Predictors of food and physical activity tracking among young adults


Introduction: There is growing concern about whether food and/or activity tracking have unintended negative effects such as contributing to disordered eating and/or unhealthy body-related compensatory behaviours. We identified psychological, body-related emotions, and PA behavior regulations-related predictors of food and physical activity tracking in young adults. Methods: Data on potential risk or protective factors were available for 676 young adults at age 30.5 (1.0) (41% male) participating in the longitudinal 23-year NDIT Study. Data on past-year food-tracking and past-year activity tracking were available at age 33.6(0.5). We investigated each of 41 potential predictors as an independent study that addressed a single hypothesis. Two models were estimated for each variable – an unadjusted logistic regression model and a multivariable model adjusting for age, sex, and educational attainment Results: 14% of participants reported past-year food tracking and 37.0% reported past-year activity tracking. Eleven of 41 potential predictors investigated were associated with past-year activity tracking. Nine of the 41 were associated with past-year food tracking. Predictors of both food and activity tracking included: compensatory behaviour after overeating, perceiving oneself to be overweight, trying to lose weight, and having a varied exercise routine. Other variables investigated will be discussed. Discussion/Conclusion: These findings suggest that tracking behavior may be used as a tool by individuals seeking health-behavior changes. However, its links with compensatory behaviour after overeating and other maladaptive behaviours warrant further investigation.

Acknowledgments: NDIT was supported by Canadian Cancer Society grant #010271, #017435, #704031 and Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant #451832.