Most women desired to weigh less than they did. While most women were within 10 lb above their desired weight, one-third of the women weighed more than 10 lb above their desired weight. Women's desired body weights were well below the maximum allowable weights of the Army Weight Control Program. Only eight women (4%) wanted to weight more than their height and age specific screening table weight. Almost one-third of the women wanted to weigh greater than 20 lb less than their screening table weight. Although the data were not broken down by gender, the fact that 73 percent of men and women were attempting to lose weight suggests that a large proportion of women would have been actively trying to lose weight at the time they completed the survey. Although 40 (32%) of all female respondents weighed more than their height and age specific maximum allowable weight, only 16 (8.5%) were enrolled in the Army Weight Control Program at the time of the survey.
As part of a large nutrition assessment study conducted by Mary Klicka and colleagues (1993) at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, 89 female cadets completed a background questionnaire that included questions dealing with body weight satisfaction. Mean age of cadets was 20.1 ± 1.5 years (18–25). Seventy-nine percent of the female cadets were trying to lose weight at the time of the study. Twenty-one percent were satisfied with their current weight, while no female cadet was trying to gain weight.
In a study of women in enlisted basic training, LTC Nancy King and colleagues (1994) administered a similar background questionnaire to 175 women. Mean age of the enlisted women was 21.4 ± 3.43 years (17–33). Heights ranged from 59–74 inches with a mean of 64.9 ± 2.55 inches; weights were 99–193 lb, mean 135 ± 19.2 lb. Sixty percent of the enlisted female recruits reported they were trying to lose weight. Sixty-seven percent of the women in basic training had lost weight in the prior year, while 69 percent had gained weight. Thirty-four percent of these women reported both losing and gaining weight during the prior year. Unlike the U.S. Military Academy cadets, almost 10 percent of the enlisted female recruits were trying to gain weight.
The largest survey of Army women to date has been performed under two Defense Women's Health Research Program protocols headed by CPT Anthony Pusateri and LTC Alana Cline. Questionnaires were completed by 1,216 women from four army installations. Study populations included women entering enlisted basic training (N = 159), enlisted women in Advanced Individual Training (AIT) (N = 316), enlisted women with at least 1 year of military experience (N = 538), women attending the Officer Basic Course (N = 45), and officers with military experience (N = 119). Questionnaires from 39 women were missing military group information and, therefore, were not included in group analyses.
Ages ranged from 18 to 52 years. Mean age was 26.5 ± 7.5 years. Self-reported height and weight were 65.1 ± 3.0 inches and 140.1 ± 19.9 lb, respectively. The women, on average, responded that they would like to weight 10 lb less than their current weight; however, almost 10 percent gave a desired weight greater than their current weight and 9 percent liked the weight they were at. Although 81 percent of the women wanted to lose weight, only 61 percent of the women indicated they were actually trying to lose weight at the time of the survey. Sixty-three percent of the women responded that they had lost weight in the prior year. The mean reported weight loss was 11.2 ± 7.9 lb. Eight percent of the women reportedly lost 25 lb or more. Conversely, 65 percent of women said they gained weight the prior year. The mean reported weight gain was 10.6 lb ± 8.0 lb. Almost 7 percent of the women said they gained 25 lb or more. Only 12 percent of women were weight stable in the year prior to the survey. Forty-one percent