Slimming Clubs and the Support Network
Betty has just weighed in with an impressive two stone weight loss over the last two months. She’s been awarded “Slimmer of the Week” for the 3rd consecutive week. She has a stream of fellow group members come and congratulate her after the meeting, and ask her for her tips on how they can match her success. Then she goes home, and her family tells her she’s amazing. That’s the power of slimming clubs.
Betty is a typical Slimming World success. Slimming World from the United Kingdom has been around since 1969. It claims to produce sustainable weight loss without needing to count calories or give up any food types. At its core is group support with regular meetings held around the country. And while they’re nothing new, slimming clubs are big business at the moment. Weight Watchers from the US is perhaps the best known of these slimming clubs on a global scale. It also doesn’t count calories, though it does use a points system to monitor what you eat.
So do they work? With so many fad diets around at the moment telling you the right way to lose weight, do you really need to pay money to join a group? What do people get out of it?
The Case for Slimming Clubs
Certainly, there are plenty of success stories like Jenny’s. A glance at the websites for any of these clubs will quickly reveal stories of people whose lives have been turned around and who are much happier and confident as a result. They’re often prefaced by comments about being initially skeptical but pleasantly surprised. After all, for those who’ve never done it, it can seem like a strange world. Isn’t it all a bit like an AA meeting? A little bit shameful?
Well, the great strength of these clubs is the social and support network they provide. Dieting, like exercise, can be a lonely business. When you monitor yourself, there’s no-one there to help you over the hurdles, and equally no-one (but yourself) to let down. It’s easy to cheat because no-one sees it. But as part of a group, you naturally have more motivation to achieve noticeable results. You won’t get frowned on for bad behavior – these groups are all about positive reinforcement. This has been shown in many psychological studies to be much more effective than punishment in changing behavior.
The Power of Reinforcement
Jenny has just had a whole heap of reinforcement. Not only has she seen the results of her dieting in the numbers on the scale, but she has received an award for her work. She has felt the pride of being congratulated by the rest of the group, and she has been elevated to the status of guru by those same people who now want her advice.
Also, she has felt an extra bubble of love from her family who share in her pride. All of this gives her a genuine psychological high. She’s going to feel extra motivated to continue after that, and moments of temptation or hunger are more easily dealt with in the expectation of receiving more gratification at the next meeting.
Making New Friends
She’s also found new friends at the meetings. She feels extra confidence from looking and feeling better, but also from suddenly having a whole extra social circle to mix in. She’s meeting up with people outside of the group. Because their relationship is based on support and reinforcement, she feels more positive generally.
Even those who choose not to join groups will often sign up to forums, and online support networks, or else have the benefit of a personal trainer or nutritionist who provides that service for them. So it’s clear that there is so much more to a successful diet than just watching what you eat.
Indeed, since 2007, the NHS in the UK has made it a policy to refer people to commercial slimming clubs. The alternative was for the GP to offer nutritional advice. However, several recent studies have suggested that commercial clubs can achieve as much as double the weight loss compared to those who relied on the GP’s advice.
Slimming Clubs – The Caveat
There are those who are not convinced. These studies don’t take into account whether the weight loss is maintained long-term. Dr. Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine at Oxford University, looked at the figures for Weight Watchers over five years. He found that after two years, only 20% of those who had shown success had managed to maintain their new weight. After five years, that figure was only 16%.
Richard Samber, former finance director of Weight Watchers from 1968-1993, has suggested that Weight Watchers relies on that failure: “It’s successful because the other 84% have to come back and do it again. That’s where your business comes from”.
Cynical or just an honest appraisal of a successful business model?
It seems like it’s not so much the diet that you’re paying for as the support network.
Keep in mind that the type of diet that works is the one you stick to. And sticking to a diet relies on the right support and reward system. Whether you get that from a group, a forum or your friends and family doesn’t matter, but using a diet support network will make dieting and fasting easier than doing it on your own. In addition websites such as Total Diet Food may help you give you the background information needed to find the right kind of diet for you.