If you want to lose weight this new year, the first seven days hold the key
New research into more than 1 million slimmers shows that the more weight you lose in your first week, the more likely you are to do well on your weight-loss journey in the longer term.
The research released today by Slimming World, the UK and Ireland’s largest weight-management organisation, revealed:
- People who lost 5lbs or more in their first week of attending a Slimming World weight loss group were four times more likely to lose 10% of their body weight within three months
- Almost twice as many men (45%) as women (21%) lost at least 5lbs in their first week
- Age is no barrier to successful weight loss, with half (52%) of those aged 55 and over losing at least 5% of their body weight in three months
- Almost half (46%) of those with a BMI of 30 or over lost 5% of their body weight within their first three months of following a healthy eating plan
- People who attend a weekly slimming club regularly (at least 75% of sessions) lose more weight achieving:
- 7.7% weight loss (15.4lbs) in their first three months and
- 14% weight loss or 31lbs on average over the course of a year
The research, which examined one of the largest-ever datasets of slimming club members in the UK and Ireland*, found that those who lost more weight in their first seven days after joining a weight-loss group went on to lose more over three months – with the top 50% of slimmers, based on their first week’s weight loss, losing 5lbs on average within their first week.
The findings show that losing more weight in the first week of a weight-loss journey is a strong predictor of how successful a slimmer will be in the longer term.
Significant weight losses are often associated with ‘quick fix’ diets or restrictive, faddy plans, however we can see from our research that it is possible to see big results on the scales by following a healthy, balanced eating plan.
Data analysis shows that slimmers who lost 5lbs or more in their first seven days were four times more likely to lose 10% of their body weight within three months and that men are twice as likely to see weight drop off in their first week. The findings also reveal people aged 55 and over were the most successful at losing weight over a longer period, with just over half (52%) losing at least 5% of their body weight in three months.
According to the data, the average slimmer joining a weight-loss group has a BMI of 33kg/m2, putting them in the ‘obese’ range and at increased risk of health problems including more serious outcomes from Covid-19. The research showed almost half (46%) of those with a BMI of 30 or over lost 5% of their body weight within their first three months of following a healthy eating plan. A weight loss of 5% or more is considered clinically significant and can lead to health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Dr Sarah-Elizabeth Bennett, Slimming World’s Senior Research Associate, says: “Many factors influence whether or not a slimmer achieves their weight-loss goals. This data shows us that one of the biggest predictors of success is a strong weight loss in the first week as those who lost 5lbs or more in their first seven days were four times more likely to go on to lose 10% of their body weight within three months. Significant weight losses are often associated with ‘quick fix’ diets or restrictive, faddy plans, however we can see from our research that it is possible to see big results on the scales by following a healthy, balanced eating plan. At Slimming World we know many new members are astonished by the results on the scales in week one as they can’t believe they’ve been able to lose so much weight by making simple, easy changes to how they shop, cook and eat, while still enjoying a satisfying, healthy and varied diet.
“There are several key factors which influence a good first week – an understanding of how to make changes that can work for you, a healthy eating plan that’s easy to live with and a realisation you’re not alone. Feeling confident that you can go and get started on your new healthy eating plan straightaway and having support throughout the week if you feel your motivation is waning are also key. Slimming World’s expert support recognises all these things and every member who walks through the doors of any of our groups receives a warm welcome, an introduction to our Food Optimising eating plan and why it is so very different to other weight-loss diets, and an understanding of how to confidently get started and overcome past barriers to success. They hear what their fellow members have achieved, and share advice and strategies for coping with setbacks, so they leave inspired and motivated to make changes themselves. This new understanding, and a growing sense of determination and self-belief is cemented when members return to group the following week with a great weight loss without having felt hungry or deprived.”
What’s interesting about this research is it shows the benefit of seeing tangible results early on, giving you a psychological boost. You suddenly realise, ‘I can do this!’.
Changes members made within a few weeks of their membership include having less takeaways, cooking from scratch more frequently and eating fatty and sugary foods significantly less often than before joining**.
The research of 1.1 million members also showed the value of losing weight as part of a group, with those who attend their weekly slimming club more regularly (at least 75% of sessions) losing more weight, achieving 7.7% weight loss (15.4lbs) in their first three months and 14% weight loss or 31lbs on average over the course of a year. Many lose a lot more – based on their weight loss over a year, the top 10,000 slimmers attend an average of 45 sessions in 12 months losing 30% of their body weight which equates to around 5st each.
Commenting on the study, Psychologist, Author and Broadcaster Dr Linda Papadopoulos says:
“What’s interesting about this research is it shows the benefit of seeing tangible results early on, giving you a psychological boost. You suddenly realise, ‘I can do this!’. Getting that immediate sense of achievement is incredibly powerful as it shows you have the ability to change your narrative, so if in the past you’ve felt defined by your failure to lose weight, that reality is very quickly rewritten. This all stands you in good stead for the longer term too, because inevitably you’ll face challenges and bumps in the road, but deep down you know you can lose weight because you’ve seen the results on the scales before.
“There is no doubt 2020 blind-sided us all. None of us saw it coming and that feeling of uncertainty is, sadly, still with us. Many of us are as eager to get a sense of control as we are a sense of normality and embracing change and thinking ‘what can I take responsibility for?’, ‘how can I adapt and change?’ allows you to re-establish your own safety and security.
“That’s where support can be crucial - when other people see the changes you are making and your achievements, it can feel more real. As human beings we’re social creatures and the simple act of speaking to others and being able to feel other people know what you’re going through and hearing they’ve experienced the same challenges can also be so uplifting”.
*Data relates to 1.1 million Slimming World members who first joined group between January and December 2016. The research followed their progress for 12 months through to December 2017.
**Slimming World’s Health and Wellbeing study is an on-going research project. Reported findings are from an evaluation of 545 members polled in November 2019 and February 2020 examining health-related behaviour changes made within a few weeks of joining and 3-months later.
“I was convinced I wouldn’t lose weight, then I lost 7lbs in my first week and went on to lose 17st”
Weighing 29st, mum-of-two Emma Boyce, 36, from Surrey has turned her life around after seeing results in just seven days
“I joined Slimming World in March 2018 weighing 29st 13lbs. My mum had recently joined and I’d seen incredible success stories on Instagram. Going along to the group, I was frightened and embarrassed. I felt so vulnerable walking through the doors. I sat at the back and listened and thought I'll give it a go, but it won’t work! How wrong I was! I lost 7lbs in my first week! I thought, ‘wow this does work!’ I felt so pleased, and yet couldn’t believe it! I was still eating potatoes and pasta and just by making simple healthier changes I’d seen results. That first week made me think differently. I had a big change in my mindset from that day forward. Just two years after joining Slimming World, I’d completely turned my life around, lost 17st and dropped 11 dress sizes!
My whole life I’ve struggled with my weight, even as a child I was always the big kid and the last to be picked for sports. It got worse when I got divorced and developed unhealthy habits which I now see was me using food as an emotional crutch. Food has always been my comfort blanket - I used it to mask what was really going on.
After my divorce, I met Ryan through online dating and we had our children who were born a year apart. At my check-ups, every doctor I saw said I should lose weight. I’d tried every single diet you can think of, but with no support nothing worked, and I thought I was destined to be overweight all my life. I was in constant pain, even getting out of bed hurt. My joints and feet would swell up and I’d feel so uncomfortable. I was always hot and sweaty; my asthma was awful, and I relied on my inhalers as if they were a form of life support.
As a learner support assistant for children with special educational needs, I was also finding it hard to keep up physically and always out of breath, leaving me with no other option when I had children of my own than to quit my job.
In 2016 I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea, a serious sleep disorder where my breathing would repeatedly stop and start. For six years prior to the diagnosis, I’d wake up at least five times each night. I was just so tired all the time and would reach for pain relief tablets just to get through the day. After the diagnosis, I had to connect to a machine each night which meant wearing a rubber mask with a pipe that blows air on you every time you stop breathing.
The final straw came in March 2018 when in one week, I had three awful experiences which made me realise something needed to change. First, I got the photos back from my son’s baptism. It was a wonderful day, I was so happy surrounded by my nearest and dearest and the pictures were really beautiful, apart from me – I felt I ruined them, I looked hideous and cried my heart out. In the same week, I needed to buy a new car to cope with my growing family and I found in many of the models I either didn’t fit in the driver’s seat or the seatbelt wasn’t long enough to go around me. Then later that week, I was at a soft play with my children. It was the first time I’d gone by myself with the kids. My daughter got herself stuck right at the top and I was physically too big to get to her - I felt sick and heartbroken as the panic hit in. I had to ask a nine-year-old boy to help reach my daughter and I was mortified. I cried all the way home and that was it! I decided I would never ever put myself or my child in that situation again. My children deserved a mum that could do things with them and I wanted to be that mum.
There have been hurdles along the way of course but every time I’ve gone to my Slimming World group, just talking to someone and seeing a friendly face has helped so much. I’ve never once been to group and left feeling deflated or defeated. My Consultant Susanne is so friendly and I connected with her straightaway, she’s lost weight herself and understands the challenges.
I started cooking everything from scratch, especially my favourite roast dinner and instead of rewarding myself with crisps, chocolate or takeaways, I’d treat myself to a beauty or hair treatment or a new outfit! I try new things now instead of saying no. Pre-lockdown, I enjoyed saying ‘yes’ to rock climbing, abseiling and going on the roller coaster at Legoland. I’m making amazing memories with my children and I no longer feel like a spectator in my own life.
After losing 10st, I reapplied to work with children, and now I work in a lovely primary school. I would never have had the confidence or energy to do this before losing weight. By March 2020, I’d lost over half my body weight, 17st, and got a brand-new wardrobe after going from a size 34 to a 12. I’d gone from a 60-inch waist and 75-inch hips to a 37-inch waist and 40-inch hips. I’m also sleeping well, I feel energised when I wake up and refreshed with no headache, no sore throat and no pain. In June this year, I was told I didn’t need to use the sleep apnoea machine anymore. Now I can sleep anywhere and don’t have to worry about being wired up to a machine. Excitingly, this means we can go camping – something the kids are desperate to try which wasn’t possible before.
Everywhere I go people ask me how I’ve lost weight and they find it hard to believe you can eat all this fantastic food and still lose weight! Mum has lost 4st too and reduced her blood pressure. Although we go to different groups as mum lives in Norfolk, we help each other stay on track by sharing ideas and recipes. We’re both so proud to be able to support other members and encourage them by showing what we’ve managed to achieve.
Before losing weight I barely walked to the shops and now I swim, cycle and go to the gym – staying active helps to keep my mind positive. My main goal at the minute is to train for a marathon.
Losing weight has given me a huge boost of confidence! Life is so much easier, and I know seeing results that first week gave me the self-belief I needed and the motivation to think I can do this! And I did!"
Breakfast: 3/4 slices of white bread toast with butter and peanut butter
Snack: Milky sweet tea with 4/5 chocolate biscuits and a packet of crisps
Lunch: Two tuna sweetcorn mayo and butter sandwiches, chocolate bar, yogurt, apple, packet of crisps and mini cheeses
Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognaise with 20% fat beef mince and jarred sauce with cheese on top and garlic bread
Pudding: Apple pie and ice cream or cream or both
Snack: Sweet tea, biscuits and crisps
Breakfast: Porridge and chopped fresh fruit
Snack: Fruit and/or fat-free yogurt
Lunch: Homemade veggie soup, followed by fruit and/or yogurt
Dinner: Homemade spaghetti Bolognaise (made with lean 5% fat mince or Quorn mince and lots of vegetables)
Pudding: Small meringue nest topped with fat-free yogurt and strawberries
Snack: Tea, fruit and high-fibre cereal bar
Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. Members join local weekly groups or an online programme. Groups are run by a network of community-based Slimming World Consultants across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Consultants are trained in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as recognised behaviour-change techniques. Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of energy density and satiety. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly-developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating, encouraging and empowering members to make changes in a supportive, warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.
For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit slimmingworld.co.uk. Follow Slimming World on Twitter at www.twitter.com/slimmingworld or become a Slimming World fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/slimmingworld