When people tell me they are considering joining a slimming club, they usually go on to say “….because it worked before”.
One of the dieters I interviewed for my recent book “What’s Your Excuse For Not Eating Healthily?” told me she had signed up with the same slimming club between 8 and 10 times in her adult life. She was always very successful during the first couple of months and often dropped several stone, but then she’d have a bad week, couldn’t face the weigh-in and wouldn’t go. She’d tell herself that she’d be extra “good” (note the self-judgmental language) the following week and then go back, but wouldn’t manage it, and then dropped out of the group. She’d then try to follow the diet on her own, but couldn’t manage it, so the following year found herself signing up to the group again. Every time she re-joined she was a stone heavier than when she joined up the last time.
This is a common pattern with slimming club “fans” – they are serial joiners. And if they have to go back over and over again, can slimming clubs really be said to work?
The dieter mentioned above didn’t try just the one slimming club. She also tried a more extreme club and lost six stone in three months. In order to achieve that she lived mainly on liquids – shakes, soups, and the occasional food bar. Halfway through her program she was allowed one “normal” meal, and her group leader advised her to have a pint of milk because if she ate real food she “might get the taste for it again”. This is the mad, bad reality of weight loss clubs. When she finished the plan, our dieter was given advice on “how to start integrating food into her life again”. What?!?!?
She also told me that she became very, very boring. She was so obsessed with not eating she talked about it all the time. So it wasn’t much fun for her but I’m guessing it wasn’t much fun for her friends either. And although she did keep the weight off for a while, it did subsequently creep back on, so all that deprivation and misery was for nothing.
None of the dieters I interviewed for my book who’d attended slimming club meetings described them in positive terms, and none reported permanent weight loss. They described weigh-ins as “humiliating”, the leaders “patronising” and the general experience “a necessary evil”. One dieter said, “By my third attempt at Weight Watchers I was so obsessed with points and food I thought of nothing else”. And one dieter told me that she discovered it was perfectly possible to use every one of her Weight Watchers points to eat junk – so even when she stuck to her points allowance she was eating an unhealthy diet completely lacking in nutrients, sending her blood haywire and giving her constant cravings. They all lost weight, but subsequently put it back on again.
Despite all of this, slimming clubs are still pulling in the business, both the meetings and online. People go back with the view that, “This time I will stick with it”, “This time I will make it work”. But what’s that thing that Einstein said? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. These clubs may help you stick with the deprivation and boredom for a while, but they won’t help you develop a permanently healthier relationship with food, and you’ll end up blaming yourself for falling off the diet wagon again, when really it’s the diet wagon that’s wrong.
Is it time for you to try a different approach? Take a look at my thoughts on the differences between dieting and healthy eating here.
Footnote: I’m pleased to say that the dieter mentioned above has now lost a significant amount of weight through healthy eating alone – no diet plans, no calorie counting, no liquid meals, no beating herself up if she has a treat. I’d like to claim the credit for coaching her to achieve this but I can’t, she’s done it alone, and I really enjoyed hearing her story