|This article relies on references to primary sources. (August 2009)|
|Key people||Margaret Miles-Bramwell (Chairman)|
|Employees||250 (head office/field management), 3,500 (consultants)|
Slimming World is a UK-based weight loss organisation. It holds community groups around the UK, led by Consultants who are self-employed, and the current weekly attendance is over half a million. It also offers an online service and, in 2011, launched Slimming World USA online.
Slimming World's members lose weight through a combination of its 'Food Optimising' eating plan, moderate activity through its 'Body Magic' programme, and group support through shared experience with other slimmers to encourage behaviour change, called IMAGE Therapy. Slimming World's eating plan is based on the science of satiety (the satisfying qualities of food) and energy density. Foods that satisfy the appetite and are low in energy density, such as fruit and vegetables, pasta, potatoes, fish and lean meat, are called 'Free Foods' and can be eaten without weighing, counting or measuring. Foods which are often banned on other weight-loss plans, are allowed within Food Optimising, and these are controlled by a "Syns" counting system.
In 2013, Slimming World hosted a symposium at the European Congress on Obesity titled ''The essential role of compassion, understanding and care in weight loss'. The Slimming World programme, including its eating plan, is based on a deep understanding of the psychology of overweight people. The organisation believes that the burden carried by overweight people is two-fold. "There is the burden of excess weight itself, but there is also a far heavier burden to be lifted – that of shame, self-criticism and poor self-esteem".
Slimming World's 'IMAGE' (Individual Motivation And Group Experience) Therapy group support system uses elements of Transactional Analysis, Motivational Interviewing, influence of ego states on behaviour and more recently Compassionate Mind Theory. During the hour-long group support session, members share their experiences of the preceding week, discuss their weight losses or gains, and share ideas and strategies for the week ahead. Members share practical advice such as recipe suggestions, as well as strategies to cope with times when motivation is low. At group, members are weighed and their weight change is shared with the group. A member's actual weight is confidential, and is not revealed to the group.
Slimming World was founded in Derbyshire in 1969 by Margaret Miles-Bramwell, who remains its chairman. Caryl Richards has been managing director of the company since 2001.
The company began in 1969 with a handful of groups in Derbyshire and expanded into Yorkshire. By the 1980s, Slimming World had 700 classes in the UK and by 2012 there were over 10,000 groups, making it the largest slimming club in the UK and Ireland.
Slimming World's charity, 'SMILES', was launched in 1997. SMILES stands for "Slimmers Making It a Little Easier for Someone", and since 1997 it has raised more than £2,500,000 for charity.
Slimming World magazine was launched in 1998. In 2013 sales exceeded 447,000 per issue. Slimming World also publishes a range of recipe books and directories available to members in group.
In 2001, Slimming World pioneered 'Slimming World on Referral' in the UK, whereby GPs can 'prescribe' attendance of a group for 12 weeks. In 2011, a paper published in the journal Obesity Facts showed that patients attending at least 10 out of 12 sessions achieved a clinically significant weight loss of 5% of their body weight. Slimming World works with around 60 health authorities and, by April 2011, in excess of 100,000 people had used the scheme.
In 2003 Slimming World launched a programme for 11- to 15-year-olds. Through the 'Family Affair' programme, children between the ages of 11 and 15 can attend Slimming World if accompanied by their parent or guardian and with the permission of their GP. They follow a special eating plan called Free2Go, which encourages them to make healthy swaps, such as replacing high fat foods with healthier alternatives. The focus of the programme is on healthy eating rather than weight loss.
An online weight loss programme was launched in 2004, offering a service to slimmers who do not attend a group. Originally called bodyOptimise it was renamed as Slimming World Online in 2011. The services offered by Slimming World Online mirror those supplied by a group.
Food Optimising plan
Slimming World states its eating plan, 'Food Optimising', is a "flexible, empowering, permissive approach to healthy eating". There is little or no weighing and measuring and no calorie counting involved. Food Optimising encourages slimmers to fill up on nutritious, low energy dense foods to satisfy their appetite, while limiting consumption of less satisfying, high energy dense foods. Unique to food optimising is the unlimited choice of many 'free foods' which can include lean meat, fish and poultry, pasta, rice and grains, vegetables, including potatoes, and fruit, all of which may be eaten freely, without weighing or measuring. To help ensure a balanced diet, daily portions of 'healthy extras' are permitted, including bread, cereals, cheese and milk. Finally, controlled portions of higher calorie, less filling foods are included, such as crisps, wine, chocolate and sauces. In Food Optimising these are called "Syns". Most adults have a daily "Syn allowance" of between 5 and 15 "syns".
Food Optimising has a variety of plans, which may be followed on a daily basis as the slimmer chooses and is suitable for all types of dietary preferences, including vegetarian and vegan. No food is banned.
- 'Extra Easy plan': Free Foods include most fruit and vegetables, fish, lean meat and poultry and eggs, pasta, potatoes, grains and beans. Healthy extras include bread, cereals, cheese and milk.
- 'Original plan': Free Foods include most fruit and vegetables, fish, lean meat and poultry and eggs. Healthy extras include bread, cereals, cheese, milk and carbohydrates such as wholewheat pasta, potatoes, grains and beans.
- 'Green plan': Ideal for vegetarians, Free Foods include most fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, potatoes, grains and eggs. Healthy extras include bread, cereals, cheese, milk, nuts & seeds, and protein such as lean meat, poultry and fish.
Slimming World encourages members to introduce physical activity into their daily lives through its 'Body Magic' programme. The emphasis is on introducing activity gently at first, such as getting off the bus a stop early a couple of times a week, or walking up two flights of steps instead of taking the lift occasionally, then on finding forms of activity which can be integrated into everyday life. Members achieve bronze, silver, gold and platinum 'Body Magic' awards. Platinum is achieved when members are routinely active/exercising five times a week for thirty minutes at a time. This is in line with Government activity guidelines. Slimming World has signed up to the Department of Health's Public Health Responsibility Deal and has pledged to encourage its members to build activity into their daily routine. Since 2011, Slimming World has supported more than 150,000 people to become more active.
The support of the consultant and other members is an important part of Slimming World's methods. When a member is losing weight successfully they receive praise and inspire the rest of the group to do well; when they are struggling to lose weight, they have support and practical advice from the group to help them get back on track.. Motivation of members is regenerated each week at the group, and Slimming World believe the level of compassion, respect and care shown to members is a key part of the member's success.
The support continues outside the group via contact and support from the consultant, other members and through the website, 'LifelineOnline' and a free members Smartphone app. The website contains an online "syn-check", recipe ideas and support.
Health and pregnancy
Slimming World works in partnership with the Royal College of Midwives and is the first national slimming organisation to support pregnant and breastfeeding mums to manage their weight healthily during pregnancy. It states that its pregnancy programme is designed to ensure that mums-to-be and breastfeeding mothers can continue to manage their weight, with the consent of their midwife. Slimming World's pregnancy policy was devised in collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives.
- Slimming World - About us
- Slimming World news (May 2013)
- Food Optimising Plan
- Slimming World - Get Fit For Life
- J. Stubbs, S. Whybrow, J. Lavin (2010). "Dietary and lifestyle measures to enhance satiety and weight control". Nutrition Bulletin. Volume 35, issue 2. p113-125
- European Congress on Obesity - Slimming World symposium speaker abstracts
- Slimming|Slimming World Health website - facilitating behavioural change
- Slimming World - What to expect in group
- Durrani, A (February 2103), 'Magazine ABCs: The top 100 at a glance, for last six months of 2012', Media Week
- Lavin, J. et al (2006), Feasibility and benefits of implementing a Slimming on Referral service in primary care using a commercial weight management partner. Public Health. 2006 Sep;120(9):872-81
- Stubbs, J et al (2011). Weight Outcomes Audit for 34,271 Adults Referred to a Primary Care/Commercial Weight Management Partnership Scheme, Obesity Facts, 2011;4:113–120
- Slimming|Slimming World Health website - what is Slimming World on Referral?
- Slimming World website - support for 11-15 year-olds
- Inside Government - new activity guidelines (2011)
- Department of Health - Public Health responsibility Deal - Slimming World promotes the CMO’s physical activity guidelines
- Slimming World Lifeline Online
- Royal College of Midwives - Media Centre