Motivational "spill-over" during weight control: increased self-determination and exercise intrinsic motivation predict eating self-regulation

Health Psychol. 2009 Nov;28(6):709-16. doi: 10.1037/a0016764.


Objective: Successful weight management relies on at least two health behaviors, eating and exercise. However, little is known about their interaction on a motivational and behavioral level. Based on the Hierarchical Model of Motivation the authors examined whether exercise-specific motivation can transfer to eating regulation during a lifestyle weight control program. The authors further investigated whether general, treatment-related, and exercise motivation underlie the relation between increased exercise and improved eating regulation.

Design: Overweight/obese women participated in a 1-year randomized controlled trial (N = 239). The intervention focused on promoting physical activity and internal motivation for exercise and weight loss, following Self-Determination Theory. The control group received general health education.

Main outcome measures: General and exercise specific self-determination, eating self-regulation variables, and physical activity behavior.

Results: General self-determination and more autonomous exercise motivation predicted eating self-regulation over 12 months. Additionally, general and exercise self-determination fully mediated the relation between physical activity and eating self-regulation.

Conclusion: Increased general self-determination and exercise motivation seem to facilitate improvements in eating self-regulation during weight control in women. These motivational mechanisms also underlie the relationship between improvements in exercise behavior and eating regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight*
  • Exercise*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Overweight
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Portugal
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Weight Loss*
  • Young Adult