Context matters : Self-regulation of healthy eating at different eating occasions

Bouwman, Emily P.; Reinders, Machiel J.; Galama, Joris; Verain, Muriel C.D.


Self-regulation plays an important role in healthy eating behaviors. The current research explores temporary fluctuations in self-regulation next to variations between individuals. In an online observational study, 892 participants (Mage = 44.3, SDage = 12.7) monitored their self-regulation three times a week before a meal moment for 3 weeks. To analyze the data, a random intercept and slopes model was used, including variables on within-individual level (i.e. meal moment, tiredness, distractedness, social, and physical environment) and variables on between-individual level (i.e. self-efficacy, intrinsic motivation, and perception of social and physical opportunity). Self-regulation was found to be higher at breakfast compared with dinner (estimate = −0.08, p <.001), higher at home than out-of-home (estimate = −0.08, p <.001) and lower when individuals are more tired (estimate = 0.04, p <.001) and distracted (estimate = 0.07, p <.001). Moreover, self-regulation was higher for individuals with higher levels of intrinsic motivation (estimate = 0.19, p <.001) and self-efficacy (estimate = 0.41, p <.001). Insights from this research advance our knowledge regarding temporal influences on self-regulation and can provide input for behavior change tools such as personalized dietary advice.