Slimming Clubs: What Are the Pros and Cons?

Slimming clubs are certainly a popular option for anyone who wants a bit of motivation when it comes to shifting the excess weight. But are they a waste of money or a good investment? And what’s actually involved in being a member of one of the better known slimming clubs?

The first slimming club was set up in a front room in America 45 years ago when Jean Nidetch, a housewife from Queens, New York, decided to get all her friends over for a gossip and a chinwag about their individual weight loss issues. This led eventually to the multi million pound industry that is Weight Watchers and spawned several other groups all based around weight loss support.

So What Happens at a Slimming Club?

The slimming clubs all over the UK are often affiliated to one of the big weight loss companies, although there are smaller clubs as well. Most of them work on a similar principle though. You’ll pay a joining fee (often waived at New Year to attract more members) as well as a regular subscription. In some cases you can buy weeks in advance which theoretically keeps you going, or you can pay as you go on a weekly basis if you prefer.

Everyone queues up to pay their fee, and then has to be weighed. The queue for the ladies’ at most slimming clubs is quite long as most members make sure they squeeze out as much potential bodyweight as they can before weigh-in. Most women attending a slimming club also wear light summer clothes even in January, just to register a teeny drop in the number on the scales.

After the ritual (humiliation) of weigh in, some clubs have exercise classes, while others tend to sit down and discuss what they ate the previous week, tactics for weight loss, recipes and challenges ahead. Some clubs also offer prizes for the best weight loss that week.

What are The Benefits of a Slimming Club?

The obvious advantages to a club like this are the camaraderie and support that a large group of people can offer each other. Everyone has different issues and challenges when trying to lose weight and it can really help to feel that you’re not alone in your struggle. Losing weight as part of a group can be a great motivator, and sometimes a sense of competition can spur people on if the temptation to cheat strikes.

The big name slimming clubs usually have branded foods and literature/magazines for sale at discount prices which can save you money if you were likely to buy them. Also you’ll find that the leaders try to educate with motivational talks, recipe tastings and tips on how to stick with the diet when things are tough.

The clubs that also offer fitness classes have obvious health benefits too, and are not just focused on food and weight, which is good.

What are the Disadvantages?

The branded slimming clubs are all about profit and will keep you coming back as long as possible. It’s hard not to be cynical when you realise that they offer lifetime memberships to people who keep the weight off, so you can keep going back to the club for free so long as you stay within usually around five pounds of your goal weight. Figures vary but it’s estimated that between 95 and 98 per cent of diets fail, in that all or part of any weight lost is regained within five years. That’s a big money spinner for the diet industry.

That leads you to the obvious conclusion that as soon as you put a few pounds back on you will have to keep paying, and coming back to buy the foods and magazines… Although some people find the slimming club ethos very motivating, for others there could be nothing duller than sitting in a draughty village hall listening to a room full of overweight women talking about the emotional reasons for eating a biscuit.

The other issue is cost. Let’s face it, most women can go to work and have discussions about food and weight, why would they want to pay a corporation £5 a week to sit and talk to a group of strangers about it? All you need to set up a slimming club of your own is a few friends, a set of scales and a spreadsheet for recording everyone’s weight. You could pay a fee and donate it to charity, save it for a treat for the first person to reach their target, or just do it for free.

A slimming club is a good choice for people who need extra motivation and want the security of a well-known diet company behind them. Bigger clubs offer more incentives including online memberships and discounts too, which might be something that tempts people to join. If you don’t fancy going it alone – you could give it a go.

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