Ready to take responsibility for your own eating behavior?
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Linking self-regulatory perspectives to healthy eating behavior, the present study investigated what kind of ideas adolescents have about their own self-regulation and what aspects are important in order to resist food temptations. Whereas previous studies have focused on general causes of adolescents’ unhealthy eating patterns, this study emphasizes their own role in healthy eating behavior, by investigating their self-regulation. Participants took part in the process of concept mapping, by which factors influencing healthy eating behavior were explored. Concept mapping is a structured qualitative method that is used to help groups describe ideas on any subject of interest. Eight main clusters that influence healthy eating behavior were formed and discussed. Subsequently, relations between self-regulation, healthy eating behavior and emotional eating were examined, by letting 89 high school students between the ages of 14 and 18 fill in a questionnaire. Adolescents’ daily healthy eating patterns were not related to self-regulation, which was contrary to the hypothesis. However, a relation was found between self-regulation and the self-reported importance of healthy eating behavior. Analyses confirmed the hypothesis that females tend to show more emotional eating behavior than males. In addition, a relation between self-regulation and emotional eating was found, although this relation disappeared when the degree of hunger was controlled for. Since males reported being hungrier than females while filling in the questionnaire, these gender differences in hunger may have affected the levels of self-regulation. The level of adolescents’ self-regulation may, in turn, have influenced the level of emotional eating when feeling hungry. These results indicate a possible moderated mediation effect between gender, hunger, self-regulation and emotional eating. Future research is required to examine the direct and indirect effects of self-regulation and to what extent gender and hunger underlie self-regulatory competence in healthy eating behavior.