Effectiveness of a brief behavioural intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period: randomised controlled trial

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Colleges, School and Institutes


OBJECTIVE: To test the effectiveness of a brief, behavioural intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period.

DESIGN: Two-group, double blinded randomised controlled trial.

SETTING: Birmingham, UK.

PARTICIPANTS: We recruited adults aged ≥18 years with a BMI of ≥20 kg/m2 from workplaces, social media platforms and schools prior to Christmas in 2016 and 2017. Baseline assessments were conducted in November with follow up assessments in January (4-8 weeks after baseline).

INTERVENTIONS: The intervention aimed to increase restraint of eating and drinking through: 1) regular self-weighing and recording of weight and reflection on weight trajectory; 2) providing information on good weight management strategies over the Christmas holiday period; and 3) pictorial information on the physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) of regularly consumed festive foods and drinks (e.g. the calories in a slice of Christmas cake require 35 minutes of walking to expend). The behavioural goal was to gain no more than 0.5 kg of baseline weight. The comparator group received a healthy living leaflet.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was the difference in weight at follow up, adjusted for baseline weight and the stratification variable of attendance at a commercial weight loss programme.

RESULTS: We randomised 272 participants (intervention: n=136; comparator: n=136). Mean weight change was -0.13kg (95% CI: -0.4 to +0.15) in the intervention group and +0.37kg (95% CI: +0.12 to +0.62) in the comparator group. The adjusted mean difference in weight between groups (follow up adjusted for baseline weight and weight loss programme) was -0.49kg (95% CI: -0.85 to -0.13, p=0.008). The odds ratio for gaining no more than 0.5kg was non-significant (OR 1.22, 95% CI: 0.74 to 2.00, p=0.44).

CONCLUSIONS: A brief behavioural intervention involving regular self-weighing, weight management advice and information about the amount of physical activity required to expend festive foods and drinks prevented weight gain over the Christmas holiday period.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN 15071781; https://doi.org/10.1186/ISRCTN15071781


Original languageEnglish
Article numberk4867
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2018