BACKGROUND: People in transitional life stages, such as occupational retirement, are likely to gain weight and accumulate abdominal fat mass caused by changes in physical activity and diet. Hence, retirees are an important target group for weight gain prevention programmes, as described in the present paper. METHODS/DESIGN: A systematic and stepwise approach (Intervention Mapping) is used to develop a low-intensity energy balance intervention programme for recent retirees. This one-year, low-intensity multifaceted programme aims to prevent accumulation of abdominal fat mass and general weight gain by increasing awareness of energy balance and influencing related behaviours of participants' preference. These behaviours are physical activity, fibre intake, portion size and fat consumption. The effectiveness of the intervention programme is tested in a cluster randomised controlled trial. Measurements of anthropometry, physical activity, energy intake, and related psychosocial determinants are performed at baseline and repeated at 6 months for intermediate effect, at 12 months to evaluate short-term intervention effects and at 24 months to test the sustainability of the effects. DISCUSSION: This intervention programme is unique in its focus on retirees and energy balance. It aims at increasing awareness and takes into account personal preferences of the users by offering several options for behaviour change. Moreover, the intervention programme is evaluated at short-term and long-term and includes consecutive outcome measures (determinants, behaviour and body composition).