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Eat Behav. 2006 Nov;7(4):333-41. Epub 2005 Nov 21.

Does regulatory focus play a role in dietary restraint?

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Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8205, USA.


Regulatory-Focus Theory [Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52, 1280-1300.] distinguishes between self-regulation with a promotion focus (focusing on the presence and absence of positive outcomes) and a prevention focus (focusing on the presence and absence of negative outcomes). We examined whether regulatory-focus theory can help us to better understand the weight-related beliefs and dieting behaviors of restrained eaters. In two studies, participants completed measures of dietary restraint, regulatory focus, beliefs about the outcomes associated with weight loss and weight gain, and dieting behaviors. Overall, restrained eaters were more self-regulatory than were unrestrained eaters. Across both studies, dietary restraint was the best predictor of weight-related beliefs and dieting behaviors; in contrast, regulatory focus was largely unrelated to beliefs and behaviors. In addition, restrained eaters were highly motivated to control their weight irrespective of how close or how far they were from their ideal weight, whereas unrestrained eaters were more motivated to control their weight when they were further from their ideal. Our results suggest that future research should focus on the obstacles to successful weight regulation, rather than on individuals' regulatory focus.

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