Because Food Optimising is practical, flexible and based on healthy everyday foods, it’s suitable for everyone – the whole family, pregnant and breastfeeding mums, and people with conditions such as diabetes.
Family Affair: taking healthy habits home
At Slimming World we’ve always understood the need to be flexible and family-friendly and we call this our Family Affair approach whereby members can take healthy habits home and lay healthy foundations for the whole family.
Our research shows that 70% of Slimming World members say that, within just 3 months of joining a group, their children were eating more healthily and 41% of our members who’ve embraced Body Magic (our activity programme) have encouraged their family to be more active too.
Family influence is a key factor in children’s eating habits and exercise routines. We encourage the whole family to make healthy lifestyle changes and we help parents to support their children in making these changes too.
We have a set of resources for parents and guardians to help them in helping their children to make healthier lifestyle choices. We have our Family Affair booklet which complements all the ideas, shared experiences and support our members receive each week, and a host of member resources available online tackling some of the trickier topics around families and children, weight and activity for children of all ages. We also have our Family Affair app which members can log into for a whole host of food and activity swaps and recipe ideas to share with their kids at home.
Pregnancy and post-natal support
Slimming World is the only national weight management organisation in the UK to provide healthy lifestyle support to pregnant women and breastfeeding mums. Our aim is not to encourage weight loss or dieting during pregnancy but to support women in eating a healthy diet and prevent excess weight gain.
We worked in collaboration with The Royal College of Midwives to develop our policy on the best way to support our members during pregnancy. The RCM is pleased that Slimming World is able to offer this support and, importantly, to help women avoid excess weight gain, which can result in an increased chance of problems during pregnancy and birth. We are now working closely with The RCM, as Alliance Partners, to continue to raise awareness of the best kind of weight management in pregnancy, ultimately to improve the health of women and their babies.
Slimming World encourages and helps women to lose weight before conceiving, supports members in eating healthily and remaining physically active during their pregnancy, and encourages mothers to breastfeed and manage weight healthily following birth.
During a member’s pregnancy, our support focuses on healthy lifestyle behaviours rather than weight loss. Food Optimising allows members to follow a healthy, balanced diet without calorie restriction, and our Body Magic programme encourages and supports members in finding their own personal and enjoyable way of building regular physical activity into daily life.
Women who had a BMI in the obese range during pregnancy, or who had excess gestational weight gain, who attended Slimming World during and after their pregnancy were more likely to have babies born in the healthy weight range, have improved breastfeeding rates and have healthier diets at 12 months postnatally. Additional research shows that women who attended Slimming World postnatally had greater weight loss at six and 12 months compared to women offered ‘standard care’.
As there are no formal evidence-based guidelines on recommended weight gain during pregnancy and women are best advised by their health care team depending on individual circumstances, our members are required to gain support from their midwife to attend group while pregnant. Slimming World does not advise on weight change during a member’s pregnancy but will support the member in following a healthy lifestyle and achieving any goals or recommendations suggested by their health care team.
Slimming World recommends breast-feeding mums consume a varied, healthy diet to supply all the extra nutrients needed. We advise that they make additional choices from the Healthy Extras section and enjoy Free Foods which are rich in calcium rather than increasing their intake of high fat/sugary foods to supply the additional energy and nutrient needs.
A booklet detailing the current recommendations for healthy eating and food safety during pregnancy and explaining Food Optimising while breast-feeding is available free of charge to members in group.
Slimming World and The RCM have worked together to develop a resource full of advice and health tips for women pre-natally, during pregnancy and post-natally. The website, developed in partnership, provides clear information to improve the health of women and to help them pass on healthy habits to their families. Visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk/mums to find out more.
You can read our pregnancy policy and find out more about pregnancy and postnatal research here
Individual dietary needs
Food Optimising caters for members with special dietary requirements or conditions affected by diet, including diabetes, Coeliac disease, lactose intolerance and IBS.
The generosity and flexibility of Food Optimising, along with its focus on basic, everyday foods, means that it is suitable for practically every dietary requirement or preference.
Consultants and members have access to a variety of health factsheets to help them incorporate their dietary needs into Food Optimising, for example, highlighting gluten and dairy-free products and alternative Healthy Extra choices.
We also have a booklet available for members with diabetes which highlights Diabetes UK’s steps to healthy eating and how these easily fit within Food Optimising.
We always recommend members follow any medical and/or dietary advice they’re given by their health care team. Because Food Optimising allows members to choose the foods they wish to eat it is easy to incorporate specific requirements with the support of the group Consultants.
Our research investigating members’ experiences highlights that members are given varying dietary advice for their diabetes management by their health professional, depending on individual needs. However, research published in 2021 found that 76% of respondents found it easy to fit their personal dietary advice into their Food Optimising plan, enabling them to lose weight, improve glucose control and often reduce medication. This adds to results from a 2020 survey that found over 82% of members with diabetes reported improvements in glucose control and 44% had been able to stop or reduce their diabetes medication.
Furthermore, our research shows that:
- members with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus showed similar levels of weight loss
- members reporting an HbA1c of 48 mmol/mol increased from 8.5% at joining to 53.2% at the time of the survey
- overall, 85% of respondents reported a reduction in HbA1c levels since joining Slimming World
- mental health-related quality of life also improved for 80% of members
- 79% of members reported increasing their physical activity since joining
Length of membership at the time of the survey varied, but for those who had been attending Slimming World for:
- less than 6 months had a mean weight loss of 7.3kg
- between 6 months to a year had a mean weight loss of 11.1kg
- more than 1 year had a mean weight loss of 17.5kg
Additional published research involving 620 members (88% with type 2 diabetes) also showed that support from Slimming World resulted in clinically significant weight losses, improvements in HbA1c and reductions in diabetes medications.
Read more about this research
Access for all
To help improve access to our group support, non-English-speaking members are welcome to bring along a translator if they feel this would be beneficial.
Slimming World also has a variety of publications created especially to help members who are blind or partially sighted, hard of hearing or deaf. Audio CDs and Braille copies of new member support packs and a variety of recipe books are available. For partially sighted members, large-print copies of the new member packs can be provided.
A successful partnership with Berkshire East Primary Care Trust first showed Slimming World is effective for people with learning disabilities. In 2018 Slimming World developed, in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, ’Easy Read’ resources for people with a learning disability or difficulty. The suite of resources includes an Easy Read version of our new member pack and adapted food diaries, designed using Department of Health Easy Read guidelines, featuring large text on a plain background with lots of clear visuals. Anyone with learning disabilities or difficulties who wishes to attend a Slimming World group is welcome to bring along a carer free of charge for additional help and support.
- Jewell K. et al. 2014. The healthy eating and lifestyle in pregnancy (HELP) feasibility study. BJM Vol. 22, NO. 10.
- Simpson S et al 2021. Healthy eating and lifestyle in pregnancy (HELP): a cluster randomised trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a weight management intervention for pregnant women with obesity on weight at 12 months postpartum. International Journal of Obesity 45: 1728-1739.
- Holmes V A et al. 2018. Postnatal Lifestyle Intervention for Overweight Women With Previous Gestational Diabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab Jul 1;103(7): 2478-2487.
- Bick D et al. 2020. Lifestyle information and commercial weight management groups to support maternal postnatal weight management and positive lifestyle behaviour: the SWAN feasibility randomised controlled trial. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 127: 636-645.
- Avery, A., Barber, J., Belheddad, A, Z., Pallister, C., Toon, J., Bennett S E., Lavin, J. (2021) Can a Community-Based Weight Management Programme, that is Scalable, provide Effective Diabetes Management Support for Adults with T1D or T2D: A Mixed Methods Evaluation. Archives of Diabetes & Obesity, 3(5), p368: 377.
- Avery, A., Nagar, R., Hillier, S., Pallister, C., Lavin, J. and Mellow, D. (2017). Studying the impact on weight and glycaemic control in adults with diabetes attending a group-based commercial weight management programme. Practice Nursing, 28 (2), 60-66.
- Avery, A., Bye, C., Lavin, J.H. and Stubbs, R.J. (2008). Is Slimming World on Referral an effective option to help people with learning difficulties manage their weight? Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics, 21(4): 376-37.
- Croot L. et al. (2018) Adjusting a mainstream weight management intervention for people with intellectual disabilities: a user centred approach International Journal for Equity in Health 17: 159.