Griffith University researchers have identified five key strategies to help young adults manage their weight.

“Australia is in the grip of an obesity epidemic and people are most likely to gain weight during their early 20s to mid-30s,” says PhD candidate Taylor Willmott, whose study has been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“But researching and engaging young adults in weight gain prevention interventions is particularly challenging.

“As traditional weight management programs such as face-to-face are not meeting young people’s needs, more are turning to digital technologies for help.”

Taylor, with colleagues from Griffith Business School, reviewed more than 1300 peer-reviewed articles on weight gain prevention interventions delivered via digital technologies to adults aged between 18-35.

Among the eight key studies reporting positive weight-related outcomes, they identified five key strategies that can help young adults manage their weight.

  1. Goal setting and self-monitoring (self-regulation)
    • Recording dietary and physical activity patterns and reviewing performance in line with previously set goals.
  2. Tailoring delivery of intervention content
    • Tailored content and messages elicit greater attention, enhance message processing, and are perceived as more likeable than a generic message.
  3. Contact with a trained coach or interventionist
    • Support from a coach who is seen as trustworthy, benevolent, and having expertise can enhance intervention outcomes.
  4. Social support
    • Social contacts and normative beliefs influence weight status and intentions for weight control in young adults. Online chat forums or social network sites are popular.
  5. Behavioural prompts (nudges and reminders) and booster messages
    • Booster emails, SMS text messages, and coaching calls may help promote behavioural maintenance over the long term.

“Young adults are notoriously difficult to reach, engage and retain in weight management programs and we need to do more to make sure they fell supported and have the necessary skills to make healthier lifestyle choices,’’ Taylor says.

“Digital technology (eHealth) offers a cost-effective way to support young adults in managing their weight and the five strategies we have identified can be used in future programs.”