Deciding that we want to make some changes to help us feel happier and healthier is a fantastic first step. It’s the next part – sticking to those changes – that can be the bigger challenge, with many of us struggling to keep that motivation up long term.
Slimming World is based on a deep understanding of the psychology of slimming. We’ve been helping members make healthy changes their ‘new normal’ for more than 50 years. So we asked our head of research and scientific affairs, Dr Jacquie Lavin, and leading psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos for their advice:
Having something to aim for can bring you tangible results – and seeing those results will encourage you to stick with it. Some goals may be long term (such as your target weight), while others may be medium- or short-term aims, like building up to a certain number of activity sessions a week, or trying some new Slimming World recipes.
Slimming World’s Dr Jacquie Lavin suggests setting SMART goals, which are specific and have a clear outcome. “For example, if you want to be more active, your aim could be going for a brisk 15 minute walk every Saturday and Sunday for the next four weeks. If you want to eat more healthily, it could be adding an extra portion of vegetables to your evening meals everyday for the next two weeks.”
SMART goals are:
Take small steps
Little changes can quickly add up to a healthier lifestyle. Dr Jacquie suggests taking small steps and building up. “This will help to prevent you from doing too much too soon, becoming overwhelmed or frustrated, and then giving up. If you see each mini step as a success, this will give you a feeling of achievement, which will motivate you on to the next step.”
Get into a routine
“Doing something regularly is key to making a new behaviour stick,” says Dr Jacquie. “Fitting something into your day/week and doing it frequently will make it feel natural going forward. You could even put a weekly batch-cooking session or workout in your diary as making an appointment with yourself can make it more likely to happen.”
Having a regular routine is especially important during challenging times, when healthy habits can help us feel more grounded. Joining a supportive Slimming World group means setting aside some time each week to focus on the weight loss that you want. Together we’ll look at any challenges, with plenty of food ideas and tips from other members to help you stay on track.
The power of group – proven!
Slimming World’s research with 1.1 million members – the UK’s biggest research sample – highlights that being part of a group is key to slimming success.
• Members who attend their weekly Slimming World group regularly (at least 75% of sessions) lose more weight, achieving an average of 7.7% weight loss (1st 1.4lbs) in their first three months and 14% weight loss (2st 3lbs) on average over the course of a year
• The more group sessions our members attend, the more successful they are. Based on their weight-loss over a year, the top 10,000 slimmers who attended their weekly Slimming World group at least 45 times in a year lost 30% of their body weight – around 5st each
Share the experience
According to leading psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, “When you’re on a journey of change, feeling like other people have experienced that, too, is fundamental.” Slimming World groups, whether they’re running in real life or virtually, are the ideal place to find those like-minded people who can help to inspire, support and motivate you.
Dr Jacquie also points out that letting those close to you know about your goals will mean they’re less likely to unintentionally sabotage your efforts, for example, by offering you a glass of wine if you’re trying to drink less alcohol.
To help make any new behaviour something that you do frequently, it needs to be something that fits in with your lifestyle and your personal likes and dislikes. Dr Jacquie explains, “If you want to be more active but hate running, there’s no point saying that you’ll go for a daily jog. Maybe dancing is an activity that you enjoy? Aiming to do more of that is much more likely to become a lasting habit.”
Be proud of your achievements
Looking at how far you’ve come can be a fantastic motivator to keep going. “People always look at how much they still have to do, not how much they’ve already achieved,” says Dr Linda, “It’s the same with weight loss. Pausing to look back at your starting point can often give you a huge boost.”
We encourage our members to be proud of their progress, right from the very beginning, with many choosing to take photos as a powerful visual reminder. If that’s not for you, there are lots of other inventive ways our members reflect on their achievements – from adding pebbles to a jar for every pound lost or displaying their Body Magic awards to keeping the colourful size markers from clothes hangers or older items of clothing that they’ve slimmed out of.
Plan for challenges
When you’re trying to make a lasting lifestyle change, it’s normal to hit obstacles along the way. Accepting this and being prepared for it will help you to move past any bumps. Dr Jacquie says, “Look ahead and think about what may get in the way of your progress, then consider how you could overcome these stoppers. Having an action plan ready will help you to keep going and not let a slip up mean giving up completely.”
Sam’s members told him that they were afraid of eating out of boredom during lockdown. In his virtual group, members helped each other by sharing strategies and ideas for slimming-friendly snacks.
Focus on the positive
Thinking about what we’re giving up can make new habits feel like a punishment. Dr Jacquie suggests focusing instead on what you’re adding to your life. She says, “Try not to fixate on what you’re cutting down on, whether it’s certain foods that you’re having a bit less of or TV time that you want to fill with activity. Instead, think about what you’re having more of and the delicious, healthy meals you’re eating, the benefits that weight loss will bring to you or how energised you feel after a workout. Celebrate even the smallest positive changes in how you feel, as this will help give you the momentum you need to keep going.”
Don’t be afraid of change
Sometimes, as much as we want to make changes, it can feel quite scary and uncomfortable. Dr Linda explains, “There can be fear there, as the whole notion of a ‘new identity’ is about letting go of an old one. We might wonder if we’re going to like this ‘other person’ as much.”
Of course, slimming isn’t about becoming a ‘new you’ – the ‘old you’ is pretty fantastic for deciding to take positive action to feel happier and healthier! At Slimming World we recognise that being kind to ourselves, at all stages of our weight loss journeys, is key to success. So you’ll never find any judgement in our groups, and you’ll never feel like you’re being deprived of anything when you follow our plan.
If you feel like anxiety around change is holding you back, looking at your core reasons could help. In group, we encourage members to think about those deeper reasons – which can boost motivation when it’s most needed.
Slimming World members will find four practical exercises to really help cement those new healthy habits in our How to make changes that stick feature, as well as tailored behaviour changes support in group.
Are ready to tap into the power of Slimming World groups to achieve an amazing weight loss in your first three months? We’re ready and waiting to welcome you to our supportive, full-of-ideas community of slimmers just like you! Find your nearest group here.