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Self-regulatory and self-efficacy mechanisms of weight loss in women within a community-based behavioral obesity treatment

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Given the traditional methods of treating obesity through education on controlling eating and increasing exercise have largely failed beyond the very short term, a more intensive focus on psychosocial correlates of those weight-loss behaviors has been suggested. Multiple behavioral theories incorporate self-regulation, self-efficacy, and mood; however, their interrelations and effects over both the short and long term within cognitive-behavioral obesity treatments remain unclear. Within a novel community-based program with women with obesity who had either low (n = 29) or high (n = 71) mood disturbance scores, there were significant improvements in exercise- and eating-related self-regulation and eating-related self-efficacy—primary targets of that intervention—with no significant difference in those changes by mood disturbance grouping. Changes in the summed exercise- and eating-related self-regulation scores significantly mediated relationships between changes in eating-related self-efficacy and weight (over both 6 and 12 months). There were similar results with mediation assessed via the extent exercise-related self-regulation carried over to eating-related self-regulation. In both of those models a reciprocal relationship between self-regulation and self-efficacy changes was indicated. In serial multiple mediation equations, paths of changes in exercise-related self-regulation → eating-related self-regulation → eating-related self-efficacy → weight were significant. However, paths were not significant when change in self-efficacy was entered as the predictor (initial) variable. Findings suggest viability in first focusing on exercise-related self-regulation, then eating-related self-regulation, in the course of increasing self-efficacy and probabilities for inducing enough sustained weight loss to improve obesity-associated health risks. Benefits of field-based research findings generalizing to weight-management applications were suggested.

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The authors received no specific funding support from any public or private agency.

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JJA designed the research, completed the data analysis, wrote the report, and read and approved the final version. FAS contributed to the conceptualization of the research problem, revised the report for important intellectual content, and read and approved the final version.

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Correspondence to James J. Annesi.

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The authors have not disclosed any competing interests.

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Ethical requirements of the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki and the American Psychological Association were upheld.

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A university Institutional Review Board approved the study protocol. Written consent was provided by each participant.

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Annesi, J.J., Stewart, F.A. Self-regulatory and self-efficacy mechanisms of weight loss in women within a community-based behavioral obesity treatment. J Behav Med (2024).

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