Slimming World and Weight Watchers

I’m aware that this post will not go down well with many people who are loyal ‘customers’ of these brands and it is just my personal opinion. However, I feel it is necessary to point out a few things.

These are big brands who have ultimately a vested interest in keeping people overweight in the long run. Their goals is to get results in the short term which encourages brand loyalty, which enables them to get referrals from customers to get more customers, as well as convincing the consumer that their way is the best way to success and makes them slightly deaf to all the scientific evidence. They do not want you to achieve total long term success because you will then cease to be a customer.

Many of my clients have used or are currently using one of these methods, often encouraged/subsidised by the NHS. And the truth is they achieve considerable weight loss initially, due to calorie restriction methods and the social support of the group. However, they normally come to me when they are no longer getting the results they hoped for and have often started slipping back. The problem is that they have become somewhat brainwashed by these brands so they don’t believe that nutrition is the problem – it must be lack of the right kind of exercise they think. Their faith in their brands is also reinforced by the fact often that doctors have referred them to the brands (remember that doctors receive scant training in nutrition). Importantly, they generally are in line with government guidelines, which I suppose makes doctors feel safe, although it shouldn’t because there’s never been any independent scientific evidence to support the guidelines in the first place. They were imported lock, stock and barrel from the US in the nineties. If you look at the obesity epidemic in both countries over the last 30 years maybe somebody in government should be questioning these guidelines by now?

Now admittedly I haven’t studied these diets in detail but it seems to me from what clients say and from brief visits to these brands’ websites that there are a number of issues with this type of nutrition, although I accept that it may be a considerable improvement for many people on what they had been eating before. Firstly, they seem to follow the ‘low fat’ mantra which has been so discredited in recent times. Clients are clearly confused by this as they are constantly being told these days that sugar is the enemy, not fat, yet these companies are preaching low fat against all the evidence to the contrary. Why? Everybody knows now that dietary fat doesn’t make you fat.

Secondly, they seem to include a lot of starchy carbs such as pasta, potatoes, bread etc in their recommendations, even though all the evidence is that these do not help with weight loss and that grains especially  tend to cause inflammation, bloating etc.

Weight watchers especially seems to operate largely on portion control and calorie restriction. Whilst most of us probably eat too much generally, the emphasis in my view should be on eating nutrient dense foods that satisfy rather than simply reducing how much we eat.

Slimming World also have this system of ‘cyns’ (I hope I’ve spelt that right), where you are allowed to ‘fall off the wagon’ so many times over a certain period. Whilst I agree that we shouldn’t become too perfectionist about what we eat, I don’t think we should be building systematic cheating into any dietary plan, as this kind of suggests that these foods taste better than the healthy stuff. Rather we should be allowing ourselves some leeway, especially at first, but need to be encouraged to replace unhealthy options with healthier ones gradually until we lose our desire for the bad stuff.

So that’s just a few random thoughts about these brands. I do accept that they may be an improvement for some people on what they were doing before, but I don’t think that anybody should regard them as a long term sustainable answer to their nutritional needs. I know that this will ruffle a few feathers amongst those who have had some success with these brands, but that’s just the way I see it personally. Of course, if it has worked for you and you are continuing to see the weight fall off and you feel amazing in yourself then do carry on. I doubt whether many people feel like this though after a year or so.



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