Reports that the government is poised to publish a new obesity strategy in the wake of the Covid pandemic have been welcomed by Slimming World, the UK’s leading/largest weight management organisation who support up to a million members in community based groups each week.
However, say Slimming World, the strategy must include supporting people to change their lifestyles and form new healthy habits to help them lose weight.
Initial indications are that the government’s recommendations will include a focus on exercise and an increase in medical interventions like gastric surgery and appetite suppressing drugs.
But Slimming World points out that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance is clear that programmes for effective weight loss must address “dietary intake, physical activity levels and behaviour change”.
In a letter to Boris Johnson last month, Caryl Richards, CEO of Slimming World, told the Prime Minister that ‘exercise alone will not solve obesity.
It is well known that someone who is so seriously overweight that their health is at risk would not be physically able to do anywhere near enough exercise to lose weight’.
This is supported by Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health at the University of Oxford, who ‘urged people to turn to support groups such as Slimming World’.
Ms Richards added: ‘Slimming World already plays an essential role in the health of the nation. In normal circumstances, our 19,000 weekly community groups provide support to nearly 1 million members.
‘Those groups are currently temporarily suspended following the lockdown in March, and while we are successfully running a temporary virtual service for our members – through our 4,500 self-employed Consultants – we are poised to reopen our doors, as soon as it is safe to do so, to support people in their own communities to lose weight and improve health outcomes’.
Slimming World believes that although in some cases, surgery may be the right solution, for instance where life is at risk or a person truly believes they have tried every possible method to lose weight, it isn’t a scalable, affordable or truly effective solution to weight management, because it doesn’t help people to form new habits around eating and becoming more active which are essential for long term success.
Jenny Caven, Director of External Affairs at Slimming World, said: “Slimming World was founded in Derbyshire over 50 years ago, and for all those years our programme of tailored support in a powerfully motivating group setting has transformed the lives of millions of members and their families. In our groups, our members learn how to plan, shop, cook and eat more healthily, and are encouraged and supported to become more physically active by our trained Consultants, who’ve all lost weight with Slimming World themselves.”
Vincent Taylor (58) spent £16,000 trying to lose weight through surgery before joining Slimming World, going on to lose 8 stone, and reverse his diabetes. Vincent had struggled with his weight since his late teens when he began to put on a lot of weight. He found it more and more difficult to lose weight as he got older.
It is vital that that the government recognises the unequalled role that Slimming World plays in supporting those who are overweight to make long-term changes and lead healthier and happier lives.
Vincent explained: “In 2009, I was working as a fire fighter and found my weight affected my ability to carry out my duties. I was so embarrassed when ordering my uniform because the sizes I asked for were so large – I had a 46-inch waist and the shirts I needed had a 19.5-inch collar.
“I decided to pay for a gastric band. Unfortunately, I lost no weight at all after the operation as the band moved in my stomach. I paid to have it corrected and the band moved again. I then paid to have the band removed and had a gastric bypass instead. I did lose enough weight to complete my service as a fire fighter before I retired but two years after the operation, the weight piled back on. I was so unhappy and I couldn’t see how I could lose weight when even £16,000 worth of surgery had failed.
“When my doctor called me in for my health assessment, I was shocked at the results. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and prescribed a lot of tablets: metformin for the diabetes and more medication for inherited high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I was broken hearted thinking that this would be my life going forward.
“I was desperate to lose weight. I’d started a new role as a road safety advocate visiting schools and colleges to share road safety advice. When the occupational nurse at work said that she had lost 3 stone when she attended Slimming World, I decided to give it a try.
“When I joined Slimming World in February 2018, I was 21 stone. I was nervous about joining, I felt embarrassed, thinking ‘blokes don’t do this’. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My Consultant made me feel so welcome and surprise, surprise – it was great. We all had a good laugh and I wasn’t the only man there.
“The best part of Slimming World is the group session. It’s so good to hear how everyone has got on during the previous week and I’m always learning more about, Slimming World’s healthy eating plan. At first, I was so surprised at the variety of food I can eat and I’ve found group is the best place for expert advice around how to cook recipes and for hints and tips on how to stay on track and overcome hurdles.
“At home, I care for my younger brother Michael (51) who has Down’s syndrome. Since I joined Slimming World and have been making healthier meals, Mike has lost over a stone and our doctor is over the moon about this. It’s just wonderful to know my younger brother has lost weight simply because of my cooking.
“I’ve now lost 8 stone and I tell everyone how Slimming World has changed my life completely! As a result of changing my way of life, not opting for a quick fix, I have chased away my medical problems and I’m not scared to visit my doctor any more. The surgery didn’t work as all it did was temporarily stop me gaining weight, it didn’t address why I was gaining weight or help my ongoing struggle. Slimming World has given me the tools to lose weight and keep it off.
“Everyone focuses on the obvious massive physical change but what people can’t see is the mental and emotional change losing weight has caused within me. I am so much happier and stronger as a person. I approach life with a belief that I can do anything I set my mind to I know that Slimming World has saved my life.”
Jenny Caven added: “We were delighted to hear about the Prime Minister’s renewed commitment to tackling obesity in the wake of Covid-19 and, as we work to reopen our doors to support our 1 million members across the UK and Ireland, it is vital that that the government recognises the unequalled role that Slimming World plays in supporting those who are overweight to make long-term changes and lead healthier and happier lives.”