The diet and fitness industry is huge - as the obesity problem grows so does the weight loss industry. It's estimated that by 2040, half the population will be obese. Quite depressing news. And there are plenty of companies making a lot of money on these statistics with the value of the industry in the UK around £23 million. That's a lot of money!! As a fully-qualified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Advisor it is my job to help people get fit and healthy, and yes I do get paid for this of course! But I see so many clients who have tried various well-known diets and failed that I do have issues with the diet industry and the way it makes money.
The first thing to remember is these companies exist to make a profit. Yes it's great that they help people lose weight, and I know plenty of people get good results with them and that's great too. Losing weight is never easy, no matter what diet you follow! However probably 90 % clients that I see have not been unable to sustain the weight loss once they stopped "the slimming club" . There are several reasons for this.
Most of these companies don't actually teach you about proper nutrition, what's in your food and what your body does with it. A lot of them don't even mention the basics of the calorie equation - that is if you burn more calories than you consume you will lose weight. Many people on these diets will not understand how many calories per day they should be on to lose weight and then once they've lost the weight how to keep it off. That's why as soon as they stop going to the slimming club, the weight all goes back on again. And guess what - they go back to the club again! It's a great business model!!! No wonder Weight Watcher's International profits more than doubled $163.5 million compared to $67.7 million last year!
Consultant's for slimming clubs will vary of course, but in the main they focus solely on the weight loss, and there is so much more to weight loss than just weight loss! Fat loss/weight loss are rarely a linear process - sometimes you will gain weight or not lose and you may be made to feel bad about this. The majority of members will be female, and us females are at the mercy of our hormones when it comes to weight loss - you will find in the run up to your period that you may not lose weight and may actually gain weight. This is very normal and there's not a lot you can do about this! So why be made to feel bad about it?
Many people who attend these groups will already have issues with food, which is why they are there in the first place. There is a "one size fits all" approach, with little consideration given to the psychology of healthy eating (in fact one of my clients actually described a very well know slimming club as a "conveyer belt"). How is that going to help people who already have issues with food and while I'm here, neither does labelling "bad foods" as "syns". My goal with many of my clients is simply to teach and help them to have a healthy relationship with food - no food is off limits or not allowed, and I try to encourage them to enjoy food and not feel bad about what they eat. My clients will learn how to lose weight well and how to keep it off. Yes it might not be a quick fix at 1-2 lbs a week but a gradual weight loss is much more sustainable. This is because I educate them on nutrition and how your body uses food. I am honestly delighted if my clients lose weight and keep it off without my help - it means I've done my job as a good nutrition coach and if I never hear from them again that's fine! I've taught them all they need to know.
I have also heard stories of people being told to avoid resistance training because it might cause weight gain. Yes this might be true to a point, but if you also dropped two dress sizes in the process (like I did) would you really care if you were heavier? Incidentally, muscle is denser than fat, which is why this sometimes happens. But if the overall result will be a better bodyshape and your clothes fit better who cares what the scales say? Resistance training can help you lose weight and also help you keep it off, but this is not promoted because it doesn't fit with the business model. After all, if you knew how to keep the weight off then you wouldn't have to go back to the slimming club would you! Never mind the fact you could totally change your body shape and look and feel amazing if you resistance train!
There is often an arbitrary value of "points" given to foods, which does little to promote understanding of the calorie values contained in the foods, which is another reason why people don't understand how to keep the weight off once they've lost it. When faced with "normal eating" and looking at nutrition labels on food packets they have not been educated on how to better understand what's in that food. Some food companies have special relationships with diet companies, such as the producers of Muller Light for instance, which people are told is "syn free" and they can eat as much as they want of it. On closer examination of the ingredients for a Muller Light Vanilla yoghurt the third ingredient is fructose - which is another name for sugar - and as it's third on the list that means there's quite a lot of it in there. So why is this product heavily promoted but others with better nutritional value and more protein are not? Protein is well known as a good way to fill up and to help stop the craving for food when you are hungry.
Finally, these companies also produce their own branded heavily-marketed food products that are just the same as other products you could find in the supermarket, and probably at a cheaper price too.
So, a bit controversial here I know, and if you have lost weight and managed to keep it off through one of these clubs then well done, great effort and I am not trying to criticise you! As I said, losing weight is never easy no matter how you do it. However from the number of clients I see I know that a lot of people haven't and it's unfair that these companies are taking advantage of this, of people's desperation to lose weight and be healthier and making big fat profits from it in the process too.
If you want to know more about how to lose weight well, change your body shape and keep the weight off for good then give me a call!
Exercise For Mum's was created by PT mum Susan Flintoff. Susan is a busy working mum of two who specialises in helping other busy mum's fit health and fitness back into their lives, and hopes to inspire them to be the best mum they can be!!