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Health Psychol. 2014 Apr;33(4):332-9. doi: 10.1037/a0032586. Epub 2013 Jun 3.

Autonomy support, self-regulation, and weight loss.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut.
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
  • 3Department of Psychology, McGill University.
  • 4Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
  • 5Department of Nutrition, University of Tennessee.



Social support is believed to contribute to weight loss success, yet the type of support received is rarely assessed. To develop more effective weight loss interventions, examinations of the types of support that are associated with positive outcomes are needed. Self-Determination Theory suggests that support for an individual's autonomy is beneficial and facilitates internalization of autonomous self-regulation. We examined whether autonomy support and directive forms of support were associated with weight loss outcomes in a larger randomized controlled trial.


Adults (N = 201; 48.9 ± 10.5 years; 78.1% women) participating in a weight loss trial were assessed at 0, 6, and 18 months. Autonomy support (AS), directive support, and autonomous self-regulation (ASR) were measured at 0 and 6 months and examined in relation to 18-month weight loss outcomes.


Baseline AS and ASR did not predict outcomes; however, AS and ASR at 6 months positively predicted 18-month weight losses (ps < .05), encouragement of healthy eating at 6 months was negatively related to 18-month weight losses (p < .01), and other forms of directive support were not associated with outcomes.


Autonomy support predicted better weight loss outcomes while some forms of directive support hindered progress. Weight loss trials are needed to determine whether family members and friends can be trained to provide autonomy support and whether this is more effective than programs targeting more general or directive forms of support.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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