The first in a series of mainstream diet reviews, looking at the benefits and pitfalls of popular diets and talking about how fitnaturally’s approach differs.
Slimming World’s background
Slimming World is one of the most popular names on the UK diet scene. It’s effectively a slimming club that provides eating advice and, more recently, encouragement to be active. Established in 1969 in Derbyshire Slimming World grew from a handful of local groups to now being the largest slimming club in the UK, with around 16,000 groups. Each group has a leader, called a ‘consultant’, who is someone who has successfully used Slimming World to lose weight themselves.
How does Slimming World work
The regime is based on three things; the first is what Slimming world calls ‘food optimising’, the second is group support and the third is encouragement to be more active. Food optimising allows members to choose from a list of ‘free foods’, which includes fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, potatoes, couscous, eggs, low fat yoghurts such as Muller Light, baked beans, lean meat and fish. These ‘free foods’ can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
People are allowed one ‘Healthy Extra B’ per day. This could be one slice of bread, a portion of specified cereal, nuts, pulses or crackers.
They are also allowed one ‘Healthy Extra A’ each day. Either 350ml skimmed or 250ml semi-skimmed milk, 28g of full-fat hard cheese or 42g of reduced-fat hard cheese.
Additionally there is a daily ‘Syn’ allowance. Syn is short for synergy, and every food is given a Syn value. The allowance is between 5 and 15 Syns a day and can be anything, such as crisps, chocolate, condiments, sauces, extra cereal, bread and so on.
The group effect
Members attend a weekly group meeting, which lasts for around 30 minutes, where they are weighed, and a discussion takes place about any successes or pitfalls and anything that might enhance or affect people’s success on the programme. The group is inclusive and supportive, with members from a range of backgrounds. The consultant is contactable by phone, email, text and via a Facebook group.
Slimming World encourages activity with its ‘Body Magic’ programme. Members are encouraged to build up to 30 mins of daily activity on five days of the week and can win awards based on frequency, intensity and duration of activity.
There is a £10 joining fee and a weekly fee of £4.95. Slimming World also sells ready meals, books and magazines.
Some people like to be part of a group and feel bolstered by it. Plus there are no off-limit foods with Slimming World, and people can still weave in foods such as crisps, chocolate, cake, takeaways and so on, as well as drinking alcohol. A lot of people successfully lose weight while they’re following the regime. Lastly they’re encouraged to be more active.
Slimming World does very little to educate people about appropriate portion sizes, so when they come off the regime they haven’t effectively learnt how to moderate their eating. Its free-foods include unlimited refined carbohydrates which can negatively affect blood sugar and body fat storage. The emphasis is not on nutrition but on weight loss, for instance people are encouraged to eat lower fat versions of foods which often contain artificial additives and sweeteners. The word Syn, although short for synergy, has connotations of some foods being sinful, which can raise their status in some people’s minds. The group consultants aren’t qualified in nutrition but are able to give nutrition-related advice. The regime tends to be used in isolation, just by the person who is on the diet, and doesn’t apply to anyone else who shares meals with them, which can make it harder to weave into everyday life. There’s a lot of thinking involved in terms of healthy extras, free food, limited foods and syns, which isn’t a sustainable way of eating.
How fitnaturally differs from Slimming World
fitnaturally is a small, professional, company employing qualified nutritionists and personal trainers who are available for all clients to consult with and learn from.
Its ethos is based on good nutrition and health, with weight loss being a by-product. fitnaturally focuses not directly on body weight but on achieving a healthy level of body fat and maintaining it for life with healthy eating and regular enjoyable activity. fitnaturally promotes whole foods, not reduced fat or reduced sugar but whole and delicious foods in the right amount to achieve good health.
It promotes eating three meals a day and discourages snacking, so that people are nicely hungry for meals and can live their lives in-between.
It educates people on correct portion sizes and timing of carbohydrates as well as reconnecting them with natural hunger and satiety feelings so they learn what their body actually needs. It works closely with people to overcome emotional eating and other types of disordered eating so they can break free from those things and enjoy food without connecting it to their feelings.
People are encouraged to make and cook easy healthy and quick meals from scratch and to make meal times special and, if possible, sociable. Rather than seeing food as something that causes weight gain or loss it’s seen as something that nourishes, satisfies and brings people together.
fitnaturally works for single people to couples to families, it’s not something that’s done in isolation but a way of life for everyone. There are also specialist plans for diabetics, sportspeople, couples trying to conceive, pregnant women, students and families, as well as variations for vegetarians and pescatarians within all those plans.
It’s a change of lifestyle, for always, rather than a temporary diet. Therefore it has to be enjoyable, inspirational and something the person will eventually be able to do without thinking.
No gender bias
fitnaturally targets and supports people. There is no male/female bias.
With fitnaturally people get meal plans written by qualified nutritionists, and continual support from the same. They can email, call, Skype or text their nutritionist and they get free nutritionist advice in the facebook support group. Plans start from just £18 a month with no joining fee.
Professional fitness advice
fitnaturally is fully qualified to advise on and deliver exercise and fitness training and provides online plans to suit the individual with safe and effective exercise and activity.
So, finally, does Slimming World work?
Yes it does, if weight loss alone is the goal. If people follow it they will lose weight, as with most diets.
But the Slimming World regime has features which lock the person in to the regime. Education and the encouragement of instinctual eating are almost non-existent, which means that once the person has stopped following the regime or using the Slimming World products the likelihood for regaining weight is high.
fitnaturally’s diet works in the short and long term because it addresses all aspects of healthy eating and educates people about good nutrition, enjoyment of good food, and activity. It suits everyone, not just the dieter, because it’s good old fashioned healthy eating and the food is gorgeous, with loads of choice. It’s similarly priced but offers far more long term value and better all-round health.