Lose weight, keep it off – the science behind staying slim long term
A weekly shot of support is the best dose for weight loss that lasts, study reveals
A study published in Clinical Nutrition Open Science has found three in four respondents who received support in building healthy habits at a weekly slimming club were lighter up to three years after joining, even if they’d stopped attending.
At a time when the Government has announced a £40 million pilot scheme to prescribe weight loss drugs, this research suggests that the key to losing weight and staying slim is getting support to build lasting healthy habits into your daily routine. While measures such as drugs may seem like a silver bullet for weight loss, many come with well-documented, unpleasant side effects and studies show people can gain weight back after they stop taking them.
The study led by the UK and Ireland’s largest weight-loss organisation Slimming World and published this month, shows the positive impact of making lifestyle changes, such as cooking from scratch, eating fresh healthy foods and being active, if you want to lose weight and keep it off.
- Eight in 10 (83%) of those who responded to the survey who were still attending a slimming club up to three years after first joining reported that their health had improved with 93% attributing the improvement to their weight management and the lifestyle changes they’d made. While 50% of those no longer attending also reported improvements to their health up to 36 months later
- Nearly all the current members surveyed said they were eating more fruit and vegetables (98%) and had switched to lower fat or fat free dairy products (97%) since joining – and three quarters (74%) of those no longer attending had made these same lifestyle changes
- 94% of current members and 81% of past members said that they were still cooking more meals from scratch using fresh ingredients three years on
- Respondents also ate fewer takeaways with only one in 10 current members and less than a quarter of past members eating takeaways at least once a week, compared to almost half doing so before they joined
- Half of current members (48%) and a third of those no longer attending (32%) had reduced their alcohol intake
- Over half of slimmers in the study reported that their whole household had made positive changes to what they ate (74% current and 49% past members) and around a third of their families had become more active
In the study of 356 adults, the weight of both current and past members was measured two and a half to three years after joining – with all respondents, on average, weighing 7% less than when they joined Slimming World. Those still attending Slimming World were on average 9.6% lighter, maintaining an average loss of 21lbs and reduction in BMI of 3.4kg/m2. Those no longer attending had maintained a loss of 4.4% (8.5lbs) and BMI reduction of 1.5kg/m2.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says losing and keeping off 5% of your weight can have significant benefits, such as reducing your risk of developing diabetes or lowering your blood pressure.
At a time when people can feel bombarded with so many different ways to lose weight, it can be confusing to know which approach will truly work for you. This research shows anyone who is trying to lose weight and keep it off, how important it is to make healthy lifestyle changes. As no two slimmers are the same, it’s the expertise and support members receive at their local Slimming World group which helps them to understand what those changes mean for them.
Dr Amanda Avery continues: “We all have different trigger foods, different danger areas and different self-sabotage techniques when we’re trying to lose weight. Our members are supported to identify their personal challenges and tailor a plan that works for their own individual needs and can be adapted for different times and circumstances. Our aim has always been to support members to lose weight and achieve sustainable healthy habits that work in the long-term helping them to lead healthier and happier lives, for life.”
After joining their local Slimming World group and receiving continuing support to build lasting healthy habits, nearly all the current members surveyed (94%) and 81% of past members said that they were cooking more meals using fresh ingredients three years on, and 74% of those questioned who no longer attend said they used fat-free and low-fat products. Just one in 10 current members and less than a quarter of past members were eating takeaways at least once a week up to three years after joining, compared to almost half doing so before they joined.
Some 98% of those slimmers who were still attending said they were eating more fruit and vegetables thanks to the support they’d discovered at the group, with nearly three quarters of past members (74%) doing the same.
And, significantly, half of current members (48%) and a third of those no longer attending (32%) had reduced their alcohol intake since joining Slimming World.
Eight in 10 (83%) current members and half (50%) of past members said their health had improved, with 93% attributing the improvement to their weight management and the lifestyle changes they’d made. And improvements were also seen in mental wellbeing, with both current members (78%) and those no longer attending (71%) reporting feeling calm and peaceful compared to how they felt before joining (current 49% and past members 51%).
In the study, members also reported changes in energy levels with 76% of current members questioned and 67% of those no longer attending having a lot of energy all or most of the time since joining Slimming World, compared to how just over a quarter (27%) of current members felt before joining.
Members follow Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan to reduce their calorie intake and lose weight without feeling hungry. Every week, Slimming World Consultants in the UK and Ireland share techniques and behaviour change tools to help members establish lasting healthy habits around food and activity. Personalised support, tailored to each member’s fitness level and lifestyle, is also shared in group to help members increase their physical activity through the club’s Body Magic activity support programme.
Showing the wider reach of the lifestyle changes made through the support received from Slimming World, over half of members in the study reported that their whole household had made positive changes to what they ate (74% current and 49% past) and around a third of their families had become more active.
Commenting on the importance of behaviour change, Professor James Stubbs, Appetite & Energy Balance, University of Leeds, says: “The pathways to weight gain and sustainable weight loss are primarily behavioural. We all know that making lasting changes to dietary and physical activity is not easy, which is why evidence-based behaviour change approaches are the bedrock of long-term weight management. Communities of support that help transform new behaviours into longer-term habits can help people overcome the many obstacles they can face in making the longer-term changes that benefit weight and health."
Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell OBE in Derbyshire in 1969 and has become the UK and Ireland’s leading weight loss organisation with more people choosing to attend a Slimming World group each week than any other weight loss programme. We support hundreds of thousands of people, both in our groups and online, to lose weight and to adopt new habits to stay slim for life.
Over the years our founding principles haven’t changed:
· Our unique programme is based on a powerfully motivating support system called IMAGE (Individual Motivation and Group Experience) Therapy. Underpinned by a deep understanding of the psychology of overweight people, and incorporating the most effective sustainable behaviour change techniques, IMAGE Therapy is designed to inspire and motivate slimmers to make positive changes and to develop new, healthier habits around food and activity.
· Food Optimising is our healthy eating plan, based on the liberating concept of Free Food. We encourage our members to fill up on those foods that are naturally lower in energy density (calories per gram) and also highly satisfying while limiting foods that are highest in fat and sugar and are less satisfying, so they lose weight without ever feeling hungry or deprived and without having to weigh, measure or count everything they eat.
· Our activity support programme, Body Magic helps members to overcome any barriers around exercise. Members choose when to start and they set the pace, finding activities they genuinely enjoy, until regular physical activity becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine.
At the heart of everything we do lies our passion for treating every member with genuine care, empathy and respect.
We’re proud to work with the NHS, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), The Royal College of Midwives and others to help shape the future of weight management in the UK and Ireland.
For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit slimmingworld.co.uk or slimmingworld.ie
Follow Slimming World on Twitter at twitter.com/slimmingworld or become a Slimming World fan on Facebook at facebook.com/slimmingworld
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