Why do people hate on Slimming World and the like so much? Obviously I can’t talk for other PTs but here’s my take on the matter.
Now if you’ve followed this blog or my podcast for a while you’ll have heard me go into detail about my thoughts on Slimming World. I was a member, I lost weight on it and then I ran into some problems once I lost weight in terms of the Slimming World outlook and my increasing knowledge of nutrition and fitness.
I wouldn’t recommend joining to people, but equally I wouldn’t discourage someone who decided it was good for them.
Ultimately, it’s not unsafe. Done right, it encourages cooking from scratch, eating dense filling foods and limiting pre package items. It can create good habits.
So why do so many PTs have an issue with it? Education in a nutshell.
Essentially, Slimming World followed sensibly creates a calorie deficit, so you’ll lose weight. But it dresses the calorie deficit up in a cloak of free foods, syns, speed foods and HEXA /HEX B foods. You have to follow the diet book and the app and keep going to the meetings to stay on track. Whereas in reality to hit a calorie deficit you don’t need to do any of those things. You just need to stick within a certain number of calories. That can be tracked for free. You just have to understand what you are tracking. A good PT will teach you this to the point you do not need them to track. Slimming World doesn’t.
That makes sense- if you stopped needing Slimming World after a point where would they make money? A good PT holds more value than simply helping you see a drop in the scale, so we see no fear in simplifying concepts so they don’t seem mysterious.
The big issue I found with Slimming World was they discouraged exercise (or my group did). I was actively advised that if i trained less i might see a bigger drop on the scales. Horrible advice from someone with no qualifications in nutrition or training and potentially damaging to a persons body image and relationship with their weight. Now as a PT I know how important it is to stress how many ways there are to measure progress beyond the scales. Not to mention the health benefits of being more active beyond weight. It also saddens me how many women in these groups decided to wait until they lost weight to exercise because they didn’t feel confident and how this mindset was effectively rubber stamped by Slimming World. When I think how starting to exercise when I was at my biggest and the confidence and sense of achievement I gained from that spurred me on more to lose weight that a brand could actively discourage this is quite sad.
Again, this comes down to knowledge and education. Dressing up NEAT as a magic formula and creating myths surrounding exercise makes people more dependent on a formula which requires continued membership to a brand, instead of educating people and empowering them to eventually not need you anymore.
I get why people decide to join these groups. When I think about some areas of fitness from a new person’s perspective it looks intimidating. Slimming World and the like in contrast seem quite inclusive. The group I joined was full of lovely people and really quite welcoming. That’s why I very much think it’s our job as fitness professionals to not consistently bash these brands but understand what they offer and we do not, how can we make gyms as welcoming as a slimming club? It isn’t enough for us to just know why Slimming World doesn’t work anymore it’s about making our own services as accessible and welcoming.
And if you follow Slimming World or similar. There’s genuinely nothing wrong with that and they way you eat now on that plan can be largely kept in place if you decided to start moving away from Slimming World. As I say, There isn’t anything terribly bad about the concept, it would just be a massive benefit if you understand how and why so you are no longer beholden to a membership.