Slimming World Under the Spotlight
Slimming World Club Review

More than 300,000 people attend a Slimming World club to follow the Slimming World Plan every week and have access to an online slimming club. But does joining a weekly Slimming World club make losing weight easier? Juliette Kellow BSc RD brings us the lowdown.

Slimming World Club Under the Spotlight

Reviewed By Juliette Kellow BSc RD

When you think about a slimming club, the Slimming World club is probably the first to mind.

The Slimming World club was created in 1969 by Margaret Miles-Bramwell who was struggling to lose weight herself. Margaret, still the chairman today, wanted to create the Slimming World club to offer the support she felt was lacking for people trying to shed the pounds. She wanted to devise a healthy eating plan and combine it with a support group – Slimming World club was born.

Around 300,000 people attend a Slimming World club each week but, what does attending a Slimming World club mean? Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD investigates.

Are Group Leaders Trained?

Group leaders, who are known as consultants, take a four-day course that includes training on Food Optimising, Image Therapy, Body Magic and SlimmingWorld on Referral (see below). They then take four diploma examinations that test their knowledge of how to run a group, how to motivate members, their understanding of Food Optimising, basic nutrition and food facts, and the role of exercise in weight management. A Foundation Diploma is then awarded.

Will Everyone at the Slimming World Club Know my Weight?

Slimming World promises your weight won’t be disclosed to other group members. Only your weight change is revealed each week.

Is There Support Available Outside of the Club?

Slimming World has a free website for SlimmingWorld members called LifelineOnline. It’s available to members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and provides recipes, a personalised progress chart and an interactive food diary. You can also get support from Slimming World members who have agreed to be phone, text or email buddies to members from their group.

How is my Goal Weight Set?

You are allowed to choose your own target weight , which is referred to as your Personal Achievement Target. There’s no pressure to set a target weight within the healthy Body Mass Index range of 20-24.9. However, you are not allowed to set a target weight that’s below a BMI of 20.

What Happens When I’ve Reached my Goal?

You can continue to go to Slimming World Clubs for free providing you stay within 3lb of your target weight, regardless of what that is.

Can I Follow the Slimming World Diet Without Going to a Club?

Slimming World offers an online diet programme called bodyOptimise. When you first become a member, you need to complete questions that ask about your health and diet preferences and choose a target weight. You then have access to the Food Optimising plan, a Syns calculator, recipes and menu plans, a progress chart, an online food diary and activity programme.

How Much Weight can I Expect to Lose?

As the Slimming World diet is based on healthy eating, you can expect to lose, on average, 2lb a week. Exercising regularly will boost this weight loss.

Can Anyone Join?

In order to become a member, you must have at least 7lb to lose. People with diabetes may join but they must let their consultant know they have this condition. There is also a programme for children aged 11-15 years called Free2Go, which focuses on encouraging children to eat more healthily rather than on losing weight. This follows the basic principles of the Food Optimising plan – children fill up on Free Foods, add Healthy Extras and eat fewer fatty and sugary foods.

Children can attend SlimmingWorld clubs free of charge when they go with a paying adult or guardian, but they must have the approval of their GP or practice nurse by providing a signed consent form. Pregnant women and new mums can also attend. Slimming World has devised a programme for pregnant and breast-feeding women in conjunction with the Royal College of Midwives to help them manage their weight.

To be a member whilst you are pregnant, you need to have the signed consent of your midwife. For the online service, people with cancer, liver or kidney disease or an eating disorder are not allowed to join.

Are Health and Diet Experts Supportive of Slimming World?

SlimmingWorld works closely with experts and organisations in the obesity field and also funds research in the area of weight management. As a result, it has the support of many health professionals. In 2003, the Slimming World on Referral scheme was launched. This scheme, which is subsidised by Slimming World, means that GPs can ‘prescribe’ attendance at a Slimming World club for 12 weeks free of charge.

The scheme is currently offered by more than 50 Primary Care Trusts across England. However, many health organisations such as the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency are now focussing on encouraging us to better control our portion sizes. Therefore the idea of eating huge amounts of Free Foods – even though they are healthy – is likely to be in conflict with this.

Does Slimming World Consider Exercise at All?

Yes. Slimming World has a programme called Body Magic that’s designed to encourage members to become more active.

It focuses on encouraging members to do build up to 30 minutes of activity five times a week, which is in line with government advice.

As well as receiving a booklet on Body Magic when you join, exercise advice is provided in the weekly group sessions.

However, unlike WLR there are no calorie counts for exercise, so you don’t get to see the relationship between food and exercise.

You also receive weekly log sheets that enable you to set aims for the week, set daily and weekly goals, recognise danger areas and record your activity levels on a daily basis.

As you become more active you receive, bronze, silver, gold and platinum recognition.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Member?

The one off joining fee is £10. You then pay £4.95 for each weekly meeting (£4.65 for senior citizens). Children aged 11-15 years old can attend for free if they come with a parent or guardian who is a member. Otherwise, the weekly fee is £3.95 plus the initial joining fee (they still must attend with an adult).

The online membership fee varies depending on the level of service you opt for. There are three levels of service. The Bronze membership costs £79.95 for a three-month subscription and includes three months online access. The Silver membership costs £84.95 and in addition includes seven issues of Slimming World magazine. And Gold membership costs £99.95 and includes Slimming World’s Food Optimising and Body Magic books as well as the standard Silver membership content. There are frequently offers available for both the group and online memberships.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know About?

As well as Food Optimising and Body Magic, SlimmingWorld has devised a concept called IMAGE therapy, which stands for Individual Motivation and Group Experience.

In reality, this refers to the group support that members can expect to get by attending weekly meetings.

This is similar to the kind of support you’ll find on the WLR Message Boards and from the Helpteam, although obviously is usually only once weekly.

Like most support networks, the meetings aim to provide encouragement, inspiration, motivation, empowerment and positivity.

Members share ideas, recipes and stories, are encouraged to make weekly commitments and plan ahead, and if necessary, consultants offer one-to-one-support throughout the week.

As meetings are weekly, support is not offered 24/7 as it is on WLR meaning there is not always a support group on hand when you need it.

Whilst a group environment is motivating for some, it’s not for everyone.

A Commitment course of 6 - 12 weeks is also offered to all members as a way to boost commitment and motivation specifically through times that may be difficult, such as holidays and Christmas. 

These courses are incorporated into group meetings for an extra price. 

I like the fact that Slimming World as an organisation works with health professionals – the Referral Scheme is a great idea.

Providing a plan that enables pregnant and breast-feeding mums to manage their weight is also a positive move as this is a time when weight problems often start for women.

The children’s plan is also a fabulous idea considering so many teenagers are now overweight or obese – the only downside is the possible stigma attached of going to a ‘slimming club’.

WLR members who have tried Slimming World

I have done Slimming World more than once - and quite frankly I get bored very quickly because I find it hard to eat out or be spontaneous with it. OnwardsandDawnwards

I have always done Slimming World, and you can eat loads of carbs with out counting the calories... however it was not working for me!! Keegan

I did Slimming World a couple of times a few years ago and never had any long term success with it. The sysn were confusing and my portion size perception actually worsened. Since I joined WLR and stuck to calories control, I've lost more and kept it off for far longer hen with any other method.  Extremeweazle

I tried Slimming World about 18 months ago and was reasonably successful losing just over 2 stone. However, my weight loss flatlined and I lost interest. Consequently my weight has crept up again. TradCat

I did Slimming World for month and was always thinking about my next meal and obsessed with what I couldn't have. Didn't lose anything. Hated staying for the roll call of shame too. Think it does work for some, but I can honestly say that I'm enjoying eating normally and managing to lose weight without cottage cheese, low fat yohurts and skimmed milk. Silversurfer

I've used Slimming World - it's expensive and if you do manage to lose weight on it, you simply go back to the previous way you are and regain the weight, plus more! Pineapple27

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