Slimming World's Slimmer of the Year 2018, Laura Cosbie

OPINION

Slimming World encourages members to “spend less time with overweight friends”

Slimming World's Slimmer of the Year 2018, Laura Cosbie (Photo: Rex Features)

Nope.

Added on

By Lily Peschardt on

Harry Jane, a plus-size YouTuber, posted an Instagram story on Tuesday evening expressing her outrage at Slimming World for encouraging its members to stop socialising with their overweight friends.

“My friend just reached her target weight at @slimmingworld and now she’s part of the ‘target members club’,” Jane wrote. “When you reach your target weight, you get given a book that gives you advice on how to maintain your weight.” She posted a screenshot of one of the pages within the book, entitled, “Discover the grooves of successful weight loss maintainers”.

Most of the tips were pretty standard – exercise, keep healthy food in the house, eat breakfast, maintain consistent eating patterns, etc. Then, towards the bottom of the list, it says, “spend more time with friends that exercise” (fair). Directly below that, however, members are advised to “Spend less time with overweight friends”. They’ve helpfully bolded the words “less time” and “overweight”, in case there could be any ambiguity about what they’re implying here. The implication being, of course, that weight – specifically being overweight – is contagious, like a chicken pox or getting engaged.

Slimming World reinforces the toxic idea that you have to distance yourself from the person you used to be, not just the food you ate and the clothes you wore, but the friends you used to have, the ones who never made it to the “target-members club” – likely the ones you’ve shared meals and tears and secrets with. In order to be successful in keeping off the weight, they say, you have to leave that person – and your overweight friends – behind.

In order to be successful in keeping off the weight, they say, you have to leave that person – and your overweight friends – behind

Slimming World, completely unironically, markets itself as a “club that cares”. On their website, they write: “We promise every member that they'll be treated with genuine warmth and respect, and they'll have access to a support system like no other, offering a positive approach and real empathy and understanding throughout their weight-loss journey.” Their Instagram is almost exclusively filled with before and after shots.

And I get it, I do. They’re a weight-loss company – in order to usher in new clients, they have to prove that their members do actually lose weight. But Slimming World thrives on this dichotomy of “good” and “bad”, oversimplifying things to the point of condescension. They call exercise “body magic”. Body magic. Fourteen women didn’t die in the Salem witch trials so their legacy could be used by a soulless weight-loss company seeking to infantilise fully grown human beings by tricking them into exercising. They also call sweets “syns” and you are allowed a certain amount of “syns” per day. This approach of – quite literally – demonising food, of linking it to hellfire and fury and eternal damnation, seems at best absurdly outdated and at worst incredibly dangerous.

As one user on Twitter pointed out: “Slimming World & Weight Watchers rely on people's internalised fatphobia, then use it to hurt them further while profiting from the decline of people's mental health and wellness.” Perhaps it’s time we called them out for it.

Slimming World reached out to The Pool, saying: "This information is taken from the USA’s National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). The list starts with the finding that 90% of successful weight-loss maintainers continue to follow a low fat/low energy diet. At the very bottom of the list, at only 4%, is the finding that those who maintain their weight loss spend less time with overweight friends. 

@LilyPesch

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Slimming World's Slimmer of the Year 2018, Laura Cosbie (Photo: Rex Features)
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