Background

Individuals seeking bariatric surgery are commonly required to demonstrate other, unsuccessful weight loss attempts. Chronic dieting may increase risk for additional weight gain and future difficulty losing excess weight. Dieting history, and gender differences in particular, are understudied in the bariatric literature, despite potential implications for weight loss maintenance.

Methods

This study explored self-reported dieting history among 516 bariatric surgery patients (Mage = 43; 81% female). Given that men tend to view dieting as “feminine,” it was hypothesized that women would report more extensive dieting histories.

Results

As hypothesized, women reported becoming concerned with weight at a significantly younger age (Mwomen = 18.66; Mmen = 24.17), p <.001, and started dieting at a younger age than men (Mwomen = 18.02; Mmen = 21.18), p =.031. Women also reported significantly more lifetime diet attempts (Mwomen = 3.76; Mmen =2.82), p < .001, and endorsed a broader range of diets (e.g., Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, SlimFast, medications, etc.) than men. There were no gender differences observed for less “feminine” dieting approaches (e.g., Atkins, dietician/physician supervised weight loss). Controlling for age at first weight concern and age at first diet attempt, gender was a significant predictor of lifetime dieting attempts (β = .89, p = .003). Dieting history, however, did not predict weight change over the first post-operative year (all ps > .05).

Conclusions

Consistent with the broader dieting literature, results suggested gender differences in dieting history in individuals seeking bariatric surgery. Males endorsed diets more consistent with a masculine identity and females reported broader and more extensive dieting histories. Though dieting history was not predictive of weight loss maintenance in this sample, future work should explore the associations between attitudes toward dieting and dieting history and both short and long-term bariatric surgery outcomes.