Interactive effects between flexible and rigid control of eating behavior on body weight: a moderated serial multiple mediation model
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University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
Submission date: 2017-06-06
Final revision date: 2017-07-09
Acceptance date: 2017-07-10
Online publication date: 2017-09-26
Publication date: 2017-09-22
Health Psychology Report 2017;5(4):314–322
Cognitive restraint of eating can be subdivided into rigid control and flexible control of eating behavior. Flexible control appears to be a more favorable dieting strategy as it relates to lower disinhibited eating and body mass index (BMI), while the opposite is found for rigid control. Yet, previous findings also suggest interactive effects between the two such that rigid control is particularly related to higher BMI when flexible control is low.

Participants and procedure
Data from a previously reported study (Meule, Westenhöfer, & Kübler, 2011) were reanalyzed to examine such interactive effects (N = 615, 76% female).

Higher rigid control was particularly associated with more frequent and intense food cravings, lower perceived self-regulatory success in weight regulation, and higher BMI at low levels of flexible control. A moderated serial multiple mediation model revealed that rigid control had an indirect effect on BMI through food cravings and perceived self-regulatory success, particularly when flexible control was low. These interactive effects could largely be replicated in a second study with female participants (n = 70).

The current findings replicate and extend previous reports in that high flexible control may “compensate” for high rigid control, that is, attenuate the effect of rigid control on eating behaviors and body weight. They also provide insights into the mediating mechanisms that link rigid and flexible control of eating behavior with BMI.
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