Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Dietetics and Nutrition

First Advisor's Name

Catherine Coccia

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Second Advisor's Name

Adriana Campa

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member and Department Chair

Third Advisor's Name

Fatma Huffman

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Changwon Yoo

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Obesity, overweight, College Students, Nutrition, Physical Activity, Fruits, Vegetables, Intervention, Social Media, Self-Tracking App.

Date of Defense



College students transitioning from adolescence into early adulthood may encounter new stresses, which may lead to unhealthy weight-related behaviors and weight gain. Students gain approximately 4-9 pounds during their first 2 years in college. Health behaviors in this population pose an increased risk because they tend to persist into adulthood. In Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, student obesity is on the rise. About 24% of female college students were overweight or obese in Saudi Arabia in 2015. This dissertation describes the development of a mobile intervention program using Instagram and a self-tracking app to minimize the risk of overweight/obesity in Saudi Arabian female college students by changing health behaviors, including increasing fruit and vegetable intake along with physical activity.

More than 100 students were randomly assigned to either the control or the mobile intervention group. Students in the intervention group were asked to participate in the study Instagram account by adding comments, likes, and sharing the post in an effort to increase social support for healthy eating and physical activity habits for 6 weeks. Each day was focused on 1 topic: general nutrition, fruits and vegetables intake, physical activity, social support, and self-efficacy. These topics were driven from social cognitive theory. Finally, students were asked to input their diet and daily activity into a self-tracking app. Measures were taken three times during the study: pre and post intervention and at follow-up.

While the study was not long enough to detect the changes in body mass and physical activity, it did find that the intervention significantly increased fruit and vegetable intake. A small interaction effect was found between the two groups where the intervention group increased fruit and vegetable intake, while the control group decreased their intake of fruit and vegetables. Additionally, repeated measures ANOVA indicated significant differences between the groups in nutrition knowledge, family social support and exercise, and increase in eating and exercise self-efficacy.

The promising results of this study provide support for further evaluation of the program. Future studies are needed to better understand the factors that serve as motivation and predict weight loss success among college students.





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