attempts to control weight are common in the U.S. population (Serdula, Mokdad, Williamson, Galuska, Mendlein, & Health, 1999). Women are more likely to participate in weight control behavior than men (Serdula, Williamson, Anda, Levy, Heaton, & Byers, 1994), and Caucasians more likely to participate than members of ethnic minority groups (Kumanyika, 1994). African-American and Caucasian women have consistently been found to differ in several domains related to weight control behavior. African-American women experience less social pressure about their weight, participate in dieting behavior later in life, and are significantly less likely than Caucasian women to diet during puberty, after pregnancy, and during menopause (Striegel-Moore, Wifley, Caldwell, Needham & Brownell, 1996). Other research has shown that African-American women are just as likely to attempt to lose weight as Caucasian and Hispanic women (Serdula, et al., 1994), not as likely to lose weight as Caucasian women (Williamson, Serdula, Anders, & Byers, 1991; Kumanyika, Obarzanek, Stevens, Herbert & Whelton, 1991; Williamson, 1993) and less likely than Caucasian or Hispanic women to maintain weight loss (Serdula, et al, 1994). …

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