Some people saw my recent blog post about Slimming World, pointing out its positive features and concluded that I must be a fan of this organisation. I suppose that in today’s world of very short attention spans and black and white instant judgement that’s not all that surprising. People don’t often read complete blog posts anyway, because there are so many out there – they just want the fast hit.
However, I think it’s important to redress the balance here. Let’s get this clear, we don’t live in a perfect world and no way of eating and no person is perfect – it’s not black and white, but a variety of colours. SW are not a bad place to start for somebody who is eating a really awful diet, because it will be an improvement on that for sure and you will also get social support from the group and structure, which is important for many.
The problem is that people get some success initially with their methods and therefore assume that it must the right way. Unfortunately, as with ALL diets, they plateau eventually and then start to regain the weight inevitably as the body seeks to reach homeostasis (balance) again. At this point, SW clients come to people like myself, believing it to be not enough exercise that’s the problem because they have ‘improved’ their diet up to a point and it worked at first. They don’t realise that it is still the nutrition that is the issue, not lack of exercise, because they still believe in calories in versus calories out and don’t realise that this is very far from the whole picture when it comes to fat loss. In short, they are guilt tripped and cannot really understand why they are eating better, exercising hard often already and yet still gaining weight!
So what are the problems with the SW way of thinking?
- As I understand it ,pasta and rice are considered ‘free foods’ and you may eat as much as you like of these. This is absurd as these, along with bread and other processed carbs and refined sugars, are what makes you fat! Check out the glycemic loads – they raise insulin high and keep it there for a long time, effectively preventing you from accessing your fat stores for energy!
2. They seem to persist in the totally unproven hypothesis that all fat is bad. We need fat for many bodily processes and, whilst it seems intuitive that eating fat will make you fat, eating healthy fats has very little effect on insulin production, which means that basing your diet around healthy fats mean that you can burn stored fat for energy much easier and sooner. Also, fat is satiating and, if it’s low fat it’s probably going to be high sugar instead because if you take fat and sugar out of the diet your diet will be unappetising and unsustainable! Sugar in all its forms is the enemy of fat loss, not fat!
3. They have this idea of ‘cyns’. You may eat so many of these ‘treats’ within their regime. Obviously they are doing this with the intention of making it sustainable and easier for most people and this is a big attraction for many. Two problems here, though. Firstly, it instills the idea that sugar is nice and therefore by implication the rest of the diet is not so. The important thing about sustainability is not that you are ‘sustainably’ depriving yourself for the majority of the time, but that you enjoy eating the healthy foods because they taste better to a healthy normal palate and junk food does not!! Also, by allowing your insulin levels to stay up in this random way, albeit limited, you are inhibiting fat loss. It is far more effective, if you want the odd treat, to do this within an intermittent fasting protocol, where you just eat within an 8 hour window for example, so that insulin gets the chance to regularise itself regularly and you can access your stored body fat for fuel frequently.
Like I say, it will work for you up to a point in the short term but maybe, if you are in the category of the really bad eaters, use it as kick start to get moving in the right direction, but bear in mind the above points. The real solution to fat loss lies in eating a real food diet (with the odd ‘treat’ if you really want it), then incorporating some intermittent fasting periods of 16 hours or more (effectively missing out either breakfast or dinner each day). This does work!
Usual disclaimer; always consult your GP if in any doubt about your diet (even if they do have little nutritional training and seem to be sending people to organisations like SW, who are also run by people with little nutritional training).