To evaluate the efficacy of a simple weight loss intervention, based on principles of habit formation. An exploratory trial in which overweight and obese adults were randomized either to a habit-based intervention condition (with two subgroups given weekly vs monthly weighing; n=33, n=36) or to a waiting-list control condition (n=35) over 8 weeks. Intervention participants were followed up for 8 months. A total of 104 adults (35 men, 69 women) with an average BMI of 30.9 kg m(-2). Intervention participants were given a leaflet containing advice on habit formation and simple recommendations for eating and activity behaviours promoting negative energy balance, together with a self-monitoring checklist. Weight change over 8 weeks in the intervention condition compared with the control condition and weight loss maintenance over 32 weeks in the intervention condition. At 8 weeks, people in the intervention condition had lost significantly more weight (mean=2.0 kg) than those in the control condition (0.4 kg), with no difference between weekly and monthly weighing subgroups. At 32 weeks, those who remained in the study had lost an average of 3.8 kg, with 54% losing 5% or more of their body weight. An intention-to-treat analysis (based on last-observation-carried-forward) reduced this to 2.6 kg, with 26% achieving a 5% weight loss. This easily disseminable, low-cost, simple intervention produced clinically significant weight loss. In limited resource settings it has potential as a tool for obesity management.