Losing weight is easier than keeping it off, say slimmers

  • Slimmers are more than twice as likely to describe losing weight as ‘easy’, compared to maintaining weight
  • Not feeling confident about what to eat was cited as the most challenging part of maintaining weight loss in a survey of successful slimmers by UK weight-loss organisation Slimming World
  • Expert psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos says that in order to be successful people need to view weight loss as a permanent change, and focus more on an overall healthy lifestyle and less on short-term goals.
  • Slimming World is launching new guidance, including its new Slim for Life plan, to provide increased support for members who reach their target weight and help them to maintain their weight loss for life.

Feeling uncertain about what to eat once they reach their target weight is the top reason slimmers find it difficult to keep weight off in the long-term, according to a survey.

The survey of 4,774 successful slimmers*, who have all maintained their weight loss, found that while more than half of respondents (59%) described losing weight as ‘very easy’ or ‘easy’, fewer than one in four (23%) said maintaining their new slim weight was ‘very easy’ or ‘easy’.

And lacking confidence in what to eat to maintain their weight (49%), missing seeing results on the scales each week (40%), and no longer receiving recognition for their weight loss (34%) were the most common reasons given for finding weight-loss maintenance challenging.

The survey was conducted by UK weight-loss organisation Slimming World as part of a new initiative for slimmers who reach their target weight. It includes a new Slim for Life plan to help target members adapt their diet to maintain weight rather than continue to lose.

The plan, which is designed to be personalised by slimmers, gives members the option of three routes depending on their rate of weight loss and introduces members to the concept of Savvy Syns. These are foods and drinks that are not ‘Free’ on Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan** yet constitute a healthier or safer choice than other high-calorie and high-fat options, because they provide beneficial nutrients, are more satisfying or are less likely to catapult people back into the habits that caused them to gain weight in the future than other foods. Members are encouraged and supported to make their own personal choices and adopt a more flexible approach once they’ve achieved their personal target weight, which they set themselves.

The new Slim for Life plan***, which was developed in response to requests for increased support from Slimming World’s 140,000 target members, focuses on the first 12 weeks after members achieve their target weight. It guides them through a specially-tailored journey to maintain their new weight and help build the skills to stay there for life. It includes advice for how to adapt their diet to maintain weight rather than continuing to lose, encourages them to plan ahead, and supports slimmers to identify the foods, situations and emotions that could trigger past habits and then develop strategies to overcome these challenges. It’s also jam-packed with tips for making activity an intrinsic part of daily life.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, expert psychologist
Conceptualising the attainment of our target weight as the end of our journey misses the point. 
Dr Linda Papadopoulos, expert psychologist

The survey found that sustainability is important to slimmers, with eight out of 10 (84%) saying they joined Slimming World to change their habits for the long-term, and the majority of slimmers have adopted healthier habits, including snacking on fruit and vegetables between meals always or most of the time (81%), cooking with little or no oil and trimming fat off meats (99%), and choosing wholemeal bread and wholegrain cereals (93%).

Finding strategies to stay motivated is also key with six in 10 (58%) members saying they find reminding themselves how far they’ve come helps them to stay on track, while more than half of respondents (54%) use the support of other slimmers for ideas and motivation, and (50%) report occasionally going ‘back to basics’ by keeping a food diary recording everything they eat helps.

The top three situations that people felt posed a threat to their weight-loss maintenance were going on holiday (56%), attending celebrations and parties (56%) and seasonal events such as Christmas and Easter (54%). And the key ‘trigger foods’ that created ‘once I start, I can’t stop’-style moments for slimmers were chocolate (58%), alcohol (35%) and cakes (34%).

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos says: “When we set ourselves a weight-loss goal and achieve it, it’s natural to want to celebrate – and we deserve to as well! However, it’s important to recognise that losing weight is only the start of a new healthy lifestyle and that maintaining weight loss can bring a new set of challenges. Conceptualising the attainment of our target weight as the end of our journey misses the point. We need to see reaching a healthy weight as the beginning of a new relationship with our health, our environment and the choices that dictate our wellbeing.

“While adapting new eating habits to maintain your new weight is obviously important, the importance of emotional and psychological factors in terms of how they relate to motivation are key. If you’ve been focused on a short-term goal, like a big event or holiday as your motivation to lose weight, all of the healthy habits you’ve picked up could fall to the wayside once you’ve passed that marker and you no longer have that focus point. Similarly, finding new things to aim for when you’re no longer focusing on the numbers going down on the scale can be a challenge.

“That’s why in order to avoid becoming trapped in the yo-yo diet cycle, it’s so important to approach weight loss as a permanent change – from the outset if possible – and focus on developing new healthy habits that are sustainable in the long term as well as getting support to make those changes. I think it’s incredibly reassuring that eight of 10 of the people surveyed said they joined Slimming World to get help to change their habits for the long term. And the work that Slimming World is doing to develop ongoing support techniques to help members refocus once they achieve their target weight is exciting.”

Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Nutrition & Research
Our aim has always been to support members to lose weight and achieve sustainable healthy habits that work in the long term. 
Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Nutrition & Research

Slimming World’s Head of Nutrition and Research Dr Jacquie Lavin says: “At Slimming World we believe that weight-loss maintenance is one of the most under-recognised achievements in weight management. We know that maintaining weight loss needs a psychological and emotional adjustment as well as embedding of the new found habits that members have begun to develop. So when our target members told us they wanted more information and support to help them to feel confident about holding on to everything that they’ve achieved and staying slim for life, it was really important to us to give them something that was both practical and useful.

“Research shows that one of the most important habits for maintaining a healthy weight long-term is to eat a diet that’s lower in fat and calories, which is exactly what our Food Optimising eating plan is. And members who follow the plan achieve successful weight loss. However, once you’ve reached your target weight, it can be tempting to think that you’ve done it, become more relaxed and start slipping back into old habits. However, no two slimmers are the same – we all have different trigger foods, different danger areas and different self-sabotage techniques. This new Slim for Life plan enables members to identify their personal challenges and to tailor a maintenance plan that works perfectly 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. This new initiative will significantly help us to support members lead healthier and happier lives, for life.”

Slimming World’s target members have always been invited to attend their local Slimming World group for free each week to continue to receive support to maintain their own weight, as well as to support and inspire members who are still on their weight-loss journey.****– Ends –

Case study

Overhearing a group of young men describe her as the ‘fat friend’ inspired Jodie Rigby-Mee to lose 6st and drop five dress sizes, which she’s maintained for more than 12 years.

Jodie, 33, joined her local Slimming World group Royal Leamington Spa back in 2002, following a holiday in her late teens when she heard a group of boys refer to her as the ‘fat friend’. She says: “It took my breath away and I ended up back in the hotel room in tears. I truly felt at my lowest.”

Back home she joined Slimming World and her weight-loss journey saw her go from 16st 7lbs to 10st 7lbs in two years – a weight she’s maintained ever since: “Losing weight when I did completely changed my life. It gave me so much more confidence in every respect.”

However, when Jodie reached her Personal Achievement Target, she started a whole new journey – and continuing to go to her Slimming World group has been as vital as ever, as she learned how to maintain her weight: “If I haven’t had a great week or I’ve been on holiday, I make sure I get straight back to the group to get the support and the tools I need to get back on track. Even though I know what I’m doing, I still need the group’s encouragement and that special support of a Consultant, even though I’m a Consultant myself now.”

Notes to Editors

*Research of 4,774 Slimming World members who have all achieved their Personal Achievement Target and responded to a survey on the organisation’s members’ website, LifelineOnline.

**Slimming World’s Food Optimising eating plan encourages members to satisfy their appetite on low energy dense foods, which it calls Free Foods, including fruit and veg, pasta, rice, potatoes, lean meat, fish and more. They also enjoy measured amounts of fibre and calcium-rich foods, as well as the treats that traditional weight-loss methods ban, which Slimming World calls Syns.

***All current target members received a free copy of the new Slim for Life booklet w/c 16th June 2018. Every member who reaches their PAT after this time will receive a free copy of the guide.

****Slimming World members become target members when they reach their Personal Achievement Target (PAT), which they set themselves. At that point they can continue to attend their Slimming World group for free while ever they remain 3lbs either side of their PAT.

About Slimming World

Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. There are now more than 18,000 weekly groups supporting 900,000 members across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Groups are run by a network of 4,500 community-based Slimming World Consultants, who receive specific training in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as sophisticated behaviour-change techniques. Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of satiety and energy density. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. The principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. 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 behaviour change in a 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 Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000. Follow Slimming World on Twitter at www.twitter.com/slimmingworld or become a Slimming World fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/slimmingworld

About Dr Linda Papadopoulos

Dr Linda is one of the most well-known psychologists in the UK today. She has a prolific academic publication record and has published widely in peer reviewed academic journals in the fields of Psychodermatology, Body Image, Counselling and Medical Psychology. She is a Chartered Counselling and Health Psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the BPS. She is also a regular commentator on psychological issues in broadcast, radio and print media. She has fronted shows for the Networks including the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and TLC, as well as presenting factual segments on ITV’s This Morning, BBC’s The One Show and Good Morning Britain. She is a regular commentator on Sky news in the UK. She has also presented programmes and provided professional psychological commentary for numerous American and International television and radio networks including CNN, CBS, CNBC, BBC International, VH1 and MTV to name but a few. As a psychologist and as a mother Dr Linda is passionate that young women develop a healthy self-esteem and body image.