“I just feel so guilty”: The role of introjected regulation in linking appearance goals for exercise with women's body image

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Abstract

Appearance goals for exercise are consistently associated with negative body image, but research has yet to consider the processes that link these two variables. Self-determination theory offers one such process: introjected (guilt-based) regulation of exercise behavior. Study 1 investigated these relationships within a cross-sectional sample of female UK students (n = 215, 17–30 years). Appearance goals were indirectly, negatively associated with body image due to links with introjected regulation. Study 2 experimentally tested this pathway, manipulating guilt relating to exercise and appearance goals independently and assessing post-test guilt and body anxiety (n = 165, 18–27 years). The guilt manipulation significantly increased post-test feelings of guilt, and these increases were associated with increased post-test body anxiety, but only for participants in the guilt condition. The implications of these findings for self-determination theory and the importance of guilt for the body image literature are discussed.

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Hurst, M., Dittmar, H., Banerjee, R., & Bond, R. (2017). “I just feel so guilty”: The role of introjected regulation in linking appearance goals for exercise with women’s body image. Body Image, 20, 120–129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.12.002

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