Exercise motivation, eating, and body image variables as predictors of weight control

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Jan;38(1):179-88. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000180906.10445.8d.


Purpose: This study investigated changes in psychosocial variables related to exercise, eating, and body image during a weight reduction program and evaluated their association with weight loss in middle-aged overweight and obese women up to 1 yr after intervention.

Methods: The 136 participants (age, 48.1 +/- 4.4 yr; weight, 30.6 +/- 5.6 kg x m(-2)) who completed the 4-month lifestyle weight reduction program (86% retention), losing -6.2 +/- 4.6% (P < 0.001) of their initial weight, were followed up for 12 additional months. Of these, 82% completed 16-month assessments (weight change, -5.5 +/- 7.7%, P < 0.001). Psychosocial variables were assessed by validated instruments in standardized conditions at baseline and after the intervention (4 months).

Results: Compared with 4-month assessments, body weight did not change at 16 months (P > 0.09). Changes in eating restraint, disinhibition, and hunger; exercise, self-efficacy, and intrinsic motivation; body shape concerns; and physical self-worth were associated with weight change at 4 months (P < 0.001, except hunger, P < 0.05). Baseline-adjusted 4-month scores in all psychosocial variables also predicted weight change from baseline to 16 months (P < 0.01), except hunger (P > 0.05). After controlling for 4-month weight change and other covariates, increases in exercise intrinsic motivation remained predictive of weight loss at 16 months (P < 0.05). Multiple linear regression showed that eating variables were significant and independent correlates of short-term weight change, whereas changes in exercise variables were stronger predictors of longer term weight outcomes.

Conclusions: Results highlight the importance of cognitive processes during weight control and support the notion that initial focus on diet is associated with short-term weight loss, while change in exercise-related motivational factors, with a special emphasis on intrinsic sources of motivation (e.g., interest and enjoyment in exercise), play a more important role in longer term weight management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arizona
  • Body Image*
  • Exercise*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Psychology*
  • Self Disclosure
  • Weight Loss / physiology*