Self-control and unhealthy body weight: The role of impulsivity and restraint

Econ Hum Biol. 2023 Aug:50:101263. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2023.101263. Epub 2023 Jun 9.


We examine the relationship between trait self-control and body weight. Data from a population representative household survey reveal that limited self-control is strongly associated with both unhealthy body weight and poorer subjective weight-related well-being. Those with limited self-control are characterized by reduced exercising, repeated dieting, unhealthier eating habits, and poorer nutrition. We propose an empirical method to isolate two facets of self-control limitations-high impulsivity and low restraint. Each has differential predictive power. Physical activity, dieting, and overall body weight are more strongly associated with restraint; impulsivity is relatively more predictive of when, where, and what people eat.

Keywords: Body Mass Index; Brief Self-Control Scale; Diet; Exercise; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Self-Control*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires