There, I said it. I’m prepared for the onslaught. When it comes to defensiveness, nobody does it like a Slimming World follower, and trust me, I know.
I used to follow Slimming World religiously, and if anybody said one negative word against it, I was the first to give my two cents. I think I desperately wanted to believe that it was a diet that worked, and for a while I really did. Now don’t get me confused, I’m not some scorned ex-member and I’m also never going to rain on the parade of somebody that’s doing all they can to become healthier, that’s really not what this is.
I’m here to explain why Slimming World, and in fact, the entire diet culture, is not the answer to your long term weight loss success. In fact, it probably holds you and your long term health back entirely. Hear me out…
What are the Rules of Slimming World?
Designed to be easy to follow for all, the rules of Slimming World are quite simple. You have ‘free foods’ which you can essentially eat unlimited quantities of, speed foods, and syns. The goal is that your plate should have 1/3 ‘speed’ food for your main meals, and this includes things like salads, fruits and veggies – certainly not a bad thing to live by.
Free Foods & ‘Syns’
Your free foods include the likes of rice, pasta and potatoes, but excludes bread. There’s an A & B choice each day, with the A encouraging you to choose between milk and cheese, and the B between bread and cereals, so that you’re not doubling up.
The ‘Syns’ are your ‘bad’ foods, from fats like oils and butter to chocolate bars and crisps. The daily allowance of these depends on your weight, with those above a certain threshold being granted extra treats. Although it’s not 100% clear how syns are calculated, it would seem they’re based on calorie density (funny, since SW doesn’t count calories apparently, more on that below).
No Calorie Counting
You’ll hear it time and time again, ‘Slimming World does not count calories’, and in fact, you may even be completely discouraged from being aware of your calorie intake all together by your Consultant or fellow members. The fundamental flaw in this is with ‘free foods’, such as pasta, potatoes, and rice. There are over 350 calories in a large bowl of pasta, for example, with no sauce or anything else mixed in. So if you’re allowed essentially unlimited pasta (amongst other things) each day, what’s to stop you from eating thousands of calories in such foods?
Despite Slimming World mantras, calories DO matter, as the most basic science behind weight loss is calories in versus calories out. If you’re in a calorie deficit you’ll lose weight, if you’re not, you won’t, simple. Although I appreciate SW’s intentions of removing calories as to not overwhelm, it can be very misleading.
Slimming World Contradictions: BananaGate
The mushed banana theory is famous in Slimming World Culture, so you’ve probably heard of it, but let me explain. By SW rules, a whole banana is a free food, but a mushed banana, e.g on toast or within a smoothie, is 3 syns. So despite the exact same nutritional value, the syn value varies depending on whether you eat it whole, or break it down.
Now the Slimming World army will tell you 1 of 2 things; firstly, the food releases more sugar/more calories if blended (completely false, with no scientific evidence) OR it’s less filling in a smoothie which is why they syn it, to avoid overeating. So we’ve already discounted explanation 1, so I have a simple question when it comes down to explanation 2 – if Slimming World is not about calorie counting, then why does the overeating of the ‘free’ banana matter? Simply put, it does matter, because calories do matter. Whether you slice, smush or eat your banana whole, however, doesn’t.
This is one of the many contradictions that runs through the core of Slimming World. By far the most infuriating for me is the fact that an avocado will take you grossly over your daily syn allowance, but a chocolate bar won’t. In fact, you can have 3 chocolate bars (depending on the type) for the value of an avocado. What is that teaching us about food?
Slimming World and Your Relationship With Food
As a lifelong serial over-eater, I know first hand what it’s like to have an out of control relationship with food. Whether you’re an emotional eater, a bored eater, a compulsive eater or all 3, there’s a bigger battle to overcome than just weight loss. In order to lose weight and keep it off, there needs to be steps taken to improve your relationship with food – an understanding of portion control, being able to distinguish real hunger from boredom, and so on.
A common practice amongst Slimming World members is ‘saving syns up’, whether this be daily or weekly. Instead of using syns within cooking like butter, sauces, or oils, or having the occasional sweet treat (because we all need them), some members will have a daily plate of syns. This can include popcorn, sweets, chocolate, you name it. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with eating these things, but scheduling a daily indulgence because it falls within your ‘syns’ just seems counterproductive to me. If you want to eat some chocolate, go ahead and eat some, and don’t feel guilty about it for a second, but have a long hard think about whether this scheduled regime of saving syns is actually helping your relationship with food.
Does Slimming World Work?
The answer is yes, in the short term, Slimming World works for many. Ultimately, we’re all up against it, because the painful truth is that 90% of people that lose a substantial amount of weight will gain it back.
For long term, sustainable weight loss, there’s no proof that Slimming World works. It works at first, because you’re probably eating less than you were before following Slimming World principles, but if you continue to overeat on ‘free’ foods, and don’t work on fixing your relationship with food, like any ‘diet’, you are more likely to fail.
I tried Slimming World 3 times, I lost weight every time and then put it back on. I also know many, many people who are in the same boat, and have gone on to have much better success with more basics concepts, such as calories in and calories out – eat better, move more. As mentioned earlier, I will never put anybody off trying to work on their health or doing their best to lose weight, but it’s worth considering all of these points before you choose Slimming World as your plan of choice.
For much more information on why Slimming World doesn’t work and great content on health, fitness and weight loss, visit the RebelFit blog – these guys seriously know their stuff.