What is the Slimming World diet, what are Syns and Healthy Extras, is it dangerous and are there any success stories?

IF you're looking to lose weight without having to cut down your portion sizes then you might want to try Slimming World.

The popular diet lets you have the occasional treat – and doesn't promote calorie counting. So how does it work?

What is the Slimming World diet?

The Slimming World diet is run by a Derbyshire-based weight loss company created by Margaret Miles-Bramwell in 1969.

It focuses on a diet of Food Optimising, where members are given a list of Syn Free food, that can be eaten in unlimited amounts.

Syns are short for synergy as the Free Foods, Healthy Extras and Syns all add up to effective weight loss.

The programme encourages dieters to swap high-fat foods for low-fat foods that are naturally filling.

You can get support from fellow slimmers at weekly group meetings and follow an exercise plan to become gradually more active through their Body Magic initiative.

The Slimming World diet is designed to help you lose about 1-2 pounds a week and currently has around 900,000 members attending each week.

How does the Slimming World diet work?

The Slimming World diet involves dieters choosing food from a list of low-fat foods they call Free Foods, such as fruit, vegetables, pasta, potatoes, rice, lean meat, fish and eggs.

These foods can be eaten in unlimited amounts.

There’s no calorie counting, no foods are banned, and you’re still allowed the occasional treat.

While no foods are off limits, some of the restricted, known as Syns, have values attached.

Many of the Syns (also known as synergy) items are treat items, but some can be Healthy Extras allowing you to increase portion sizes.

Users get a total number of daily Syns they can consume, which can be calculated through specific weight loss plans.

Mostly this ranges from around five to 15 a day.

Examples of Syns are a glass of wine of a piece of chocolate.

Healthy Extras include milk and cheese for calcium, wholemeal bread and breakfast cereals for fibre and other essential minerals, and nuts and seeds for healthy oils.

How much does the Slimming World diet cost?

To join a Slimming World group, dieters have to pay.

There are special offers for new members including half price membership when you join a real-life group.

Then pay just £9.95 on week one and £4.95 per week after that.

There are also discounts for senior citizens, who pay just £4.65.

If you join a group with four of your friends or family members and you all get your first week free, then it's £5 on week one and £4.95 per week after that.

Teenagers aged 11-15 also get free Slimming World membership when they’re accompanied by a fee-paying parent/guardian.

There are alternative plans available for those who wish to follow online instead of group sessions.

Is the Slimming World diet safe?

The BDA says that while the meal plans may lack some flexibility, they are generally balanced.

The group meetings encourage members to share successes, ideas and recipes with each other, but they may not appeal to everyone.

However, without learning about calories and portion sizes, you may struggle to make healthy choices once you’ve left the programme.

No foods are banned, so meals offer balance and variety and are family-friendly.

The portion size from each food group will vary depending on which plan you follow.

Can I use Slimming World diet while pregnant?

The short answer is yes, but only to follow a healthy diet and to stay physically active, rather than for weight loss.

Slimming World says it doesn't advise women change their weight during pregnancy.

As part of their policy, it says that ant member who wishes to continue to follow the programme during their pregnancy is required to gain the support of their midwife.

Consultants are also asked to support pregnant members in maintaining a healthy balanced diet to manage their weight safely, as advised by her midwife.

Slimming World has worked in collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives to develop their policy on the best way to support our members in managing their weight during pregnancy.

What are the most recent Slimming World changes?

Slimming World groups were forced to close in mid-March due to the coronavirus lockdown and moved to emergency virtual groups.

But the doors reopened in August and members were invited back to 'real-life groups' with extra safety measures.

A maximum of 25-30 members were allowed in each group with sessions lasting around 45 minutes.

To help maintain social distancing, members are asked to let their consultant know which sessions they will be attending.

There are also one-way systems to move around the room, hand sanitisers and wipes, as well as markers on the floor.

'Sneeze screens' were introduced to keep people at a safe distance on the scales, while seats are placed at 1m apart.

Members are also asked to wear a face covering and bring their own drink and pen.

Shoes must be kept on while at the scales, with members advised to stick to wearing the same pair for now.

Consultants and members are also asked to wipe down their own chair at the end of each meeting.

Does the Slimming World diet work and are there any success stories?

According to Slimming World, members lose eight per cent of their body weight in six months, and 13 per cent in a year.

Former Casualty actress Rebecca Wheatley was named Slimming World's Woman of the Year in 2005, after losing more than half her weight.

The 5ft 11in star lost a whopping 12 stone, dropping from a size 32 to a size 12 in two years following being ashamed of how she looked at her wedding.

A mother of two who feared she would not live to see her children grow up because she was so heavy has lost more than half her body weight in just ten months.

Another mum, June Adams, lost 6½st after a spa snap of herself reminded her of Shrek’s Princess Fiona.

Determined to beat the bulge, she saw an advert for Slimming World and signed up straight away – and 18 months later dropped six dress sizes and lost an incredible 6st 7.5lbs.

And a size 18 woman dropped five stone in time for her wedding day, and has since shown off her dramatic transformation.

Slimming World controversies

Muller yogurts

In September 2018, dieters on the Slimming World programme were left outraged after the company scrapped Muller yogurts from their list of Syn Free foods.

It's now rated as 1 Syn per pot, meaning that followers of the diet aren't able to snack on as many as they want.

Healthy Extra choices

In 2018, Slimming World introduced a raft of changes to its food valuing system.

Dieters were told they get an additional Healthy Extra "A" choice each day on the Extra Easy plan, as well as an increase in the amount of whole cow's milk.

But dairy-free drinks like rice and almond milk were decreased to 400ml, while reduced-fat/light soft cheese and soft goats cheese were no longer be classed as Healthy Extras.

And due to new nutritional information, a handful of Free Foods that were previously labelled as ‘P’ (or protein-rich), such as baked beans, broad beans, mung beans and all varieties of peas (except split peas), were longer marked in this way.

However, these foods were still classed as Free, meaning they can be enjoyed without weighing, counting or measuring.

Porky Lights

Dieters were rocked by claims the popular "low fat" sausages were nine times worse for them than initially thought.

Slimming World said Porky Lights should be counted as 4.5 Syn points each instead of just 0.5 – meaning thousands of dieters have been unknowingly breaking their strict diets.

The “healthy” banger was a massive hit among the 900,000 members of the diet club due to claims they only contained 2.5g of fat.

Asda's Slimzone range

These aren't the only Slimming World controversies to dominate the headlines.

The popular dieting brand took legal action when Asda launched Slimzone ready meals which could be eaten "when following the Slimming World Extra Easy Plan".

The supermarket giant has since removed the meals from the shelves. 

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