Dieting and "watching" behaviors among adolescent females: Report of a multimethod study

Mimi Nichter, Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Mark Nichter, Nancy Vuckovic, Mikel Aickin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study posits a distinction between "watching what you eat" and dieting behaviors in a sample of adolescent females. Findings suggest that the dichotomy of dieter/nondieter fails to capture a range of healthful behaviors practiced by many adolescent girls. Methods: Anthropologic and nutritional research methods were used in this study. Data were drawn from 1 year of a longitudinal study of food intake and dieting behaviors in a sample of 231 adolescent females. Multiple methods including one ethnographic interview, a survey questionnaire, a telephone interview, and food records were collected from each informant. Results: Although 44% of the girls in this sample reported trying to lose weight on the day of the survey, only 8.6% of the food records reflected dieting days. In interviews, many identified "watching what they eat" as a health-promoting strategy that allowed them to maintain their weight. Analysis of food record data confirmed a trend toward higher intakes of micronutrients. Conclusions: Research concerned with adolescent weight loss behaviors has focused more on negative than positive health attitudes and behaviors. The present study identified the behavior of "watching" as distinct from dieting. "Watching" was widely utilized by girls in this sample as a way to maintain weight and promote health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-162
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1995


  • Dieting
  • Nutrient intake
  • Qualitative methods
  • Weight control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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