Research at UKCO 2023 reveals strength in numbers: group support leads to sustained weight loss for seven years


Getting support as part of a group helps slimmers to maintain their weight loss for up to seven years, according to the results of research* being presented at this year’s UK Congress on Obesity in Belfast (UKCO 2023).

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Researchers followed up with more than 100,000 adults who’d joined a slimming club in 2016 between two and seven years later. Almost three quarters (71%) of members in the study lost 10% or more weight in their first year after joining Slimming World. Two to seven years later, 68% had maintained this weight loss or gone on to lose more.

The study led by the UK and Ireland’s largest weight-loss organisation Slimming World shows the importance of the open-ended support provided by community weight management programmes.

Dr Sarah-Elizabeth Bennett, Slimming World’s Senior Research Associate who will be presenting the findings at UKCO, says longer-term follow up outcomes of people receiving support from such programmes in self-funded settings is understudied.

The study collated the most recent weights for all members of a Slimming World group who joined in 2016 and attended at least two years after joining.

The average starting BMI was 33.9 and the average weight loss was 11.2%. 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 type 2 diabetes or lowering your blood pressure.

Dr Sarah-Elizabeth Bennett says: “Obesity is a chronic condition and requires ongoing or intermittent support over time. Community weight management programmes, such as Slimming World, provide ongoing support for people seeking weight management. This analysis highlights the importance of open-ended support as a key factor in successful obesity management.

“Rarely a day goes by without obesity and weight loss in the headlines and it can be confusing for people who want to lose weight to know which approach will work for them. This research shows anyone who is trying to lose weight and keep it off, how important support is in helping people to make and sustain healthy changes and how well-placed community-based slimming clubs are to provide this support. No two slimmers are the same and it’s the expertise and support members receive at their local Slimming World group which helps them to understand what those changes look like for them.”

Earlier this month, a study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Open Science found three in four respondents who received support in building healthy habits at a weekly Slimming World group were lighter up to three years after joining, even if they’d stopped attending.

It showed 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. Nearly all (98%) of the current members surveyed as part of the research said they were eating more fruit and veg, 94% were cooking more meals from scratch three years on and half (48%) had reduced their alcohol intake.

Alice Ingman - Slimming World's Diamond Member of the Year 2023 - before 6

Alice Ingman, 59, from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, has lost 8st 8lbs and maintained her weight loss for more than five years. Alice says: “I’ve always enjoyed food but had fallen out of love with cooking. Most of my meals had a plastic lid and were either from the takeaway or for the microwave. Slimming World showed me that I could still enjoy the flavours of food while losing weight. It was a totally new way of looking at weight loss and I think that’s why it has worked so well for me."

Alice Ingman - Slimming World's Diamond Member of the Year 2023 - after 1

Alice says: "I couldn’t have done it without the support of my Slimming World group and my family – they’ve been my cheerleaders the whole way. I’m fitter, happier and healthier – and this time it’s for life.”

*Secondary analysis of a dataset of 1.1 million self-funding adults who first joined Slimming World in 2016. Weight records for those who had their most recent attendance between January 2018 and January 2023 were extracted and analysed using last observation carried forward.

About Slimming World

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

For the Press Office visit our newsroom or email public.relations@slimmingworld.co.uk