Slimming World – the problem with weightloss clubs | Rosemary rants


Pic credit: Slimming World book via The Two Darlings

To categorise this opinion piece on Slimming World as a rant is possibly a little OTT, but I know that my readers thirst for my anger. So you can consider this clickbait of sorts. That being said, to the Slimming World dedicated among you, this may well seem like a totally outrageous attack on a church that deserves no such ire – in which case, y'know, consider it a rant.

A lil intro

There's going to be a bit of jargon in this post that, to those of you who've never tried – or even read about – Slimming World, may seem confusing, so to break it down: on Slimming World, you're essentially allowed as much fruit and veg (with a few exceptions) as you like, as well as carbs like pasta, rice and potatoes. The caveat is: one-third of every meal has to be made of "speed" food (basically, high-fibre, low-sugar and low-fat fruit and veg).

As well as all that, you get a certain number of syns per day. Quick Cliff's Notes version: Syns are Slimming World's way of measuring fat. The higher the fat in an item, the higher the number of "syns".

Slimming World and me

There are very few diets I haven't tried, which is a way of kind of setting my own scene. I am a woman who has been open to possible solutions for something I perceived to be a problem (that of being overweight). I'm trying, right now, very hard not to see "being overweight" as a problem that needs to be solved, but that's something for another day – although, if you like the sound of that attitude, check out this piece on body positivity.

I first tried Weight Watchers when I was in secondary school; I joined my local group and learned that, at 12-odd stone, I was morbidly obese and should lose at least two stone. (Imagine how difficult it was to look back on that moment, two stone heavier at the age of 21.)

Slimming World came later; you can read all about my foray into Ireland's fastest-growing slimming club here on I'd heard stories of people who'd lost stones on Slimming World ("and kept it off!") and I've always liked the idea of regular weigh-ins and supportive groups of women all trying to achieve the same thing.

To be clear: I accept that, for some people, it works

As I said above, I know that some people have had great "success" – at least if success is measured in terms of weight loss – with Slimming World. And, in week one, I was one of those people; I lost something like 9lbs and was named slimmer of the week. I went home with a plastic bag full of fruit and, er, two tins of mushy peas.

The mushy peas are actually a pretty good symbol, for me, of everything that is wrong with Slimming World. This sounds incredibly snobby – and I don't mean to condescend to anyone – but, to my mind, Slimming World is an incredibly effective way of losing weight if you are someone who hasn't got a clue about nutrition.

How many deadly syns?

I would sit, dumbfounded, in meetings while people would discuss how shocked they were that they could eat all the vegetables they liked! They would talk about bags of frozen peppers, bought in Iceland, that were so cheap and great for stir-fries! One woman waxed lyrical about chicken goujons she'd found in Tesco that were "very low in syns" and she put them in a wrap with loads of iceberg lettuce. "Even my four-year-old daughter loves them!"

There are more syns in an avocado than there are in a Curly Wurly (why do weightloss clubs love Curly Wurlys? I swear no one would eat those if Weight Watchers and Slimming World leaders didn't go on about them as if they heralded the second coming of Christ).

There is no emphasis – at least not in my experience – on nutrition in Slimming World. Now I want to get this out of the way: the leader I had was so lovely and so encouraging, and I really believe she was doing an incredible job with the tools she had at her disposal.

But, to my mind, there is no effort made in the Slimming World universe to educate members about what they should be eating – and why. You're never taught, for example, that there are such things as good fats and bad fats; there's no chat about why, maybe you'd be better off choosing potatoes over pasta (just "yay! Slimming World lets you eat carbs!").

In case it wasn't obvious, I failed

It would, in a way, be more interesting to read an anti-Slimming World post from someone who'd lost a shitload of weight using their methods and still thought they were ill-advised, but I'm sorry – I'm not that champion.

I gave up on Slimming World after a couple of weeks because, quite frankly, a lot of it just didn't make sense to me. I could essentially be eating a Mugshot (a vile cup of pasta-in-liquid) every day and still live within my "syns", but if I made myself an incredibly nutritious chilli and topped it with high-fat (but also high-protein) cheese, I'd be f*cked.

My conclusion? Slimming World: not for me

Right now, what is for me is accepting and loving my body for the fact that it carries me around and lets me talk (the most important thing ever, obviously) and lift heavy weights. It's not an object for me to "hone", it's a vessel for me to respect. When I did my health check at Charter Medical, I remember the doctor telling me, "Oh no – you should never hate your body; it holds your brain!"

Ultimately, I don't think Slimming World helps anyone to love and respect their body, and to show that love and respect by fuelling it with nutritious food and cutting down on processed shit. If anything, it encourages the opposite.