2013. Vol.4, No.2, 136-141
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Psychometric Validation of the Motivation for Healthy Eating
Scale (MHES)
Yoshiko Kato1, Makoto Iwanaga2, Roswith Roth3, Tomoko Hamasaki4, Elfriede Greimel5
1Graduate School of Human Development and Environment, Kobe University, Kobe, Japan
2Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan
3Institute of Psychology, Graz University, Graz, Austria
4Department of Nutrition, Kyushu Women’s University, Kitakyushu, Japan
5Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria
Received October 18th, 2012; revised November 18th, 2012; accepted December 16th, 2012
The aim of this study is to evaluate the psychometric properties of a Japanese version of the Motivation
for Healthy Eating Scale (MHES), a modified version of the Regulation of Eating Behavior Scale that as-
sesses the motivational orientation toward healthy dietary regulation. In the first study, a sample of 490
female Japanese undergraduate students completed the MHES. In the second study, 357 female under-
graduate students completed the Balanced Diet Scale (BDS), and Subjective Health Status Questionnaire
(SHSQ) in addition to the MHES. The MEHS showed good internal consistency, construct validity, and
criterion validity as measured by correlation with scores on the BDS and SHSQ. Psychometric analyses of
the MEHS revealed a six-factor scale structure. Cronbach’s alpha coefficient ranged from .72 to .84 (In-
trinsic motivation: .80, Integrated regulation: .82, Identified regulation: .84, Introjected regulation: .73,
External regulation: .77, and Amotivation: .72). Concerning criterion validity, autonomous regulation was
positively associated with BDS scores, whereas controlled regulation was negatively associated with
SHSQ scores. The results indicate good psychometric properties for the Japanese version of the MHES. It
might be confirmed that fostering autonomous regulation lead healthy eating habits and enhance subjec-
tive health.
Keywords: Eating Regulation; Psychometric Properties; Motivation; Japanese; Self-Determination Theory;
Individuals regulate their eating behavior for various reasons,
not only for their health but also to get slim for beauty, and to
obey parent’s opinion etc. Motivation is important to modify
behavior. It is reported that people whose motivation is intrinsic
have greater interest and confidence levels, generate good re-
sults, and maintain the behavior, compared with those who are
merely externally controlled for an action. The different behav-
ioral regulatory styles are based on three types of motivation:
intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and amotivation. It
was said that intrinsic motivation is based in the organismic
needs to be competent and self-determining. It is the inherent
tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extent and ex-
ercise one’s capacities, to explore, and to learn spontaneously.
People behave in absence of material reward and external
evaluation. On the other hand external motivation pertains to a
variety of behaviors that are controlled by external factors like
material rewards, and external evaluation. Amotivation refers to
the situation like person fail to the meaning to behave (Deci &
Ryan, 1985).
Because there are functional and experiential differences
between self-motivation and external regulation, self-determi-
nation theory (SDT) has proposed a more differentiated ap-
proach to motivation. SDT has been able to identify some dis-
tinct types of extrinsic motivation. These behavioral regulatory
styles can be differentiated according to the degree of self-
determination. Intrinsically motivated behaviors are performed
for one’s own sake. In contrast, extrinsically motivated behav-
iors are performed as a means to an end and not for one’s own
sake. The reason that people perform with extrinsic motivation
is to achieve an agreeable outcome or to avoid disagreeable
ones (Deci & Ryan, 1975). It was originally thought that ex-
trinsic motivation exclusively refers to non-self-determined
behaviors associated with external force. Deci and Ryan (1985)
have suggested that there are four types of extrinsic motivation
(external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation,
and integrated regulation). These motivations can be ordered
continuously based on the degree of one’s self-determination.
External regulation includes behaviors that are governed by
external sources of control; that is, behaviors compelled by
reward and punishment contingencies. With introjected regula-
tion, the external source of control is internalized such that its
actual presence is no longer needed to initiate the behavior.
Individuals who regulate their eating behaviors because they
would feel ashamed of themselves if they do not eat healthily
are motivated by introjected regulation. Here, the control stems
from within the self-imposed pressures such as guilt or anxiety
(Ryan & Connell, 1989). With identified regulation, external
regulation processes are internalized into one’s sense of self.
The motivation is valued and perceived as being chosen spon-
taneously. Although it might not be intrinsically pleasurable, by
identified motivation, the behavior is adopted because one be-
lieves it will be good for his/her health and life. With integrated
regulation, the activity is consistent with other priorities in ones
lives. One believes that healthy eating behavior is an important
aspect of his/her life. SDT postulates that humans have a natu-
ral inclination toward physical and psychological health (Ryan
& Deci, 2000).
Healthy eating behavior is related to an individual’s self-de-
termined regulatory style (Pelletier, Dion, Angelo, Slovinec-
D’Angelo, & Reid, 2004). Contextual and cultural factors are
important in fostering the development of self-determined mo-
tives and may affect the quality of the self-regulatory process.
Understanding people’s motivation for regulating their eating
behavior might be useful for maintaining health and positive
eating behaviors. Pelletier et al. (2004) developed an instrument
to measure different forms of regulation of eating behaviors. It
was confirmed that the dietary behavior measures were related
to improvement in weight and blood lipid parameters. The
Regulations of Eating Behavior Scale (REBS) developed by
Pelletier et al. (2004) measures the different forms of motiva-
tion of maintaining healthy eating behavior as defined by SDT.
However, there is the possibility that it does not fit into the
context of Japanese eating culture and lifestyle. This study aims
1) to create a modified version of the REBS that is specifically
adapted to the Japanese culture and 2) to test the psychometric
properties of this new Japanese version. We hypothesized that
the modified version of the REBS reflects the eating culture and
life style of Japanese women.
Study 1
A sample of 490 female Japanese undergraduate students
completed the Motivation for Healthy Eating Scale (MHES)
survey. The participants were aged between 18 and 38 years
(mean 19.7 ± 1.4 years). They were informed about the study,
and the research protocol was approved by the University Re-
view Board for human research in accordance with the ethical
standards outlined in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki. With the
permission of professors, the participants completed the ques-
tionnaire before the class. They did not receive any incentives
for participating in this study.
The MHES is based on the REBS scale originally developed
from a series of three studies examining how autonomous and
controlled forms of motivation for the regulation of eating be-
haviors were related to self-reported eating behaviors, and sus-
tained dietary behavior change (Pelletier et al., 2004). The scale
measures different forms of regulation as defined by SDT (Deci
& Ryan, 1985). The English version of the REBS includes 24
items and six subscales: Intrinsic motivation (4 items), Inte-
grated regulation (4 items), Identified regulation (4 items), In-
trojected regulation (4 items), External regulation (4 items), and
Amotivation (4 items). With the permission of the authors of
the REBS it was translated into Japanese and modified to suit
the Japanese culture. Three bilingual persons (two Japanese
native speakers and one English native speaker) collaborate to
translate. At first one forward translation was performed. Japa-
nese native speaker, health professional, familiar with termi-
nology of the area translated the original English items to
Japanese. Then an English native back-translated the Japanese
items to English. At last the items were checked to achieve
conceptual equivalence considering the Japanese culture by the
translators. On this process it was decided that for each sub-
scale, one item should be added, with the exception of external
regulation (for which two new items were added) and modified
the expression a little. The Japanese version was renamed as
Motivation for Healthy Eating Scale (MHES), since this better
reflects the content of the questionnaire. The 31-item version of
the MHES was psychometrically evaluated using a sample of
female undergraduate students as subjects. Items were pre-
sented in random order. Participants estimated the extent to
which an item corresponded to their motivation for healthy
eating behaviors in response to the question “Why are you eat-
ing healthy?” Each item was rated on a 7-point scale, ranging
from 1 (Does not correspond at all) to 7 (Corresponds very
Statistical Analyses
To confirm the structure of the subscale items, principal
component analysis was performed for the MHES. Descriptive
statistics and internal consistency reliability using Cronbach’s
alpha were computed for all scales of the MHES. Internal con-
sistency is a measure of the extent to which items within a scale
correlate with each other to constitute a multi-item scale.
Cronbach’s alpha coefficients were established for all subscales,
and a value .70 was considered acceptable for internal consis-
Furthermore, to examine the consecutive structure of this
scale, the Pearson correlations between subscales were calcu-
Preliminary analyses were performed to screen the data.
Values of kurtosis and skewness were first examined. All vari-
ables of MHES had kurtosis and skewness values below |2|. All
correlations were below .669.
The principal component analysis was performed. On intro-
jected and external regulation items, two components were
extracted. The items on the second component had different
meaning from the items on the first component. Hence, these
items were deleted. In the end, each subscale had a unidimen-
sional structure. Each factor explained about 50% of the vari-
ance. The factor loadings were above .45, and evaluation of the
internal consistency of the subscales was adequate. Cronbach’s
alphas ranged from .71 to .85. Item-total correlation ranged
from .55 to .85.
Table 2 shows the correlations between the subscales. The
adjacent subscales generally shows higher correlations (e.g.,
intrinsic motivation and integrated regulation, r = .734) than the
subscales farther apart (e.g., intrinsic motivation and identified
regulation, r = .677, or intrinsic motivation and amotivation, r =
.158, p < .001).
The univariate distribution was deemed acceptable. No mul-
ticollinearity or singularity was presented in the sample based
on the correlations (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996).
Introjected regulation items were divided into two factors.
But the second items should not be considered healthy eating
behavior. In western countries dieting is considered a healthy
eating style. However, in Japan, young women’s dieting is con-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 137
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
sidered to be a problematic eating behavior (Kiriike, Nagata,
Sirata, & Yamamoto, 1998). Many Japanese females are highly
dissatisfied about their body and have a strong desire to get
slim. Consequently, the rate of thinness in females in Japan is
high and the average Body Mass Index (BMI) is very low (Ka-
tou, Roth, & Maeda, 2010). Since the aim of this study is to
develop a scale that measures the motivation of maintaining a
healthy eating lifestyle, item No. 5 was deleted (see Table 1).
In addition, we added two items to the item group of external
regulation: one was a good indicator to measure the external
regulation, but the other was not. Even if the participant had a
person who assisted her in their healthy eating, that person may
not always insist on her to maintain healthy eating habits.
Therefore, it cannot be an external regulation.
According to Deci and Ryan (1985), the different behavioral
regulatory styles can be differentiated along a continuum that
ranges from non-self-determined styles of regulation to self-
determined ones. The graduation of reasons is a reflection of
the internalization process, where these behavioral regulatory
styles can be differentiated according to their level of self-de-
ermination. Table 2 shows the results of Pearson correlations
among the six subscales. The results support the presence of a
self-determination continuum. The adjacent subscale generally
shows higher correlations than the subscale further along the
continuum. In addition, the subscale at the opposite end of the
continuum has a negative correlation. These results are consis-
tent with a previous study (Pelletier et al., 2004). Thus, internal
consistency of the MHES subscale was verified.
Table 1.
Results of principle factor analyses of the motivation for healthy eating (MHES).
No. Items Factor road Contribution (%)
Intrinsic motivation (α = .81)
16 I like to find new way to create meals that are good for health. .821 57.33
26 It is fun to create meals that are good for my health. .819
**15 I am interested in eating healthy. .782
30 I take pleasure in fixing healthy meals. .781
*1 I am satisfied with eating healthy. .549
Integrated regulation (α = .82)
17 Eating healthy is an integral part of my life. .871 59.33
18 Eating healthy is congruent with other important aspects of my life. .857
**13 Eating healthy is base of my life. .781
14 Regulating my eating behaviors has become a fundamental part of who I am. .706
2 Eating healthy is part of the way I have chosen to live my way. .605
Identified regulation (α = .85)
**12 I believe it will make my mind and body comfortable. .833 62.87
3 I believe it will eventually allow me to feel better. .826
4 It is a way to ensure long-term health benefits. .822
25 I believe it’s a good thing I can do to feel better about myself in general. .771
*19 Not only eat good food, it is a good idea to try to regulate my eating behaviors. .705
Introjected regulation (α = .71)
27 I would feel ashamed of myself if I was not eating healthy. .862 56.79
24 I would be humiliated I was not in control of my eating behaviors. .810
**11 I feel it is shame not to be able to show healthy eating habits. .777
20 I don’t want to be ashamed of how I look. .519
*5 Having healthy diet, and I shall have to maintain optimal weight.
External regulation (α = .77)
23 People around me nag me to do it. .788 53.38
**28 Other people suggestions to keep healthy eating habits. .766
21 Other people close to me will be upset if I don’t. .748
6 Other people close to me insist that I do. .698
7 It is expected of me. .644
**10 I have a person who takes care of my healthy eating.
Amotivation (α = .73)
8 I don’t really know. I truly have the impression that I’m wasting my time trying to regulate my eating behaviors. .831 49.51
9 I can’t really see I’m getting out of it. .831
22 I don’t really know why I bother. .745
29 I don’t know. I can’t see how my efforts to eat healthy are helping my health situation. .574
**31 I think there are more important things to do than to eat healthy. .457
Note: *modified item; **added item.
Table 2.
Pearson correlations among the motivation for healthy eating scale.
2 3 4 5 6
Intrinsic motivation (1) .734 *** .677 *** .349 *** .166 *** .158 ***
Extrinsic motivation
Integrated regulation (2) .717*** .400 *** .185 *** .227 ***
Identified regulation (3) .208*** .043n.s. .301 ***
Introjected regulation (4) .508*** .213 ***
External regulation (5) .420
Amotivation (6) 1.000
Note: ***p < .001, **p < .01, *p < .05, n.s.: no significant.
In sum, the results of this first study supported a six-factor
scale structure for the MHES that corresponds to the six regu-
latory styles of behavior hypothesized by Deci and Ryan (1985)
and Ryan and Deci (2000).
Study 2
The purpose of the second study was to further examine the
MHES factorial structure, its psychometric properties, and its
construct validity. In addition, we attempted to test a motiva-
tional model of Healthy Eating behaviors. In agreement with
SDT, it was proposed that comparison between people whose
motivation is intrinsic and those who are merely externally
controlled for an action typically reveal that the former mani-
fest enhanced performance, persistency, and creativity (Deci &
Ryan, 1985). Therefore, self-motivation relates to more positive
and less negative attitudes toward meals. In Japan, the high
frequency of skipping breakfast among young females is con-
sidered to be a problem (Fujiwara, 2003). Thus, in this study,
the relationship between MHES and attitudes toward breakfast
intake were examined. It was hypothesized that self-motivated
healthy eating relates to balanced diet resulting in better subjec-
tive health.
The MHES and general questions on consciousness of healthy
eating and subjective health status were administered to a sub-
sample of 353 female undergraduate students. The participants
aged between 18 and 23 years (mean 19.6 ± 1.2 years). The
average BMI (kg/m2) for the sample was 20.5 (±2.4). Using
Japanese criteria for obesity, provided by previously published
obesity research (Matuzawa et al., 2000), 12.7% of women
were classified as thin (BMI < 18.5) and 2.8% of women were
classified as obese (BMI 25). This question was not answered
by 15.0% of women. As with Study 1, with the permission of
professors, subjects completed the questionnaire before the
class. They were informed about the study, and the research
protocol was approved by the University Review Board for
human research in accordance with the ethical standards out-
lined in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki. Subjects did not re-
ceive any incentives for participating in this study.
In addition to MHES, each questionnaire package contained
measures related to consequences associated with the form of
motivation for healthy eating behaviors (e.g., balanced diet and
attitude toward breakfast), as well as indicators of subjective
health status.
Balanced Diet Scale (BDS). Based on the Japanese National
Health and Nutrition Survey’s questionnaire about balanced
diet, this scale was developed by the Ministry of Health, Labour
and Welfare (2005). The BDS includes 13 items with a 4-point
response scale (1 = not at all to 4 = very much). To confirm the
structure of the subscale items principal component analysis
was performed for the BDS.
Attitude toward Breakfast Scale (ABS). To measure the atti-
tude toward breakfast, positive and negative image toward
breakfast and breakfast frequency were questioned. Two food
science experts discussed positive and negative attitudes toward
eating breakfast. Three items each relating to positive image
and negative image were identified. An example for positive
image is “Having breakfast makes me feel fortified”. An exam-
ple for negative image is “I want to sleep rather than eating
breakfast”. Participants responded on a 4-point scale (1 = not at
all to 4 = very much).
Subjective health status (SHS). Concerning subjective health
status a list of 16 physical and emotional symptoms were ad-
ministered. Participants responded on a 4-point scale (1 = not at
all to 4 = very much). To assess the physical state of the par-
ticipants, their weight and height were noted.
Statistical Analyses
To confirm the structural validity of the BDS, ABS, and SHS,
principal component analysis was performed and Cronbach’s
alpha was computed to confirm consistency reliability. Re-
spondent BMI was calculated using the subject’s weight and
Before proceeding with the main analyses of the MHES, pre-
liminary analyses were executed in two steps. First, we calcu-
lated means, standard deviations, floor and ceiling effects (per-
centages of participants with the lowest and the highest possible
scores), and internal consistency reliability using Cronbach’s
alpha for all scales of the MHES.
Construct validity (convergent and divergent validity) was
evaluated by calculating Pearson correlation coefficients be-
tween questionnaire items and subscales. Convergent validity is
demonstrated when scales or items that are thought to measure
the same construct have high correlations. Divergent validity is
demonstrated when items or scales thought to measure different
constructs have low correlations. Criterion validity was tested
by measuring correlation of the MHES domains with the BDS,
ABS, SHS, and BMI domains.
On BDS items, principal component analysis extracted two
factors. The second factor included only one item. Since it was
difficult to keep reliability with one item, this single item was
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 139
deleted. The factor analysis of 12 items confirmed a unidi-
mensional structure. The factor loadings for this scale ranged
from .466 to .717. This factor explained 42.59% of the sample
variance. Internal consistency coefficients for the present sam-
ple were acceptable (α = .874). On ABS items, a principal fac-
tor analysis showed one dimension for both scales: positive
image toward breakfast (α = .80; factor load > .818; contribu-
tion rate = 71.91%) and negative image toward breakfast (α
= .73; factor load > .700; contribution rate = 64.78%). On SHS
items, a principal factor analysis showed one dimension for the
scale: subjective health status (α = .89; factor load > .38; con-
tribution rate = 38.34%).
The MHES preliminary analysis was conducted (see Table
3). With the exception of the amotivation subscale (with a high
skewness), the univariate distribution seems acceptable. A log
transformation was used to correct the distribution of the amo-
tivation scale. After transformation, the value of skewness
was .1. This is considered a normal distribution. Ceiling effects
were found in the domain Breakfast frequency scale with
58.1% of participants reporting that they eat breakfast every
day. No floor effects were found. Cronbach’s alpha coefficients
ranged from .73 to .89, indicating a good level of reliability.
Criterion validity between the various domains of the MHES,
Subjective health, and Balanced diet was calculated with Pear-
son correlation coefficients (Table 4). As expected, balanced
diets were more highly correlated with intrinsic motivation.
According to the level of self-determination, the strength of
correlation changed gradually. Finally, balanced diet showed a
negative correlation with amotivation.
As to attitude toward breakfast, positive image toward breakfast
related strongly with intrinsic motivation. The people who en-
joy healthy eating have a positive image toward breakfast. A
negative image toward breakfast related to intrinsic motivation
negatively. Furthermore, not only image but also behavior re-
flected this characteristic. Intrinsic motivation relates to fre-
quency of eating behavior positively and amotivation nega-
Subjective health status was related to amotivation positively
and related to intrinsic motivation negatively. This implies that
people who are in good physical and psychological condition
have self-determined motivation. In contrast, people in bad
physical and psychological condition tend to not display self-
determined motivation.
Furthermore, correlations between BMI scores and each sub-
scale of the MHES are presented. Apart from identified regula-
tion and introjected regulation, all other subscales relate to BMI
Table 3.
Internal consistency of the subscales of the for Motivation for Healthy Eating Scale.
Domain No. of items N MeanSD Range% at floor% at ceiling Kurtosis Skew-nessα
Intrinsic motivation 5 341 5.0 1.2 1 - 7.3 6.7 .3 .3 .82
Extrinsic motivation
Integrated regulation 5 342 5.2 1.2 1 - 7.3 7.9 .4 .0 .82
Identified regulation 5 341 5.7 1.1 1 - 7.3 15.0 .7 .2 .86
Introjected regulation 4 336 3.4 1.4 1 - 74.8 2.5 .4 .0 .75
External regulation 5 338 3.0 1.2 1 - 75.1 1.4 .7 .6 .76
Amotivation 5 341 2.6 1.0 1 - 73.1 1.1 1.4 3.0 .74
Balanced diet 12 345 1.8 .5 0 - 3.3 2.0 .5 .5 .87
Attitudes towards breakfast
Positive attitude towards breakfast 3 348 2.8 .7 1 - 41.4 13.9 .1 .2 .80
Negative attitude towards breakfast 3 348 2.1 .7 1 - 415 1.1 .3 .5 .73
Breakfast frequency 1 348 4.3 2 0 - 5.3 58.1 .0 .1
Subjective health status 16 350 2.2 .6 1 - 4.8 .3 .1 .1 .89
Table 4.
Correlation between the MHES subscales and related constructs (subjective health status and conscious of healthy eating).
Extrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation
Integrated regulationIdentified regulationIntrojected regulation External regulation
Balanced diet .538 *** .474
*** .371 *** .224 *** .004 n.s. .154 **
Attitude towards breakfast
Positive image towards breakfast .464 *** .375
*** .387 *** .122 * .002 n.s. .206 ***
Negative image towards breakfast .209 *** .159 ** .140 * .004 n.s. .146 ** .270***
Frequency of eating breakfast .198 *** .163 ** .107 n.s. .006 n.s. .032 n.s. .127 *
Subjective health status .170 ** .130 * .069 n.s. .044 n.s. .139 * .149**
BMI .119 * .167 ** .094 n.s. .106 n.s. .217 *** .162 **
Note: ***p < .001, **p < .01, *p < .05, n.s.: no significant.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
negatively. This result is different from the previous study
(Pelletier et al., 2004). In western cultures obesity is a severe
problem. However, in Japan, thinness in young females is re-
garded as a problem. These cultural differences need to be con-
sidered in cross-cultural research since it may affect the results.
Our data confirmed the psychometric properties and the va-
lidity of the Japanese-language MHES. Thus, this questionnaire
can be used for eating behavior investigation on young Japa-
nese females.
Questionnaires developed for evaluating outcomes in differ-
ent cultures, and translations thereof, need to be carefully vali-
dated in a target population. The validation of Japanese fe-
male-reported measures is important, since the quality of life
construct differs cross-culturally. This study of the psychomet-
ric properties of the Japanese version of the MHES in a sample
of 357 Japanese females indicated that the psychometric prop-
erties of the questionnaire were acceptable. The MHES do-
mains showed good reliability with Cronbach’s alpha coeffi-
cients above the accepted standard of .70.
Criterion validity between the various domains of the MHES
and the BDS, ABS, and SHS were demonstrated with Pearson
correlation coefficients. As expected, the self-determined regu-
latory styles were more highly related to good eating attitudes
than less self-determined regulatory styles. For example, con-
vergent and divergent validity showed that the correlation be-
tween good attitude such as intrinsic motivation and balanced
diet (r = .538) is higher than related scales such as integrated
motivation and balanced diet (r = .47). The result indicates that
the more individuals perform self-determined regulatory style
toward their eating behaviors, the more they have healthy eat-
ing attitudes.
Our study has certain limitations to generalize data, which
could be due to the small sample size considered. In the previ-
ous study, Pelletier et al. confirmed the value of the self-de-
termination construct in long-term adherence to healthier die-
tary behavior change, but in this study, we could not research
about the sustainable effects that influence biological health
indicators (e.g., blood lipid parameters).
Our data confirm the psychometric properties and the valid-
ity of the Japanese version of MHES. Thus, this questionnaire
can be used in Japanese female samples. In the future this scale
will be expected to clarify the factors that foster motivation for
healthy eating in Japanese population.
This work was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Re-
search (C) JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 23500945.
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