Updated: Mar 20, 2019
Hi, My name is Sam Sterling and I'm a personal trainer. So many of my clients have been to slimming world or weight watchers and all say the same thing 'it works but I just cant keep the weight off.' So I'm wondering, although thousands of people join Slimming World every year, how effective really are these schemes, and are they healthy?
Slimming World works on the basis of 'food optimising'. This includes labelling certain foods such as pasta, rice, fruit, eggs and lean meats as 'Free Foods', and all other foods as 'Syns' (plus some 'Healthy Extras').
Members are encouraged to eat unlimited Free foods as much as they like, however must count their Syns. The reality of this results in demonising certain foods which can have a profound lasting effect on the phycological relationship someone can have with food. An obsession over which foods are 'good' and 'bad' is an impossible, rule-driven way of eating that is similar to the mindset of someone with an eating disorder.
On top of this, the advice to eat unlimited Free Foods provides no education regarding portion control, and can mean that people actually end up over-consuming calories anyway - just in the form of pasta and fruit, rather than sweet treats. Slimming World’s system is simply a very cleverly marketed way of controlling calorie intake using its “Syn” and “Free Food” allowances; there is no magical formula or science behind the method, other than a simple calorie deficit. If they just told people to burn more calories than they eat, there would be no reason for them to exist. However, by disguising this and providing little education on the actual science behind the diet, people are clueless and lost when they stop Slimming World. With no idea how to eat outside of the world of Syns and Free foods, they very quickly regain any weight lost.
These companies are ultimately a business and have to make money. If people were to join, lose weight and keep it off, they would never return. However, if people lose weight in the short term, but immediately regain it, then they will return to Slimming World as it "worked before" and give the company more of their money to go through the process again.
A staggering 84% of people who sign up to WeightWatchers (a similar scheme) return to the process a second time after regaining the weight they lost the first time. However, negatives aside, Slimming World can and does work for some to lose weight, at least in the short term. A calorie deficit can be created with just a few simple swaps from 'Syn' foods to 'Free' foods, and consequently, weight loss can be achieved. The community/support aspect is a great motivator, and the weekly weigh-ins keep people accountable, which is key.
Ultimately, Slimming World is a short sighted solution to weight loss, and there are more sustainable, fun and easy ways that can help towards a healthier you, and best of all - they're free!