As with any diet or eating plan, fitness plan, or weight loss plan, Slimming World doesn’t work for everyone.
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’d see I wouldn’t be where I am without the weight loss I had with Slimming World.
However, the number of people I have seen stay with Slimming World for years without ever getting closer to their target weight is a little bit depressing.
So it definitely doesn’t work for everyone.
As someone who has tried virtually every mainstream diet, I think I’m in a pretty good place to pinpoint some of the main reasons why.
What Does “Working” Mean?
Just to be completely clear, when I refer to why Slimming World doesn’t work, I am talking about it with weight loss in mind.
I’ve moved on a lot from the idea that weight loss is the only (or most important) health goal but for someone starting Slimming World, it is the most likely reason they start.
So for the sake of clarity, we’re talking about being able to reach your target weight with Slimming World.
There are a couple of main issues in my view and a couple of issues which are almost like side effects from those main issues.
Let’s dive in.
Emphasis On Weekly Weigh Ins
Weight isn’t the best or the only measure of health, and weekly weight loss isn’t a great measure of progress.
The generally accepted “healthy and sustainable” rate of fat loss in the fitness industry is 0.5 to 1 pound per week.
Your body weight can fluctuate by 4-5 pounds purely from food or water in a single day, which means that those day to day fluctuations can hide fat loss progress.
Here’s an example.
On day 1, let’s say you weigh 160 pounds, which is made up of:
- 40 pounds of body fat, and
- 120 pounds of bone, muscle, and organs, plus the food and water currently in your body.
You lose 1 pound of fat in the following week, but you are carrying more water weight so you now have:
- 39 pounds of body fat, and
- 122 pounds of bone, muscle, organs, food, and water.
So the scales say you weight 1 pound more overall, weighing in at 161 pounds, even though you have a lower body fat percentage.
I even did a Tiktok to explain this:
As weekly weight is the main measure Slimming World uses, it sucks when you see the scales go up or not move, even when you’ve actually made progress towards your goal.
It does put people off, and after a while, you may want to throw in the towel.
Completely Different Nutritional System
One of the best things about Slimming World is how simple it is to follow. You have certain foods you can eat in unlimited amounts, and some with set portion recommendations, and some with a ‘syn’ value which need to be tracked more firmly.
It’s a great structure and plan if you don’t want to worry about tracking calories, or macros, or any of that kind of thing.
But this can be problematic for a few reasons.
When you step out of that system, for example, if you are eating out, you may be relying purely on guesswork to stick to that system.
At least with calories, you get exact information on nutrition labels and if not, you can make a rough estimate by looking at the nutrition information for something comparable.
With Slimming World’s system, you don’t have that option unless someone has already made it available, either on the Slimming World app, or through their own detective work.
I don’t know if this still happens in groups, but when I was part of a Slimming World group, most people used to treat the evening after a weigh-in as “treat night”.
In other words, it was the furthest time possible from your next weigh-in.
So you had the best possible chance to have a “cheat night” and then do your best all week to shake off the side effects of that indulgence.
I used to do it. Tuesday nights after my weigh-in was always pizza night.
The topic of cheat meals or cheat days, nutrition, weight loss, and eating disorders is complex enough to warrant its own separate post.
But when you do the numbers in your own system, whether it is syns or calories that you’re counting, you might find that cheat is enough to stop you from your weight loss progress.
I already mentioned how simple it is to follow Slimming World’s system.
But it does come with loopholes, and exploiting these one of the common reasons why Slimming World doesn’t work for a lot of people.
Some foods are only unlimited or “free foods” in certain forms. Fruit is a great example of this.
You can have a whole banana, and count it as a free food. If you mash it though, it will count as syns and in some cases it might be what takes you over your target for the day.
But then you can go and have a whole a whole meal of free foods instead and still be fine.
The reasoning behind this particular example is that when you have something mashed, it will digest more quickly so won’t fill you up as much.
I’m not getting into questioning the science here (I mean we generally chew our food before it reaches our stomach anyway), but just explaining the reason why certain foods are the way that they are in the system.
And yes, it does mean there are some loopholes or oddities.
Lack Of Focus On Exercise
My experience of Slimming World is a bit dated.
I last went for a meeting a few years ago. But when I was doing it, exercise was still seen as something scary, intimidating, and honestly, best avoided.
That isn’t exclusive to Slimming World though – a lot of diets seem to pain that picture.
Slimming World softened the edge a bit by calling it ‘Body Magic‘ instead. Makes it sound like something else entirely right? I’ve mentally become less mature as I’ve gotten older and now tend to giggle at the term.
But back to the original point – it was never given much importance.
I guess that makes sense as Slimming World consultants are trained on the Slimming World system, not on fitness and workouts.
Exercise can be fulfilling, empowering, and energising.
Its benefits go well beyond making the scales move, and include strength, mental wellbeing, blood sugar, blood pressure, stress management, joint strength, mobility, flexibility, day to day movement….
I’ll stop there.
It can be as simple as walking a little bit more each day or week, to get you started.
But we never got away from the idea that exercise was scary and very intimidating to even start.
Lack Of Focus On Portions
This is a double-edged sword.
One of the great things about Slimming World is that it deliberately encourages more natural and nutritious food choices by making fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome ingredients free foods.
That means you can have unlimited amounts. And a huge uptick in your fruit and vegetable intake will pretty much always do you a world of good.
The downside is that you don’t really develop a better relationship with food, or a better idea of what a portion is, or even listening to the hunger and fullness signals your body is giving you.
Not being able to manage portion control or not listening to the body saying it’s full, is one of the main reasons you might be in a position where Slimming World looks like a solution to the problem you’re trying to solve.
And like I already said, if you are able to switch from less nutritious foods to more nutritious foods, you will inevitably improve your health, and will probably lose some weight by default as well.
But because it doesn’t help you focus on developing that better relationship with hunger, fullness, and portions, if you start to head back to the foods you used to over-indulge on, or are away for a period, or leave Slimming World entirely, you might be slipping back into old habits.
There’s No One Reason Why Slimming World Doesn’t Work
I don’t want you to read through all of the above and think I am hating on Slimming World, because I’m not.
Like I already said, I wouldn’t be where I am now without it. And it is an awesome system for helping people switch their eating habits and make more nutritional choices.
That applies to overall health, and not just weight loss.
The point I am making with this post is purely that, like with any system, it isn’t perfect and these are some of the key things to be mindful of.
I’m not here to put you off Slimming World, I am here to help you avoid the pitfalls which slowed down my progress when I was following it.
You can use my knowledge, experience, and observations so that instead of wondering why Slimming World doesn’t work, you can figure out why it doesn’t appear to be working for you right now.