Slimming World… Not for people that workout and why

Posted September 30th, 2017

I’ve been inspired / pushed to write this blog post due the amount of women who are either doing slimming world (SW), have just done SW or are thinking about doing it and are becoming motivated not to train or workout. 

I am not here to slate SW. All I want to do is debunk it a little and explain why it might not be the right choice for people that want to achieve more than just weight loss. IF you want to shift excess fat, build lean muscle and have a better body composition, leading to that toned, lean physique then SW probably isn’t for you. 

If you are currently a SW member and stay for “Image Therapy” just think, how many times do you hear a discussion about someone who has started getting active and they’ve stopped losing weight. I tried SW back in 2012 and used to hear this nearly every week. Not once could the group leader explain it sufficiently and lets be honest, they shouldn’t.. if they did, they would likely lose their members. 

The reason I am writing this now is that I have been speaking to other instructor friends of mine who are telling me that they are losing class participants as they decide to give up the gym as they get better “results” at SW when they aren’t working out. Wait…what? Yes its true that you might lose more weight this way but thats not what really matters. 

Surely I am not the only one that hears how crazy that is, and feels a little bit sad and annoyed by it. I want to be clear… It is not the class participants fault. It’s all about SW and how they don’t properly educate their members… at all! They purposefully keep the key information back and give people a complicated system (that they say is really simple) which gives the illusion of control. In fact, all their system actually does is ensure repeat business and money for SW. 

Think about this for just a second… if SW really is so simple and so effective, why doesn’t it work for all its members? If it really worked, they would quickly put themselves out of business. Their Slimming World Women and Men of the year would not quickly put a large chunk of the weight they lost to win that title and the NHS would be biting their hand off. The key success point of the SW business model is repeat business. For SW to continue to make money, and keep its shareholders happy, it needs people to keep coming back and paying their weekly fees and to ensure they keep coming back. Simply put, it needs you to not achieve what you want to achieve. You likely will have a little bit of success but success on the scales is not the full picture. A few lbs, or maybe even stones, loss on the scales is not all you need to think about. 

Firstly, the thing everyone needs to understand is that weight loss comes down to calories in versus calories out. Yes, there are some medical situations where this isn’t true but for the majority of us, this is what you need to control. There is nothing simpler than counting calories, especially in this day and age, with ‘my fitness pal’ and other such apps.

The next thing to understand is that weight loss doesn’t tell you anything more than how much your body weighs. It doesn’t tell you about your body shape, how much lean muscle mass you have or how much body fat you are carrying. These things are important… more important than your overall weight. 

The difference in size between 5lbs of fat and 5lbs of muscle is massive. If you burn fat and build muscle you can pretty much guarantee that your hard work will not show on the scales. I feel like a broken record as I say this over and over again, trying to get people to ditch the scales. This is what was happening to these women in the gym. They are working out and making real progress too. They do some great strength training and build some good lean muscle mass. The workouts were also obviously effecting her calorie deficit so she was burning fat but because of the difference in these two components the scales were not showing a difference. Therefore, because SW only cares about that arbitrary number on the scales people get demotivated and decide that it’s the gym that has to go, not SW! 

Lets look at the SW system. It is described as building blocks, and you need each building block to have a complete system. 

Free foods. These are food that do not need to be weighed, measured or counted…AT ALL! Again, wait, what??? Free foods include fruit (but not all fruit), vegetables so, so far, kind of ok right BUT it also includes dried pasta, potatoes, rice and lean meat plus some other stuff. So, now not ok, at all. How is it ok to each as much as you like? Where is the portion control? How do you have any idea how many calories you’re consuming? You don’t, hence keeping you in the dark and not really knowing what the hell you are doing! There is one good thing about this bit as they do encourage you to fill one third of your plate with fruits/vegetables (the super free foods). No one can argue with this! 

‘A’ and “B” Choices. These foods need to measured…phew! ‘A’ choices are the dairy foods and ‘B’ foods are cereals and some other random stuff which i think is related to fibre intake! So you are now measuring stuff but again, following their given guidelines that still do not inform you about your actual daily consumption. 

Syns. Everything else has a syn value and you are allowed up to 15 syns a day. I like this idea in principle as I am a big believer in being able to have anything you want, just not everything you want. The issue is that again a syn value has no real information behind it. You may know the syn value of a glass of wine, a mars bar or some coconut oil but what else do you know about them? 

And, remember, this system is “simple” and puts you in control. Really? How is that more simple than counting calories? How are you in control when you don’t have all the information? How is it healthy to tell someone “go ahead, eat 3 jacket potatoes and a steak for lunch, that’s all free food!” If you were counting calories you would know that that is not ok, but SW tells you it is! Ok, you might not actually do that but the point is you could, according to the rules of the plan.

I know that some people have had great results with SW and I am not here to undermine their achievements but I just want people to have the facts before deciding which route to either take or continue on. An eating plan that makes you think about giving up your workouts is probably not the best (read healthiest) choice.

The take aways from this post…

1) Nothing is easier or more effective than counting calories and this is the thing you need to understand about weight loss, is calories in versus calories out. if your goal is to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. Once you have got your head around this we can talk macros (balancing your daily intake between carbs, protein and fats) but thats for another day as you need to get the basics right first!

2) Your body weight is one measurement and does not give you a good or accurate picture of your body composition. If you have weight to lose then yes, weighing yourself is ok but it should be used in conjunction with inches, progress photos and if you have the means, your body fat and muscle composition. 

To fully illustrate this point: I measure the following with all my clients: weight, body fat, muscle mass, visceral fat (the internal fat around your organs), inches at bust, waist and hips and we also take progress photos. It is sooooo common that they will lose inches, decrease their body fat and increase their muscle mass and yet, that figure on the scales either doesn’t move or actually goes up a little bit. They are healthier, slimmer and stronger which is surely what matters but yet they are also heavier… so what? Who cares! They certainly don’t as they understand the bigger picture. They are always thrilled to see that body fat % and the inches going down.

3) A good level of fitness and being active is a key part of being healthy and working out brings a whole host of benefits beyond how you look. You will likely sleep better, reduce your stress levels, have better hair, skin and nails and usually people who commit to a fitness regime make better food choices so that they don’t undo all of their hard work.