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You may remember that we shared some of the findings from our Health and Wellbeing survey on the blog back in June? Well, this week we’re delighted to be sharing our latest research with scientists, researchers and healthcare policy makers across the globe.  

Led by our senior research associate, Dr Sarah-Elizabeth Bennett, our survey of over 800 UK adults (including 222 Slimming World members and 637 adults in the general population) found that more than half had difficulty managing their weight during lockdown. The four key reasons given were:

  • difficulty getting to the shops and getting hold of their usual foods
  • boredom and being at home leading to increased snacking
  • higher stress and anxiety levels leading to comfort eating
  • less time spent moving around and exercising

However, we were really pleased to see that – even during the most difficult of circumstances – our members continued to lose weight and, compared to the general population, reported exercising more and higher levels of overall wellbeing.

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The findings of our survey were presented at the European and International Congress on Obesity (or ECOICO for short) this week, alongside insights from world leaders in the fields of obesity, nutrition and healthcare policy. Held online on 1-4 September, the 2020 programme is packed with scientific sessions, discussions, interactive e-poster presentations and virtual exhibitions. Having our study selected for inclusion in this vital resource for healthcare policy makers will help shape the way they approach obesity and the health issues it’s linked to. 

Dr Bennett explained to us why the research is so topical and important to understanding weight management during this challenging time. 

Hi Sarah. Congratulations on a fantastic achievement for your team! Could you tell our blog readers a bit more about the Slimming World research team and why research is so vital to what we do? 

Hi! The main aim of much of our research is to develop a strong evidence base to underpin Slimming World’s understanding of weight gain, obesity and effective weight management. The more science- and research-based knowledge we have, the better we can support our members on their weight loss journeys. 

We do this mainly by conducting either our own research or by working with universities on research projects – which we can then share with the wider scientific and health professional community.

As well as researchers, we have an in-house team of nutritionists, dietitians and psychologists reviewing and advising about the latest science to make sure that it is safe, sound and completely up to date. It’s so important that the information we put out is scientifically sound and based on fact – the Slimming World office is definitely a fad-free zone!

Could you tell us a bit more about the ECOICO, why it’s important and how Slimming World came to be involved?

The European Congress on Obesity (ECO) is one of the world’s biggest and best attended  obesity research conferences, held annually in different cities across Europe. It attracts leading obesity researchers from all around the world. This year it was supposed to be held in Dublin, but the COVID-19 restrictions mean that it’s being held virtually instead. 

Scientific conferences like ECOICO are an opportunity for researchers to share their latest work and to learn from the work of others. For our ongoing Health and Wellbeing study, we ask our new members a set of questions every three to six months over the course of one year. When it came to the six-month survey in April, the UK had gone into lockdown, which presented us with a unique opportunity to learn more about how the COVID-19 situation and the resulting lockdown measures impacted the nation’s health, wellbeing and lifestyle behaviours. 

As the reach of ECOICO is so wide across the global scientific and research community, it’s the perfect place for us to showcase these findings – which will be featured as e-poster presentations. We also had to upload a video of ourselves summarising the research – another reflection of how we’re having to adapt the way we work and meet new challenges in the new COVID-19 world. 

So you’re currently in the middle of a really exciting week! How’s it going so far?

Amazingly! Together with some other members of the Slimming World research and nutrition team, I’m really enjoying attending the talks and seminars virtually, and seeing the work presented by the other researchers. The notes that we’re taking this week will ensure we’re on top of all the latest obesity-related research and developments in effective weight management – something that’s obviously vital for Slimming World as a leading weight loss organisation.

I’ll also be responding to any questions on our research findings during the conference, as well as from the media. Because our research is so topical and relevant, it was issued as one of the official ECOICO press releases, and has attracted a great deal of media interest – I’ve been interviewed by The Times and i, and our findings have also been reported in the Daily Mail, Metro and lots more so far. It’s a bit of a whirlwind, but so fantastic to be adding to the understanding of how important support is to helping people lose weight, especially when achieving a healthy weight is so crucial to lessening the severity of coronavirus complications.

We shared some of the findings from the Health and Wellbeing survey on the blog earlier this year. Can you tell us how this research will help Slimming World to support its members in times of change and uncertainty? 

The survey showed that more than half of our respondents found managing their weight difficult during lockdown – and understandably so. In the middle of a global pandemic, focusing on weight loss can feel like an impossible task. However, the key message that we were really delighted to see was that many Slimming World members still continued to successfully lose weight or maintain their weight loss. They also exercised more and reported a higher level of overall wellbeing than the general population, which was especially encouraging because we know that there are real concerns about the effects of lockdown on mental health. 

We honestly had no idea how the coronavirus situation was going to have affected our members’ weight loss journeys, so to see the behaviour change element of Slimming World really working was very reassuring. Our members are encouraged and supported in making positive changes to their diet and activity levels, which leads to forming new healthy habits that are for life. It’s an approach that’s as far away from a fad diet or quick fix as it’s possible to get! We were so pleased to see that this helped to carry our members through this difficult time and bring them out of lockdown feeling healthier than they may have otherwise done.

Given that excess weight is associated with a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and with lots of people coming out of lockdown feeling concerned about their weight and health, the findings of the study show behaviour change support is more important now than ever. What’s fantastic is that our real-life groups are now reopening, so our members and Consultants are able to come together in person to ensure the strongest possible support system while moving towards their weight loss goals.

I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Sarah and the rest of the research and nutrition team the best of luck this week. If you’d like to read more about the findings presented at ECOICO, you can see the full press release and the poster presentation here

If you’re not yet a Slimming World member and are interested in finding out more about our behaviour change approach, our return to real-life groups or anything else, your local Consultant will be happy to chat. We’re currently running our best-ever offer – which includes a FREE recipe book and a FREE week in group – so now is a really great time to join us!

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