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.
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