Small changes in nutrition and physical activity promote weight loss and maintenance: 3-month evidence from the ASPIRE randomized trial

Ann Behav Med. 2008 Jun;35(3):351-7. doi: 10.1007/s12160-008-9033-z. Epub 2008 Jun 21.


Background: Current obesity interventions use intensive behavior changes to achieve large initial weight loss. However, weight regain after treatment is common, and drop out rates are relatively high. Smaller behavioral changes could produce initial weight loss and be easier to sustain after active treatment.

Purpose: We examined the efficacy of an intervention that targeted small but cumulative participant-chosen changes in diet and physical activity (ASPIRE) and compared this treatment to standard didactic and wait-list control groups. The primary outcome measures were body weight, waist circumference, and intra-abdominal fat.

Methods: Fifty-nine overweight or obese sedentary adults were randomized to one of three groups: (1) the ASPIRE group (n = 20), (2) a standard educationally-based treatment group (n = 20), or (3) a wait list control group (n = 19) for 4 months. Active treatment groups received identical resistance and aerobic training programs.

Results: Intention-to-treat analyses showed that participants in the ASPIRE group lost significantly more weight than the standard and control groups (-4.4 vs. -1.1 and +0.1 kg, respectively), and the greater initial weight loss in the ASPIRE group was sustained 3 months after active treatment (4.1 kg). An alternative analytic strategy (0.3 kg/month weight gain for those lost to follow-up) showed continued weight loss (-0.2 kg after active treatment; -4.6 kg from baseline) at follow-up in the ASPIRE group. Similar patterns were observed for the other adiposity measures.

Conclusion: More modest behavioral changes are capable of promoting weight loss, decreasing adiposity markers and sustaining these changes over 3 months. Longer-term studies comparing this approach with traditional behavioral weight loss treatments are warranted.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Decision Making
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss*