Monday, 9 January 2017

Slimming World: Fad or Fact?

Happy 2017! New year, new me, and all that jazz. And what better way to start the new year than with a blog post on a topic that is so relevant for this time of the year? Diets. It seems like everyone is watching what they eat more than ever lately. And there's nothing wrong with that - within reason.

One of the 'diets' that has piqued my interest in particular recently has been Slimming World, for the simple reason it advertises itself as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. I don't do diets, they don't work for me, and all I can think about is cake if I even consider calorie counting.

I've always had a bit of an issue with binge eating. I'd go into my room and eat 6 packets of crisps and an entire packet of biscuits in one go (and more) without even a second thought. As a teenager I never thought of it as bingeing, just extreme snacking, but as I grew older and learned more about living a healthy lifestyle, I realised how destructive it was.

Since starting college and moving out of home I've gained 2 stone. When you're eating junk all day, most days, it's easy to put on weight quick as anything. The main thing is stopping it before it gets too far. And that's what I've started to do.

Laurence (my boyfriend, whom I also live with) also began to notice our lifestyle wasn't as healthy as it should be, and we sat down and talked about it. We'd both been reading about Slimming World for a while and knew people who'd had success with is - not just for weight loss but also for cleaning up their diet a bit. We decided to give it a go when January started. We had nothing to lose (except a few pounds!)

So, what exactly is Slimming World? Essentially it's a trussed-up low calorie, low fat diet that focuses on filling 'free' foods (lean meats, fruit, vegetables, pasta, potatoes and rice). That's all good, right? That's a normal healthy diet, sure, but there are aspects of Slimming World I don't particularly agree with. 

Foods that are high in fat/sugar, such as chocolate and crisps, are full of 'syns' (points allocated to junk food or food of low nutritional value - you get 15 syns a day), which is fair enough. However, an avocado is 14 syns. Oil is highly synned, even coconut oil. And as for nuts and seeds - forget about it. Slimming World misses out a key point of a healthy diet - the inclusion of healthy fats. Several people who do Slimming World have noticed their hair getting brittle and their skin getting dry, because their diet doesn't include enough healthy fats. 

For me, personally, I've been doing Slimming World a week now and it has helped me stop the binge eating. Some argue it fuels binge eating due to the fact it doesn't teach you how to stop eating junk - just reduce it. However, I live by the mantra 'everything in moderation' and I think it would be a sad life to not have a little bit of something you love every now and again. I save my syns for the evening and have something small and sweet, or a packet of crisps, or biscuits, and it works for me.

As for the weight loss aspect, Laurence and I weighed ourselves after a week and discovered I'd lost 7.5 pounds and he'd lost 10 pounds - not bad, eh?! It's also encouraging me to drink more fluids. I'm killer for going the whole day and only drinking one glass of water, but lately I've been having several green teas and glasses of water to keep hydrated.

If you're still on the fence about it, here are a few pros and cons to Slimming World. Most of the pros also have cons to counteract them, so it's up to you to decide whether Slimming World is for you or not.

  • You can eat as much fruit, veg, potatoes, rice and pasta as you want. You're encouraged to eat loads of fruit and veg (they recommend you fill at least a third of your plate with fruit or veg).
  • Treats aren't off limits - you get 15 'syns' a day to use on whatever you want.
  • You eat mostly low calorie, low fat foods so it is fairly easy to lose weight whilst doing it.
  • Depending on what you buy, it is quite a cheap diet. 
  • Meals are fun because you can eat such a variety of foods.
  • Slimming World encourages a lot of processed foods, and artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame. I really do not agree with this aspect of Slimming World as there's so much controversy around sweeteners. I personally limit anything highly processed or with sweeteners in it to a couple of times a week.
  • Slimming World doesn't really teach you how to eat healthy portion sizes. I see a lot of people's pictures of their meals and they're gigantic, and all carbs, without a lot of veg. I'd recommend filling a third or half of your plate with vegetables or salad, and then a fist size serving of protein and carbs, to keep your portion sizes healthy.
  • There's no calorie counting. Slimming World says you can eat as many 'free' foods as you want, but let's be real here - if you eat 2,000 calories worth of pasta and nothing else you'll feel rubbish and most likely won't lose weight.
  • The classes and membership are expensive. I can't afford to pay to go to the groups or join online because I'm a student, so I do it all from home. If you know someone with the books it can be a great help, or join groups on Facebook.
  • You only get 1 serving of dairy (milk, cheese etc) and 1 serving of fibre (bread, cereal etc) a day, the rest you have to syn. If you're like Laurence and I and love your cheese and bread this might be hard.
So there you have it! I've tried to be as unbiased as possible when writing this, because as I've said I disagree with some of the principles of Slimming World, but I can't say it doesn't work for me. Let's face it, everyone is different. IIFYM works for some people, calorie counting works for others, Paleo makes some thrive and others run away screaming. There's no one lifestyle for everyone, so it's up to you to figure out what works for you. If you were considering Slimming World, I hope this was a bit helpful! In the end, all that matters is that you stay healthy and happy.

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