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Along with Weight Watchers, Slimming World is surely one of the most popular ways of losing weight in this country. Both are big businesses with their own classes, magazines, food products and their own individual take on the best way to lose weight.
I had never been a member of either, until the last week of January, when I attended my first Slimming World class. So why did I join? How am I getting on? Would I recommend it?
(NOTE: It's a long review. Please feel free to skip to the relevant sections of the review that you are interested in!)
WHY DID I JOIN?
After being a size 8 right up until I was into my third pregnancy, I then piled the weight on, until I reached my largest dress size of 22-24 and topped 14 stone on the scales - about twice what I weighed in my early twenties! My initial idea was to become fitter rather than to diet per se, so I bought the Rebecca Wheatley workout on DVD (which I have previously reviewed here).
On the DVD, Rebecca explained how Slimming World had helped her lose her weight and while watching the section about the Slimming World diet (or 'food optimising' as they call it), I began to think I fancied trying it myself - but I still had a few questions and reservations. I went to the website and discovered the price was affordable (just about!), and there was a daytime class in my area that I could walk to. So I rang the consultant and had a chat to her. She sounded lovely and assured me the diet plan was fine for vegetarians like me, so I said I'd go to the next class and see her there.
MY FIRST TIME
Going to the Slimming World class was a huge step for me. I have suffered from agoraphobia on and off for years and I had never been to a class like this before and especially not on my own! But it went fine and everyone was very friendly.
As it was my first time there, one of the senior class members took me aside and went through the Food Optimising plan with me. She was very helpful and answered all my questions. The diet seemed a bit complicated, but I was given a pack of booklets to keep and a folder to store them in, so I could go home and read further.
When it was time for my first weigh-in, we had to queue up and pay, then came the dreaded scales. Before you get there, you are encouraged to remove shoes, coats and heavy jumpers before weighing. The reading from the scales is only visible to you and the consultant and no-one else is ever told your weight. This doesn't bother me, but I know it upsets some people to disclose their weight, so this is set up in place to make everyone feel happy.
I weighed in at 14 stone 3 pounds. Actually, I was reasonably happy, because I knew I had lost a couple of pounds just from doing the workout DVD! This was recorded in my book as my starting weight. The consultant was lovely, I never felt criticised for getting to that size in the first place and it was good to be surrounded by other big women and those who had less to lose, but still wanted to lose it!
This seems a good time to explain food optimising. When you join, you are given a book called Food Optimising, which is green on one side and red on the other. The diet is split into red days and green days. On both green red days, certain foods are free (you can eat as much of them as you want). Fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables, eggs, very low fat dairy products and vegetable proteins (Quorn and Tofu) are free on both plans. Those on red also have lean meat, fish, seafood and game free on those days, while the green days add pulses, rice, pasta and grains.
I won't spend too much time explaining this, as it is quite complicated and I feel my experiences of using this is more important to get across in this review. But the basic premise is that a daily diet includes three aspects -
FREE FOOD (as mentioned above) - eat as much as you want
HEALTHY EXTRAS - Each day, you can choose one or two A choices (milk, cheese) and two B choices (includes meat, fish, nuts, cereals, bread, etc.). This is to ensure you get the calcium and vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. The healthy extras generally covers foods which are healthy in moderation and you are allowed a certain amount each day.
SYNS - This covers everything else! There is nothing you can't have with Slimming World, but you have to count it as Syns. You are usually allowed 7-15 Syns a day, but this can vary. If you want to aim for 10 Syns a day, for example, you have a weekly total of 70 to play with. If you decide to have - for example - a Mars bar, you can do, but that is 14 Syns to take off your allowance. Similarly, Nachos and sauce from a Mexican restaurant is 25 Syns. You can have this kind of thing, but have to compensate by 'saving up' your Syns and having less on another day. Or maybe choosing a lower fat (lower Syn) option at the time - maybe a Milky Way bar (6 Syns) or a vegetable Enchilada (14 Syns) at the Mexican restaurant.
I soon found this all became less confusing, as I became used to it. I filled in my food diary sheets and listed each food I ate under Free, Healthy Extras or Syns and counted up the Syns daily and weekly. I soon came to learn which foods I enjoyed and how to incorporate them.
I usually have a HiFi bar (Slimming World's own cereal bars) for breakfast, which counts as a Healthy Extra. I have a wholemeal roll with two mini Babybel cheeses as a snack and again, both of these are Healthy Extras. My final one is my daily milk ration, which is 350ml of skimmed milk, which covers my tea or coffee consumption and the odd bowl of cereal (when I have two Weetabix instead of the wholemeal roll as a Healthy Extra).
During the day, I snack on fruit (usually bananas and oranges). I normally have a big Asda low fat natural yoghurt for dinner (1.5 Syns) and sometimes add fruit or honey to it. I often have a packet of Asda Good For You crisp snacks (1 Syn each) and for more substantial meals, I will have two boiled eggs, a Jacket potato with cottage cheese or cook some pasta or rice with herbs, onions or various fresh or frozen vegetables. (All these are free.)
For main meals, I usually eat the same as the rest of my family, but sometimes I have a variation of the same thing or something different. I have found FryLite an essential - this is a one-calorie oil spray, which is free on the Slimming World plan. I also use the recipes in the Slimming World magazines and books, which are really useful and give good ideas on adapting the meals you usually cook, as well as learning new recipes.
I cook everyone a big fry up on Fridays, which we all love. I do Quorn sausages, veggie bacon, grilled tomatoes, fried eggs, mushrooms and baked beans. Cooked in FryLite, all of this is free except the veggie bacon (which is something low too, about 1 Syn per slice, I think) so you can eat loads and not have to worry about it!
The classes begin with a weigh-in, and then you sit and chat, while waiting for everyone to get weighed. This can take a while, especially if your group has 60 or 70 members like my local one does. I enjoy chatting with the other members though and have made some lovely friends. I am one of the youngest in my group, as the majority are ladies in the 60s. The oldest member is eighty and amongst all the women, there is just one man, who is probably in his sixties.
The classes sell the magazines (at a cheaper price than in the shops) and HiFi bars (£1.25 for a pack of three). Ours also has a raffle and we pay 20p for a cup of tea or coffee.
Presumably, each class is different and as I have only been to this one, I can only tell you about mine, but I'm sure they will follow the same basic format. After the weigh-in and paying, everyone settles down and the consultant stands at the front for about an hour.
She goes through everyone's weigh-ins and without disclosing any weights, she will announce if people have gained, maintained or lost. When someone has lost weight, they get a round of applause and the consultant will often ask if they have any tips to pass on, anything that helped them lose the weight and so on. If a member has stayed the same weight, this is also seen as a positive thing and it will be announced that Member X has 'maintained her loss of two stone' (or whatever). If you put on weight, you are sometimes asked if you can think of a specific reason why and the consultant might advise or simply say "Never mind, try to get that extra pound off for next week." I have found the tone is always right so far and I have never found the consultant to be patronising or nasty in any way, just motivational.
Motivation is essential and a lot of this comes from our own mindsets. At the end of the day, it is up to the individual as to whether they follow the eating plan, if they exercise and if they cheat. I find that the weigh-in itself is a big motivation for me, as I really want to see my weight decrease over the weeks. So far, it has. I have lost every week, with an initial four pounds, then it settled down and has been 1 or 2 pounds each week since. I have lost 9 pounds in five weeks so far and I am very happy with this. I now weigh 13 stone 8 pounds, but it's a long road, as I want to get down to at least ten stone.
On the way, you receive motivational awards at Slimming World. I received a sticker and certificate when I had lost half a stone and that same week, I won Slimmer of the Week - another sticker and certificate and a bowl of fruit! These were really motivational; I was thrilled with both and very proud of them. The awards do urge you on to keep losing the weight.
Each stone lost is another award and you also earn one for reaching your Club 10 target (10% of your initial body weight lost). Besides the awards for weight loss, you can also receive them for exercising.
I followed my target of doing the Rebecca Wheatley workout DVD for four weeks, eighty minutes a week and for this, I received my Bronze award for fitness - a sticker and a certificate. I am now three weeks into my next challenge - 90 minutes of exercise a week. After my fourth week, I will receive the Silver award.
Although stickers and certificates may not sound very exciting, there have been several occasions where I really didn't feel like exercising, but aiming for the awards have motivated me to get on with it anyway! What is even more surprising is that I have found I enjoy exercising and have now begun using the faster-paced workout on the Rosemary Conley with Coleen Nolan DVD!
The Slimming World website is a review in itself, but briefly, it is well worth checking out. I use the Syn Calculator quite a lot and I also chart my weight loss on the website. You can fill out your food diary and activity chart there, if you wish and there are plenty of motivational parts, if you are feeling a bit disheartened. It can be a bit hard to work your way round though, as there is so much there!
SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES
The diet really works and - once you get used to it - it is easy to follow, versatile and healthy.
You can eat anything you want - as long as you account for it by keeping an eye on your Syns.
You don't have to count calories.
You make friends at the classes and it gets you out the house!
I like grazing over the day and can easily do this with the Food Optimising - and still lose weight!
The award scheme is motivational.
SOME OF THE DISADVANTAGES
You do have to weigh things out sometimes and 28g of cheese isn't much! (But it looks more if you grate it finely!)
It's quite expensive at £4.50 per week, but I think it is worth it.
The classes can drag a bit, if the weigh-in part takes a long time.
I would definitely recommend Slimming World. I don't see this as a short-term diet I am eager to come off; I see it as a healthy eating plan I am happy to follow long term. I enjoy the food on it and if I am desperate for a chocolate bar or something, I can have it.
Each week, I have stepped on the Slimming World scales and seen a loss. This keeps me motivated and when I get to the week I don't lose any, I am confident the support of my consultant and the other class members will ensure that I don't give up.
Well done you. The hardest part is joining. The second hardest part is keeping the weight off once its been shifted. I am just over a third of the way to target and am actually finding the weight loss part - as long as you stay "on plan" - easier than I expected. I have lost 4 stone and just received my group's Man of the Year award. Fab review. Well deserving of an "E" on so many levels. 8^)
Expired-Account 15.10.2008 12:21
My sister in law lost 3 stone with slimming world, well done on your weight loss as well, that's fab!
suehome 08.10.2008 15:31
sounds painful to me............best of luck though
Helps readers make nutritious, wholesome food for all the family, not just those who are ... more
trying to lose weight, without getting stuck in the kitchen for hours on end. This book is full to bursting with more than 120 recipes based on Slimming World's acclaimed Food Optimizing program. Highlights among the soups and starters are hot and sour seafood soup, chive and mushroom quiches, or pink peppercorn and smoke salmon pate. Anyone interested in easy-to-prepare, full-flavored and healthy food will find this book useful, whether they are trying to shed weight or not.