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

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

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  • 1Department of Exercise and Health, Faculty of Human Kinetics, Technical University of Lisbon, Cruz Quebrada, Portugal.



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.


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.


General and exercise specific self-determination, eating self-regulation variables, and physical activity behavior.


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.


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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