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Eating habits associated with body weight gain in female university students: A UK-based study of Slimming World members

Eleanor Sprake (Department of Oncology and Metabolism, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Jacquie Lavin (Slimming World, Alfreton, UK)
Peter Grabowski (Department of Oncology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Jean Russell (Department of Corporate Information and Computing, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Megan Featherstone (Slimming World, Alfreton, UK)
Margo Barker (Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 4 December 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore factors associated with body weight gain among British university students who were members of a slimming club.


Student members of a national commercial slimming programme completed an online survey about cooking ability, weight gain, eating habits and physical activity levels. Non-parametric statistical tests and regression analysis were employed to examine factors associated with weight gain.


The data set comprised 272 current students. The majority of students (67 per cent) reported weight gain between 3.2 and 12.7 kg during studying in university: 20.4 per cent reported to have gained >12.7 kg. Students commonly attributed their weight gain to academic stress and nearly all identified with needing support to learn to cook on a budget. Students reporting greatest weight gain had most frequent consumption of ready meals & convenience foods, take-away & fast foods and least frequent consumption of fruits & vegetables. Weight-stable students reported lowest consumption of alcohol and were most able to cook complex meals. Students who reported greatest weight gain reported lower physical activity levels. There were inter-correlations between cooking ability and lifestyle factors. In a multivariate model, low physical activity and frequent consumption of ready meals and convenience food independently predicted weight gain.

Weight gain was inversely associated with diet quality, cooking ability and physical activity with reliance on ready meals & convenience food and low physical activity particularly important. Prospective studies are needed to confirm these cross-sectional associations and to explore how the university setting may contribute to the effect.


The study adds additional perspective to understanding student weight gain at university in that it focuses on a body weight-conscious sub-group of the student population, as opposed to the general population of students.



Sprake, E., Lavin, J., Grabowski, P., Russell, J., Featherstone, M. and Barker, M. (2017), "Eating habits associated with body weight gain in female university students: A UK-based study of Slimming World members", British Food Journal, Vol. 119 No. 12, pp. 2571-2582.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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