Self-regulation of eating and physical activity is lower in obese female college students as compared to their normal weight counterparts

  • Yolanda Campos-Uscanga
  • Gabriel Gutiérrez-Ospina
  • Jaime Morales-Romero
  • Tania Romo-GonzálezEmail author
Original Article



Obesity is characterized, among other features, by overeating, reduced physical activity and an abnormal accumulation of body fat. These features are thought to result, at least in part, from the individual’s inability to self-regulate their eating and physical activity behaviors (E&PaB). Self-regulation of the E&PaB is a three-step sequential process: self-observation, self-evaluation and self-reaction. However, it is yet unclear whether deficient self-regulation of E&PaB could predispose, facilitate and/or consolidate obesity. Unraveling this issue is fundamental in order to more precisely define the role of self-regulation of E&PaB in the management of obesity.


This research was focused on the question of whether or not self-regulation of E&PaB is related to obesity in female undergraduate students. This population segment seems especially vulnerable to developing obesity since they undergo a significant shift of their E&PaB upon their university enrollment. To address this question, a cross-sectional study with 108 female undergraduate students with normal weight (n = 80) or obesity (n = 28) was performed, in which self-regulation of eating habits and physical activity was measured by two validated scales and a personal data questionnaire.


Female undergraduate students displaying lower E&PaB self-reactions were consistently overweight or obese. In addition, a multivariate analysis identified high levels of self-reaction towards eating habits related to a minor presence of overweight issues or obesity.


Self-regulation should be an essential component in the strategies for obesity prevention as an integral approach that must include orientation about healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. In addition, further studies on the effect of self-regulation in the treatment of the obesity are needed.


Weight control Adolescent women Self-regulation Eating behavior Physical activity behavior 



Authors would like to thank Claudia Enriquez-Hernández, Eva Karen Mendiola, Oswaldo Pérez, Efraín Espinosa and the administrative staff of the Nursing School, Region Veracruz, Universidad Veracruzana, who provided support during data collection. Authors acknowledge the Coordinación de la Investigación Científica, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and to the Dirección General de Relaciones Internacionales Coordinación de Movilidad Estudiantil y Académica, Universidad Veracruzana for providing financial support for an exchange program on behalf of Gabriel Gutierrez Ospina. Sara Robledo Waters proofread all the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was not funded.

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed with the participants were in accordance with the ethical standards and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The College of Researchers at the Institute of Public Health of the Universidad Veracruzana reviewed and approved the protocols used to gather the data.

Informed consent

An informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yolanda Campos-Uscanga
    • 1
  • Gabriel Gutiérrez-Ospina
    • 2
  • Jaime Morales-Romero
    • 1
  • Tania Romo-González
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Instituto de Salud PúblicaUniversidad VeracruzanaXalapaMexico
  2. 2.Departamento de Biología Celular y Fisiología, Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas; Coordinación de Psicobiología, Facultad de PsicologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoDistrito FederalMexico
  3. 3.Área de Biología y Salud Integral, Instituto de Investigaciones BiológicasUniversidad VeracruzanaXalapaMexico

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