Is Slimming World A Good Way To Lose Weight & Keep It Off?

Slimming World was founded in Derbyshire way back in 1969 by Margaret Miles-Bramwell.

In 2000 Slimming World started to get NHS referrals by doctors for overweight patients to their groups. As many as 200,000 patients have been referred this way in the last 21 years. Slimming World claim as many as 900,000 people attend meetings every week in the UK & Ireland. I don’t think that 900,000 claim holds water – but somewhere around half a million people are probably attending meetings weekly. This is still a huge number of people.

Now the idea behind Slimming World is very simple – you have foods that are ok to eat & foods that are only ok to eat in a limited fashion. I believe that the strength of the Slimming World method is the flexibility built in to their system. It would be very easy for me to write out the perfect diet for you – with calculations based on your body mass, basal metabolic rate and goals. But you’re human, you need to be given some wiggle room. This is where Slimming World is useful – it allows you to indulge in moderation. Psychologically this is vital. And because you are only doing so in moderation a strange thing happens – less healthy foods (which you now eat less often) actually start to taste worse.

An imperfect plan for real world results

The SW rules can and frankly are patchy in places – unlimited pasta and potatoes would seem a ludicrous notion on the face of it. But here again is where real world psychology makes this less of a problem. When a restaurant offers “all you can eat” specials they do this with the knowledge that most people have both physical and mental self-limitations on consumption. To the point where they are still able to make money running these specials. Also, how many plates of pasta (which is a source of complex carbohydrates) or jacket potatoes have you ever gulped down in one sitting? Its not really what you’d think of as a binge food is it? I don’t think many people would point to pasta and/or potatoe consumption as the source of their obesity.

Complex carbs like pasta & potatoes contribute non-trivial amounts of fiber, protein, selenium, thiamin & folate. Fiber will also give you a feeling of fullness thereby limiting repeat consumption. What I would say on pasta is I don’t see any reason why the “free version” should not have to be whole grain as this has substantially more fiber than the refined one. But again SW treds a balance between what is ideal for weight loss and what is realistic and sustainable. Note that the generalised goal is very modest – dropping 1-2lbs of bodyweight per week. So this plan is about consistently being good rather being great because most people will struggle to go from terrible nutrition to perfect nutrition overnight.

The other strength of SW as I see it is the weekly weigh ins. This makes you accountable and makes you think twice about letting yourself go – knowing that the feedback loop will be swift in coming. By setting up a system whereby you are expected/asked to lose a very reasonable 1-2lbs per week & then being weighed weekly you are taking a big goal and dividing it into many, little, manageable ones. As I always tell people weight management is a marathon its not a sprint. Its a habit not an action. And just think of 52 weeks losing no less than 1lb a week on average (of course this is an average you will have weeks where you drop 4lbs and ones where you losing nothing) that’s 52lbs in a year. Almost anyone would be happy with that sort of weight loss. So whilst the nano-goal is small the end results can be immense.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

My personal approach to weight management is to always look for the most pragmatic approach – what works & causes the least short or long term damage. So when I read articles about Slimming World being bad because you are allowed as many Low calorie/sugar free carbonated drinks I say wait a minute unless you have issues with headaches or a rare inherited disease that prevents phenylalanine from being properly metabolized aspartame is probably not going to cause you any material problems. Again its a question of balancing the desire to lower consumption of terrible foodstuffs with the need to give the person trying to lose weight a little bit of latitude to wean themselves away from bad habits. And the person still having 3 cans of 0-calorie Diet Coke a day is 105g of sugar (21 teaspoons) better off than the person having 3 regular Cokes a day. Its not ideal but neither is it the end of the world.

Slimming World won’t work for you if

Having read up on some of the Trustpilot reviews for Slimming World a clear pattern emerges. Those who only have bad things to say about SW went into it with the wrong attitude. They went into it with an attitude of SW needs to prove itself to me – comments like “I can weigh myself once a week for free” are indicative of a loser’s attitude. And I’m not talking about a weight loser. What you should do is suspend your disbelief – if you do it, do it. Give it a go. Yes they’re making just over £5 a week from you, no you don’t need to buy any of the extras they will try to sell you on but none of that matters this is about you evolving into a healthier, more responsible eater & manager of your own weight and physical destiny.

Why you should care about your weight

BMI vs all cause mortality (death) rate

BMI vs all cause mortality
  • excess weight kills 31,000 people every year in the UK.
  • obesity is a major risk factor for serious Covid-19 illness. Covid-19 death rates are 10 times higher in countries where more than half of the adult population is classified as overweight. Of the 2.5 million covid-19 deaths reported by the end of February 2021, 2.2 million were in countries where over half the population is classified as overweight—defined as a body mass index above 25.
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