Weight Concern and Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Unit successfully developed and piloted a novel approach for losing weight based on forming healthy habits. Read on for further information about the results. A randomised control trial is planned for the future, to see if the Ten Top Tips Programme is consistently successful for a larger number of people.
Weight loss advice for the general public needs to be easy to communicate, straightforward to follow, and applicable across a variety of lifestyles. One approach is to recommend simple behaviours that are associated with a negative energy balance and have the potential to become 'habits'. Habits are behaviours that occur with minimal intentional effort and feel 'automatic'. They are believed to develop through repetition of behaviour in similar situations. The present study examined the effect of using a habit-formation strategy to turn a set of simple calorie-controlling behaviours into habits.
A set of clear-cut behaviours was identified ('ten top tips') which in combination could create a 800-900 calorie daily energy-deficit. They were given snappy names and came with a daily self-monitoring record sheet. Ten overweight volunteers were asked to follow the tips consistently for eight weeks. They kept daily records of adherence and were encouraged to make plans to re-implement any that lapsed during this time. They were weighed weekly during the programme and interviewed at the end about their experience of following the tips.
All participants completed the 8-week programme. They were enthusiastic about the approach and found the advice easy to integrate into daily life. They reported that the tips required progressively less effort and thought over time, which suggested that habit-formation was occurring. Over the eight weeks, participants lost an average of 3.1kg.
Simple advice on everyday behaviours can create healthy habits. A programme based on simple habits was well-received by participants and helped them to lose weight.