Original Article

International Journal of Obesity (2008) 32, 700–707; doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803771; published online 11 December 2007

Healthy habits: efficacy of simple advice on weight control based on a habit-formation model

P Lally1, A Chipperfield1 and J Wardle1

1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Health Behaviour Unit, University College London, London, UK

Correspondence: Dr J Wardle, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Health Behaviour Unit, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. E-mail: j.wardle@ucl.ac.uk

Received 14 August 2007; Revised 14 September 2007; Accepted 30 September 2007; Published online 11 December 2007.





To evaluate the efficacy of a simple weight loss intervention, based on principles of habit formation.



An exploratory trial in which overweight and obese adults were randomized either to a habit-based intervention condition (with two subgroups given weekly vs monthly weighing; n=33, n=36) or to a waiting-list control condition (n=35) over 8 weeks. Intervention participants were followed up for 8 months.



A total of 104 adults (35 men, 69 women) with an average BMI of 30.9kgm−2.



Intervention participants were given a leaflet containing advice on habit formation and simple recommendations for eating and activity behaviours promoting negative energy balance, together with a self-monitoring checklist.

Main outcome measures:


Weight change over 8 weeks in the intervention condition compared with the control condition and weight loss maintenance over 32 weeks in the intervention condition.



At 8 weeks, people in the intervention condition had lost significantly more weight (mean=2.0kg) than those in the control condition (0.4kg), with no difference between weekly and monthly weighing subgroups. At 32 weeks, those who remained in the study had lost an average of 3.8kg, with 54% losing 5% or more of their body weight. An intention-to-treat analysis (based on last-observation-carried-forward) reduced this to 2.6kg, with 26% achieving a 5% weight loss.



This easily disseminable, low-cost, simple intervention produced clinically significant weight loss. In limited resource settings it has potential as a tool for obesity management.


automaticity, habits, weight control, leaflet

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