Over my career I have seen countless women who have been back to Slimming World countless times. This is not a coincidence that it fails so many, and sadly yo-yoing in weight has been shown to put our health at risk, in itself so it is not ok that slimming clubs will welcome back repeated dieters with their big promises.
However, the marketing is very convincing and its no wonder it pulls people in, time and time again. This has prompted me to go behind the scenes of some of the Slimming World statements and tell you what I think you need to know.
“We’ll motivate and inspire you all the way to your dream weight”.
Dream weight gives the impression that you do get to pick the weight you want to be and that if you don’t achieve it the only thing holding you back is, well, you.
Let’s just unpick that for a second.
Weight is not something we have complete control over.
We do get control over what we put in our mouth, but this is driven by many subconscious processes beyond our human control. Take the milkshake experiment for example, in which one group were told the milkshake was low calorie, and the other were told it was high calorie, when in actual fact in contained the same number of calories for both groups.
In the group told it was low calorie, there was a 3-fold increase in their ghrelin production (our hunger hormone). So, the brain had processed it was supposedly ‘low calorie’ and already started to put in place physiological processes to encourage the person to consume more. That’s not conscious stuff is it! The brain is trained to predict stuff and act accordingly – it’s in our best interests for survival.
This isn’t going to be fixed with “fool proof plans and an understanding of your own danger zones”.
- You get to decide how much you want to drink, but you don’t get control over how much urine you produce.
- You get to decide if you’re hot or cold and take off a jumper for example. You don’t get to control how much you sweat.
- You get to decide how much you want to eat, but you don’t get control over what your body weight ultimately is.
These are ALL examples of body functions that are tightly controlled by hormones and self-regulating systems. Number’s one and two we just trust and probably don’t even give it much thought. The last unfortunately, is a little more complex, especially with the emotional connection we have with food serving as a catalyst for self-loathing in the face of diet culture.
Anyway, back to the leaflet…
“…and that moment of empowering accountability when you step on the scales and decide to take back control”.
Urgh, using the scales as the measure through which you’re supposedly taking back control is completely flawed.
Body weight is not a health behaviour. Health behaviours, independent of weight loss have the power to improve your health and it’s also important to note nutrition is one voice in the crowd of your overall health.
Now, back to…
‘Understand your own danger zones and make fool proof plans to overcome’.
Fact: Hunger is different for everyone. Appetite and portion sizes are different for everyone. If someone eats more and lives in a larger body size, this doesn’t make that person unhealthier.
This sort of statement reinforces your belief that you can’t be trusted around food. That you’re constantly side stepping or falling into danger zones. That you need something like Slimming World to guide you. Trust me, you don’t.
Fact: Eating to meet our fuel need is pretty primal stuff. You will feel constantly hungry if you are not eating enough, and this will fuel your belief that you can’t be trusted. As clients often say to me, wow I thought I was a food addict. It turns out I’m not at all, I just hadn’t realised the impact of subtle hunger all day long. Often dieters or ‘slimmers’ as SW likes to call you, will be afraid to eat to the point of actual fullness, so the body will continue to give you signals all day long to eat.
But, hang on I hear you say what about the…
“liberating food optimising eating plan”
What the heck is one of those? Dieting plays to our desire for gamification; the idea that something is exciting, and intriguing motivates our level of engagement.
The challenge is, it also fuels our belief that we need this to be successful. That to trust our own bodies and to listen to what makes us feel good, for our health, our wellbeing and our souls, is not enough. That a food optimising eating plan is the missing ingredient to our success.
So, let’s look more closely at this ‘liberating’ plan:
- Choose your free food
- Choose your healthy extras
- Choose your Syns
Choose your free food
The idea that food is ‘free’ plays on the belief that we’re allowed it, as much as we want. Therefore, if the food isn’t on the free list, does this mean it’s bad in some way and we should treat it completely differently to the ‘free’ stuff?
Choose your healthy extras
These apparently give our body the vital vitamins and minerals and fibre you need. Oh, so does that mean the so-called free food doesn’t contain any nutritional value at all? I’m confused.
Choose your Syns
Oh, so because it’s spelt with a ‘y’ it doesn’t mean you’re saying these foods are bad? As long as I stick to my allocated quantities – I can eat without guilt! Does that mean, if I eat too many of these then, I’m supposed to feel guilty and really bad about myself then?
This is page 3 of a 97-page booklet, and I’m confused and exhausted already.
It’s subtle but what all this is doing is disturbing your relationship with food. It’s making food a thing that requires a huge amount of thought every day, and it’s skewing your beliefs about everyday foods, and they take on a moral value. It’s not just pasta or a carrot or a slice of cake – it’s got a new name and it fits into a certain category.
Finally, the front cover says Love Food, Love friendship, Love Life, Love Slimming World. You know you can have the first three without the last one, right?
If any of this resonates and you don’t want to go back to Slimming World, come and join my Breakup with Dieting Course, to build confidence and clarity on what life, nourishment and food relationships look like on the other side of dieting. Join the waiting list and find out more here.