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Emerging adults (EA) are at high risk for weight gain and obesity yet are underrepresented in behavioral weight loss (BWL) programs and fare worse than their older counterparts when they join these programs. Further, even within BWL programs adapted specifically for this population, young men are particularly challenging to recruit, representing less than 20% of samples in recent trials. One hypothesis for the poor recruitment of men is that men’s goals for a weight loss program are not described in recruitment messages for these studies. Understanding whether men and women’s personal goals for participating in a weight loss program could be a key way to tailor recruitment messaging. As such, the objective of this study is to compare young men and women’s personal goals for a BWL program.


Participants (N=382; 21.9+1.2 years; 83% female; BMI=33.5+4.9 kg/m2) were recruited for a technology-driven weight loss intervention adapted for this age group. At baseline, participants ranked their top 3 personal goals from a list of 15 areas in which they wanted to see change during the program. The most commonly reported areas (n=8) were coded as yes or no if the goal was ranked as one of their top 3. Chi-square tests were conducted to compare men and women on the most commonly reported goals for the program; using Bonferroni correction to adjust for multiple comparisons (p<.006).


Overall, the most commonly reported areas for wanting to change in the program were: weight (62.7%), physical fitness (43.7%), body fat percentage (25.7%), body shape (25.1%), energy level (24.1%), clothing size (19.6%), confidence (18.8%), and self-esteem (18.0%). Weight was the most commonly ranked as a top goal (43.5%), followed by physical fitness (11.3%) and body fat percentage (8.9%). No significant differences were found between men and women for personal goals.


Emerging adults have a desire to lose weight and body fat, as well as improve physical fitness when it comes to personal goals for a weight loss program. While there were no gender differences in goals for a weight loss program, this could be due to enrollment of a treatment seeking sample. Coupled with differential enrollment of young men, it is possible the results may not be representative of non-treatment seeking young men. More research is needed to understand potential gender differences in goals for a weight loss program to improve recruitment messaging targeting young men.

Publication Date



weight loss, obesity, men


Health Psychology

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Jessica G. LaRose

Is Part Of

VCU Graduate Research Posters

Examining gender differences in young men and women’s goals for a technology-driven weight loss intervention