Slimming World is a British company which runs over 5,000 weight loss classes a week across the UK . Adults who are seven or more pounds overweight may join a local Slimming World class and pay a weekly fee to attend classes. In 2005 the cost on joining was £10 and the weekly charge £4.25. Slimming World calls its diet plan "Food Optimising."
Classes are led by self-employed consultants. At each class members are weighed and the loss or gain is shared with the group. At no time is a member's actual weight mentioned. During classes members also share tips, experiences, and ask for advice. Prizes are given for the "slimmer of the week" and "slimmer of the month."
Consultants do not have quotas to meet for total weight loss among their membership, but do with class attendance, and there are financial incentives for achieving targets.
Slimming World was founded in 1969 by Margaret Miles-Bramwell, who serves as chairman. Caryl Richards has been managing director of the company since 2001. Slimming World has 215 employees in its head office.
Food Optimising leads to weight-loss through a calorie-restricted diet. On the plan many foods, known as "free foods," which are judged to have a low calorie content for how filling they are or how nutritious they are, may be eaten in unrestricted amounts. Members are encouraged to eat four small portions per day of foods which are higher in calories, but which provide ample supplies of vitamins, minerals or dietary fibre. These are called "healthy extras." All other foods need to be measured and have their so-called syn value (explained below) counted against a daily allowance.
The Food Optimising plan classifies each day as an original (or red) day or a green day. Many foods are classified differently depending on whether it is a red or green day.
The red day "free foods" include most fruits and vegetables, white fish, lean meats and eggs. The restricted "healthy extras" include milk, cheese, bread, grains, beans, potatoes and dried fruits.
The green day "free foods" include fruit and vegetables, grains, beans, pasta, tofu, and eggs. The "healthy extras" include milk, cheese, bread, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, meat, and fish.
All other foods are assigned a syn value by Slimming World based on their nutritional profile. Syn values are not simply based on calories, but are determined by a proprietary calculation. Slimming World members must check the food's value in a book produced by Slimming World, or on the Slimming World website (which is free to all members).
Exercise is not a formal part of the Slimming World plan. They do encourage their members to be active, but the focus of the groups is placed on diet.
When people exercise while trying to lose weight they may make progress which is not reflected by weighing themselves. Muscle weighs more than fat, so members may find that their weight loss slows or stops altogether when they exercise at the same time as following a diet plan, as fat stores are used up and muscles are strengthened.
The Slimming World literature acknowledges this and tells members not to be discouraged if they find that this is the case. However, the only measure that Slimming World records is weight loss.
Health and pregnancy
The Slimming World plan follows the UK government's healthy eating guidelines. Following a pilot program in 2001–2 with Derby Primary Care Trust, Slimming on Referral was launched to encourage doctors to refer patients to Slimming World classes. Under the program the first few class fees are subsidized.
With permission from her midwife a pregnant woman may continue to follow the Slimming World plan. New mothers may attend classes starting six weeks after giving birth, even while breast-feeding.
Company history and products
The weekly classes are at the heart of the Slimming World business. However they do offer other products and services.
The company sells recipe books and other books to accompany their diet plan. For people unable or unwilling to attend classes, they offer postal membership and an online program called BodyOptimise. BodyOptimise costs more than the classes, but offers more support than postal membership and is more flexible than attending classes.
In January 1998, Slimming World Magazine was launched, sold exclusively to members. It went on general sale to the public in January 1999 with a circulation in excess of 255,000 copies.
Prior to 2004, Slimming World assigned its naughty-but-nice foods "sin values." Some found the idea of foods being sinful as negative and offputting. Weight Watchers in the UK , Slimming World's main competitor, even advertises under the slogan "Where no food is a sin." Slimming World always said that "sins" were intended to be seen as tongue in cheek, but members and non-members alike were divided over whether they found it the idea of "sinning" fun or discouraging.
As of January 2004, sin values were renamed "syn values," short for synergy, according to Slimming World. In addition to countering the criticism from Weight Watchers, the change to syn values gave Slimming World the opportunity to revise and recalculate the values. Publications that predate 2004, such as recipe books and lists of sin values, are now out of date.
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