Spending £ to lose lbs

Are you one of the thousands upon thousands of people who willingly hand over your hard earned cash, week after week, to attend a weight loss group?

You are probably very clear about the weight, or clothes size, you want to achieve, but have you any idea what your weight loss group may be capable of helping you achieve?

Are you being sold a dream?

What follows is a summary of two studies (one involving Slimming World, one Weight Watchers) that will make disappointing reading for people who are desperate to lose weight.

But you need to know the truth.

The truth

Both Slimming World and Weight Watchers were involved in clinical trials and the weight loss outcomes were published in the medical journal, The Lancet, during 2016 and 2017.  The studies concluded that these groups are “effective”.  What does this mean?

Effective – “producing the intended result”

From a medical perspective, it is widely accepted that weight loss in the region of 5-10% will improve health.


Let’s say you weigh 100kg, or 15st 10lbs.

If you lose 5% weight, you will weigh 95kg, or 14st 13lbs

If you lose 10% weight, you will weigh 90kg, or 14st 2lbs

So at a start weight of 100kg, or 15st 10lbs, a weight loss of at least 5kg, or 11lbs, will reduce weight related risks to health – and as long as the weight is not regained.

But I have 2 questions:

  1. How do weight losses of 5% compare to the amount of weight you want to lose?
  2. How much weight are you likely to lose by attending a weight loss group?

How much weight do you want to lose? What is your “intended result”?

A recent study looked at 5 different weight loss outcomes as follows:

  • Dream weight – the weight you would be if you could weigh whatever you want
  • Goal weight – the weight you expect to lose
  • Happy weight – not your ideal weight, but one you would be happy to achieve
  • Acceptable weight  – a weight you’re not particularly happy with, but one you could accept because it is less than your current weight
  • Disappointed weight – a weight that is less than your current weight, but one that you could not view as successful in any way.

The study found that weight losses of 6% or less were personally “disappointing”.

In other words, the degree of weight loss that is beneficial to health is often not enough to be personally pleasing.

So on to the next question – will a weight loss group help me to achieve a weight that I’m happy with and a weight my GP will be happy with?

What weight loss is possible using slimming clubs?

Before we get in to this, let’s make a few things clear:

  • Some people can lose significant amounts of weight.  A few will even keep it off.
  • Most people will lose weight in the first weeks and months of a diet.
  • BUT
  • Most people will regain the weight they lose.
Fingers crossed

So while you digest the information below, bear in mind that the weight losses shown are averages after 1-2 years – that is, the people in the studies probably lost more weight in the early stages, but regained it within 1-2 years.

Weight Watchers Study

Compared weight losses achieved between:

  • Brief advice and self help materials
  • 12 weeks attendance at Weight Watchers
  • 52 weeks attendance at Weight Watchers

At the end of 2 years, the people who had attended Weight Watchers for 52 weeks (1 year) had lost only 1.99kg (4lbs) more than people who had received self help material. 

The percentage of people who lost at least 5% of their weight, the amount associated with health improvement, was 39% .

In other words, the majority of people (61%) lost less than 5% of their weight.

Slimming World Study

Compared weight losses achieved between:

  • GP advising weight loss
  • 12 weeks attendance at Slimming World

At the end of 1 year, the people who had attended Slimming World for 12 weeks had lost only 1.43kg (3lbs) more than the people who spoke to their GP only.

The percentage of people who lost at least the 5% of their weight, the amount associated with health improvement, was 25%.

In other words, the majority of people (75%) lost less than 5% of their weight.

Joining the dots….

Weight losses achieved by most people attending weight loss groups:

  • is not enough for health improvements, and
  • is considered a personally disappointing weight loss.

These studies can be found….if you know to look for them.  But you probably didn’t look.  So you go to your group, knowing what weight loss you want, but not what to expect.

In what other business do you regularly hand over money without knowledge of what you are getting in return?

So it’s a bit of a lottery…You might lose the weight of your dreams.  But you probably won’t.  What are the implications of not knowing this?

The gap between the weight you want to lose and the weight you are likely to lose could be huge.

If it wasn’t already bad enough, this gap can cause a weight self-stigma, or a self blame, which can make food control even more difficult.

The more you blame yourself for your perceived lack of ability to lose weight the worse your eating is likely to be.

Chain reaction….

  • Weight loss groups do not help the majority lose enough weight for health benefit
  • Weight loss groups do not help the majority lose the amount of weight they would like to lose
  • People blame themselves for this.
  • Self-blame leads to a weight self-stigma.
  • Weight self stigma contributes to further disordered eating.

Which poses the question – are weight loss groups part of the problem??

While I do not believe that weight loss groups set out to cause harm, it seems they may have fallen victim of the law of unintended consequences.

But it is a consequence that cannot be ignored.

It is World Obesity Day on 11th October 2018, and the theme is Weight Stigma.

If you have ever blamed yourself for your perceived lack of ability to lose weight and keep it off,  you have probably suffered from weight self-stigma.

But what if you are not to blame? What if the weight loss method just wasn’t right for you?  But you’re afraid to stop going in case your weight gets worse. And dieting is so familiar you don’t know what else to do.

But not going on a diet is not the same as doing nothing.

For too long, the emphasis has been on calories, scales and weight. This has proven to be a red herring. We know that obesity is complex with many contributing factors of which food choices are one. We know that people’s relationship with food is complex.

This is why diets don’t work for most people. Without any understanding of why people eat as they do or what influences their food decisions, telling them to “eat this, don’t eat that” is only avoiding the problems (temporarily). Any method that ignores the cause of the weight problem, or does not address why people eat the way they do, cannot be successful long term.

In summary..

Evidence shows that the weight loss achieved by commercial weight loss groups is, overall, disappointingly low for the majority of people.

Selling dreams, delivering disappointment.  This is not your fault.