When it comes to weight loss: one blip doesn't have to mean you've blown it

New study reveals over half of UK adults can fall after just one slimming hurdle – and suggests learning to cope with setbacks could be key to long-term weight loss success

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In a new study, 53 per cent of UK adults say that just one setback can derail them from their weight loss goals, with almost one in five (19 per cent) saying a setback made them give up on their weight loss goals altogether. 

The survey of 2,003 adults[1], commissioned by the UK and Ireland’s largest weight-loss organisation Slimming World, reveals 77 per cent of adults say they’ve previously attempted to lose weight and on average people have tried to lose weight seven times in their lifetime.

Of those who had experienced a setback while trying to lose weight, 38 per cent say the top cause was feeling hungry and 29 per cent say it was a stressful life event such as a bereavement, job loss or family illness. For others, it was missing out on their favourite foods (25 per cent), and not planning healthy meals (23 per cent) which derailed them. 

The top temptations which can cause setbacks, according to those surveyed who have tried to lose weight, are having unhealthy snacks such as chocolate, crisps, cakes and biscuits in the house (41 per cent), Saturday night takeaways (21 per cent), cakes and pastries when buying coffee (20 per cent) and fast food after a night out drinking (18 per cent). One in 10 say a chocolate Easter Egg is the food or drink item most likely to cause them to have a setback.

The survey reveals a prime time for temptations with 38 per cent of adults who had tried to lose weight saying they are most likely to stray from their weight loss plans between 6pm and 10pm.

Almost a third (31 per cent) of those who had experienced setbacks when trying to lose weight say it took them more than a month to find the motivation to get back on track afterwards.

The survey reveals 24 per cent of adults questioned say although they’re not currently trying to, they’d like to lose weight. Over a third (34 per cent) of those who have experienced setbacks when trying to lose weight, say they’d typically experience three or more setbacks a month.

The most popular way people had tried to lose weight was through exercise (69 per cent), followed by calorie counting (49 per cent) and fasting (32 per cent).

Dr Amanda Avery, Slimming World’s Health and Research Consultant Dietitian says learning how to handle setbacks is crucial for long-term weight loss success. 

Dr Amanda Avery, Slimming World's Health and Research Consultant Dietitian

As we’ve seen with the results of this research, setbacks on a weight loss journey are to be expected. Things don't always go perfectly to plan and that's life. What’s key when this happens, is to be kind to yourself.  Learning to accept that a setback is part of your slimming journey can help stop you being derailed altogether. The results of the survey support this, with more than half of adults questioned (57 per cent) agreeing that learning how to deal with setbacks on their weight loss journey helped them to navigate the ups and downs of weight loss.

Dr Amanda Avery, Slimming World's Health and Research Consultant Dietitian

The survey, carried out by Censuswide, also polled members of Slimming World’s 13,000 community weight loss groups and online programme. Of the members questioned, 82 per cent feel more capable of dealing with setbacks than they did when making previous weight loss attempts. The vast majority (72 per cent) of members questioned said they’re less likely to experience setbacks now they’re a member of Slimming World, due to the flexibility and support the plan provides and 84 per cent agree they’re more confident in their ability to recover from a setback while losing weight than they were before joining.

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Slimming World’s approach combines support to change your mindset around weight loss with a flexible healthy eating plan and a physical support activity programme – both of which can be tailored to your lifestyle and ability. Members, who attend a weekly group or access support online, gain knowledge and expertise to understand themselves better as a slimmer. They are encouraged to use deep thinking and techniques including visualisation and planning to build their motivation, self-belief and commitment so they can change their relationship with food, physical activity and weight loss in general and achieve long lasting success.

Dr Avery says: "It's good to have some personal strategies for dealing with potential setbacks or, even better, have strategies to try to minimise the risk of setbacks. Within Slimming World groups, members receive personalised expert guidance from their Consultant, to help them with the motivation, accountability and commitment they need to avoid or navigate setbacks.  By equipping group and online members with the tools to build their resilience and be more self-compassionate, as well as sharing practical real-life strategies, Slimming World helps members feel empowered to overcome obstacles and stick with their weight loss plans.”

Professor James Stubbs, Appetite & Energy Balance, University of Leeds, agrees having a flexible mindset is important to any weight loss endeavour. 

Professor James Stubbs, Appetite and Energy Balance, University of Leeds

For anyone looking to lose weight, it’s important to remember that this is not a quick fix, it’s a gradual process. As with any journey it is good to be prepared, to have plans, tools to help you navigate and coping strategies for when the journey can get difficult. Behaviour change plays a key role and there will be days when setbacks will be experienced and things don’t go so well, which is perfectly natural.  Learning how to navigate setbacks is what helps people develop the skills needed for lasting behaviour change. Even people who are highly successful at losing weight and keeping it off have setbacks and revisit some of the strategies they used to lose weight initially.

Professor James Stubbs, Appetite and Energy Balance, University of Leeds

[1] The research was conducted by Censuswide, among samples of 2,003 nationally representative UK general consumers along with a self-selecting sample of 1,748 Slimming World members via Slimming World’s website.  The data was collected between 12.03.2024 and 18.03.2024. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.

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 people living with overweight and obesity, and incorporating the most effective sustainable behaviour change techniques, IMAGE Therapy is designed to inspire and motivate slimmers to make positive mindset 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 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 physical 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, Diabetes UK 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 X and Instagram at @slimmingworld, become a Slimming World fan on Facebook at facebook.com/slimmingworld or tune in on TikTok at tiktok.com/@slimmingworld

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