Prescribed "breaks" as a means to disrupt weight control efforts

Obes Res. 2003 Feb;11(2):287-91. doi: 10.1038/oby.2003.43.


Objective: Research on long-term maintenance of weight loss is hampered by the fact that relapse typically does not occur until after 6 months. We sought to determine whether relapses could be induced earlier by intentionally interrupting the momentum of weight loss during a treatment program and thus provide a model for weight maintenance research.

Research methods and procedures: Subjects (N = 142) were recruited at two centers and randomly assigned to a control group, a long break group (LB), or a short break group (SB). The control group received a standard behavioral weight loss program with 14 weekly sessions; the LB and SB groups received the same. However, the LB group took a 6-week break after lesson 7, and the SB group took a 2-week break after lessons 3, 6, and 9. Participants were instructed to stop all weight loss efforts during breaks.

Results: Participants seemed to take breaks as prescribed, with interruptions in self-monitoring, dietary adherence, and self-weighing (but not in exercise). However, participants quickly resumed these behaviors after the break. Breaks produced a slowing of weight loss or slight regain, but weight losses during the breaks were not significantly different from the control group. Importantly, overall weight losses (0 to 5 months or 0 to 11 months) did not differ between conditions.

Discussion: This study was not successful in developing a method to experimentally produce weight loss relapses. However, the finding that prescribed breaks do not have adverse effects may have clinical application.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Failure
  • Weight Loss*