Research Brief| Volume 44, ISSUE 6, P604-608, November 2012

Download started.


Undergrad and Overweight: An Online Behavioral Weight Management Program for College Students



      Explore the feasibility of an online behavioral weight management program for college students.


      The program focused on behavioral strategies to modify eating and exercise behaviors of students interested in losing weight and/or developing a healthy lifestyle. Specific tools included weekly chat meetings with a facilitator, calorie and fat gram recommendations, daily food logs, and exercise guidance.


      Three hundred thirty-six students participated from 2 northeastern universities. Overweight/obese students wanting to lose weight had a mean body mass index of 30.6 kg/m2 at baseline and lost an average of 5.1 ± 6.0 lbs. Those of healthy weight wanting to lose weight had a mean body mass index of 22.0 kg/m2 at baseline and lost an average of 1.8 ± 3.2 lbs. Twenty-three percent of students lost > 5% of their baseline weight.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Use of an online behavioral weight management program may be a feasible way to help college students develop healthy eating and exercise behaviors.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access

      SNEB Member Login

      SNEB Members, full access to the journal is a member benefit. Login via the SNEB Website to access all journal content and features.


      Subscribe to Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • American College Health Association
        American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2010.
        American College Health Association, Linthicum, MD2011
        • Wengreen H.
        • Moncur C.
        Change in diet, physical activity, and body weight among young adults during the transition from high school to college.
        Nutr J. 2009; 8 (Accessed June 25, 2012): 32
        • Hoffman D.
        • Policastro P.
        • Quick V.
        • Lee S.
        Changes in body weight and fat mass of men and women in the first year of college: a study of the “freshman 15”.
        J Am Coll Health. 2006; 55: 41-46
        • Jung M.
        • Bray S.
        • Ginis K.
        Behavior change and the freshman 15: tracking physical activity and dietary patterns in 1st-year university women.
        J Am Coll Health. 2008; 56: 523-530
        • Lloyd-Richardson E.
        • Bailey S.
        • Fava J.
        • Wing R.
        A prospective study of weight gain during the college freshman and sophomore years.
        Prev Med. 2009; 48: 256-261
        • Gropper S.
        • Simmons K.
        • Gaines A.
        • et al.
        The freshman 15—a closer look.
        J Am Coll Health. 2009; 58: 223-231
        • Kasparek D.
        • Corwin S.
        • Valois R.
        • Sargent R.
        • Morris R.
        Selected health behaviors that influence college freshman weight change.
        J Am Coll Health. 2007; 56: 437-444
        • Levitsky D.
        • Halbmaier C.
        • Mrdjenovic G.
        The freshman weight gain: a model for the study of the epidemic of obesity.
        Int J Obesity. 2004; 28: 1435-1442
        • Hovell C.
        Risk of excess weight gain in university women: a three-year community controlled analysis.
        Addict Behav. 1985; 10: 15-28
        • Vella-Zarb R.
        • Elgar F.
        The Freshman 15: a meta-analysis of weight gain in the freshman year of college.
        J Am Coll Health. 2009; 58: 161-166
        • Racette S.
        • Deusinger S.
        • Strube M.
        • Highstein G.
        • Deusinger R.
        Changes in weight and health behaviors from freshman through senior year of college.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2008; 40: 39-42
        • Dietz W.
        Health consequences of obesity in youth: childhood predictors of adult disease.
        Pediatrics. 1998; 101: 518-525
        • Krebs N.
        • Himes J.
        • Jacobson D.
        • Nicklas T.
        • Guilday P.
        • Styne D.
        Assessment of child and adolescent overweight and obesity.
        Pediatrics. 2007; 120: S193-S228
        • Deshmukh-Taskar P.
        • Nicklas T.A.
        • Morales M.
        • Yang S.J.
        • Zakeri I.
        • Berenson G.S.
        Tracking of overweight status from childhood to young adulthood: The Bogalusa Heart Study.
        Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005; 60: 48-57
        • Ferraro K.F.
        • Thorpe Jr., R.J.
        • Wilkinson J.A.
        The life course of severe obesity: does childhood overweight matter?.
        J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2003; 58: S110-S119
        • Kozak A.T.
        • Daviglus M.L.
        • Chan C.
        • Kiefe C.I.
        • Jacobs D.R.
        • Liu K.
        Relationship of body mass index in young adulthood and health-related quality of life two decades later: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study.
        Int J Obes. 2011; 35: 134-141
        • Nelson M.
        • Kocos R.
        • Lytle L.
        • Perry C.
        Understanding the perceived determinants of weight-related behaviors in late adolescence: a qualitative analysis among college youth.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009; 41: 287-292
        • Greaney M.
        • Less F.
        • White A.
        • et al.
        College students' barriers and enablers for healthful weight management: a qualitative study.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009; 41: 281-286
        • Chock T.M.
        The influence of body mass index, sex, and race on college students' optimistic bias for lifestyle healthfulness.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2011; 43: 331-338
        • Fish C.
        • Nies M.A.
        Health promotion needs of students in a college environment.
        Public Health Nurs. 1996; 13: 104-111
        • Poobalan A.S.
        • Aucott L.S.
        • Precious E.
        • Crombie I.K.
        • Smith W.C.S.
        Weight loss interventions in young people (18 to 25 year olds): a systematic review.
        Obes Rev. 2010; 11: 580-592
        • Gokee-LaRose J.
        • Gorin A.
        • Raynor H.
        • et al.
        Are standard behavioral weight loss programs effective for young adults.
        Int J Obes. 2009; 33: 1374-1380
        • Saperstein S.L.
        • Atkinson N.L.
        • Gold R.S.
        The impact of Internet use for weight loss.
        Obesity Rev. 2007; 8: 459-465
        • Kodama S.
        • Saito K.
        • Tanaka S.
        • et al.
        Effect of Web-based lifestyle modification on weight control: a meta-analysis.
        Int J Obesity (Lond). 2012; 36: 675-685
        • Krukowski R.
        • Harvey-Berino J.
        • Ashikaga T.
        • Thomas C.S.
        • Micco N.
        Internet-based weight control: the relationship between web features and weight loss.
        Telemed J E Health. 2008; 14: 775-782
        • Bandura A.
        Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory.
        Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ1986
        • Wadden T.A.
        • West D.S.
        • Delahanty L.M.
        • et al.
        The Look AHEAD study: a description of the lifestyle intervention and the evidence supporting it.
        Obesity. 2006; 14: 737-752
        • West D.S.
        • Gore S.A.
        • Kelley N.
        Behavioral obesity treatment translated.
        in: Latner J. Wilson G.T. Self-Help for Obesity and Binge Eating. Guilford Press, New York, NY2007
        • Gow R.
        • Trace S.
        • Mazzeo S.
        Preventing weight gain in first year college students: an online intervention to prevent the “freshman fifteen”.
        Eat Behav. 2010; 11: 33-39
        • Matvienko O.
        • Lewis D.
        • Schafer E.
        A college nutrition science course as an intervention to prevent weight gain in female college freshmen.
        J Nutr Educ. 2001; 33: 95-101
        • Clifford D.
        • Anderson J.
        • Auld G.
        • Champ J.
        Good Grubbin': impact of a TV cooking show for college students living off campus.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009; 41: 194-200
        • Harvey-Berino J.
        • West D.
        • Krukowski R.
        • et al.
        Internet delivered behavioral obesity treatment.
        Prev Med. 2010; 51: 123-128
        • Hudiburgh N.
        A multidisciplinary approach to weight control.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 1984; 84: 447-450
        • Donnelly J.
        • Hill J.
        • Jacobsen D.
        • et al.
        Effects of a 16-month randomized controlled exercise trial on body weight and composition in young, overweight men and women: the Midwest Exercise Trial.
        Arch Intern Med. 2003; 163: 1343-1350
        • O'Dea J.
        School-based interventions to prevent eating problems: first do no harm.
        Eat Disord. 2000; 8: 123-130
        • Hivert M.
        • Langlois M.
        • Berard P.
        • Cuerrier J.
        • Carpentier A.
        Prevention of weight gain in young adults through a seminar-based intervention program.
        Int J Obes. 2007; 31: 1262-1269
        • Levitsky D.A.
        • Garay J.
        • Nausbaum M.
        • Neighbors L.
        • DellaValle D.M.
        Monitoring weight daily blocks the freshman weight gain: a model for combating the epidemic of obesity.
        Int J Obes. 2006; 30: 1003-1010
        • Quintiliani L.M.
        • De Jesus M.
        • Wallington S.F.
        The impact of student diversity on interest, design, and promotion of Web-based tailored nutrition and physical activity programs for community colleges.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2011; 43: 379-384
        • Harvey-Berino J.
        • Krukowski R.A.
        • Buzzell P.
        • Ogden D.
        • Skelly J.
        • West D.S.
        The accuracy of weight reported in a web based obesity treatment program.
        Telemed J E Health. 2011; 17: 696-699