Research: Habit-based interventions may help with weight loss.


Habit-based interventions can help with weight loss by building a healthier routine.  

Weight loss

Weight loss

The prevalence of overweight and obesity continues to skyrocket each year in the United States, and the world is no different.  The obesity rate is nearly double what was recorded in 1980.  Despite the significance education efforts by the US and the world and increased effort placed on lifestyle interventions for weight loss and maintenance, most weight loss continues to be followed by weight regain in nearly everyone who attempts weight a change.  In fact, most people who have lost weight on lifestyle programmes will regain all the weight they lose and add a few extra.   Maintaining weight loss is the hardest part of weight-loss, and yet most of us spend very little time thinking about how to maintain it and thus we just drift back to the old habits.  Consequently, we are looking for anything that might give us a little edge in this battle and increase our likelihood of success.  

New research published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2018 look at habit-based programs that really might be a novel approach to maintaining weight loss[1].  This new research’s objective was to look at whether habit-based interventions could be clinically beneficial at maintaining weight loss.  The study looked a group of seventy-five 18-75-year-old volunteer subjects with BMIs of 25 or more.  The study was performed over a 12-month span to explore whether making new habits or breaking old habits is more effective at weight loss.  The subjects were placed in either group with a habit change intervention or a control group.  Both intervention groups lost weight, but the habit based group lost more weight.  At 12-month post-intervention, 65% of participants in the habit groups had reduced their total body weight by 5% or more.  Unfortunately, the research does not look at long-term maintenance, but at 12-months, habit-based interventions were superior to the control.  

The bottom line: Habit-based weight-loss interventions that form new habits and breaking old habits appear to be equally effective, resulted in clinically important weight-loss maintenance at 12-month follow-up. The art of change is the key to losing weight so it is no surprise that habit-based interventions can help with weight loss and maintenance.  Habit-based interventions, most importantly, have the potential to change how we think about weight management and thus result in lasting weight loss.  The modification of your daily habits might be the key to weight maintenance without the need for dieting or strenuous exercise, and we all would welcome that.  More research is needed.  


G. Cleo, P. Glasziou, E. Beller, E. Isenring, and R. Thomas, “Habit-based interventions for weight loss maintenance in adults with overweight and obesity: a randomized controlled trial,” I, Apr. 2018 [Online]. Available: 10.1038/s41366-018-0067-4″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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