With Covid rates soaring, the government must help us get the UK off to a “fresh start” in the fight against obesity
Credit: World Obesity Federation
As new research reveals the significant impact of losing even a small amount of weight on our long term health, the government must work more closely with weight management services to tackle obesity.
“There is a lot of evidence about the links between obesity and other illnesses, particularly its associated risks with COVID-19,” says Slimming World’s Senior Research Associate, Dr Sarah-Elizabeth Bennett.
“We want to get the message across that losing even a small amount of weight, and keeping it off, is important for your health, regardless of your starting point.”
Dr Bennett was speaking to PoliticsHome, after new research published by Slimming World showed that people who lost 5lbs or more in their first week of attending its groups were four times more likely to lose 10% of their body weight within three months.
“We are absolutely certain that the only way that the obesity epidemic will ever be reversed is through partnerships between government and organisations dedicated to beating this major public health problem.”
The new research from Slimming World, the UK and Ireland’s largest weight-management organisation, examined one of the largest-ever datasets of slimming club members in the UK and Ireland.
It found that those who lost more weight in their first seven days after joining a weight-loss group went on to lose more over three months – with the top 50% of people, based on their first week’s weight loss, losing 5lbs on average within their first week.
The psychological impact of that 5lb loss is a great motivator. It helps to keep people on track to maintain a healthy rate of weight loss of 1-2lbs per week.
Slimming World is a partner in the Government’s Better Health campaign and has supported over 30,000 people through the campaign since it launched last summer.
Welcoming the Government’s focus on obesity and achieving a healthy weight during the pandemic, Dr Bennett stressed the importance of understanding the psychological as well as physiological needs of those who struggle with their weight.
“The psychological impact of that 5lb loss is a great motivator,” says Dr Bennett. “And it helps to keep people on track to maintain a healthy rate of weight loss of 1-2lbs per week. The boost helps people to realise that they can lose weight and motivates them from the very start.
“As the Prime Minister has acknowledged, losing weight can be hard and changing the habits of a lifetime takes real and sustained effort,” Dr Bennett added. “To achieve its goal of helping people to change their habits and form new healthier behaviours, any solution from the government must focus on behavioural change and address the emotional as well as physical impact of weight on health.”
Overcoming barriers to successful weight loss
Pointing to the research conducted by her colleagues in the Research and Scientific Affairs team, Dr Bennett believes weight management organisations like Slimming World have the expertise in behavioural change necessary to help people to change their lifestyle, form new habits, and remain a healthy weight for life.
However, with nearly 40 million people, two thirds of the UK population an unhealthy weight, there is a lot more work to be done.
In a year where we’ve seen a lot of focus on the links between obesity and other illnesses, particularly its associated risks with COVID-19, we’re keen to get the message across that losing even a small amount of weight and keeping it off is important for your health
A popular misconception is that people only join slimming clubs to lose a little bit of weight, maybe a few pounds for a special occasion. However, the average person joining a weight-loss group has a BMI of 33, which means that they would fall within the clinically obese range and that puts their health at significant risk.
Dr Bennett said: “In a year where we’ve seen a lot of focus on the links between obesity and other illnesses, particularly its associated risks with COVID-19, we’re keen to get the message across that losing even a small amount of weight and keeping it off is important for your health.”
The key message produced by the research is that age and gender are no barrier to successful weight loss.
Dr Bennett said: “Half of those in our study aged 55 or over lost 5% of their bodyweight within three months, and almost twice as many men as women saw 5lbs of weight loss in their first week, which provides clinically significant benefits.
Slimming World is making a real difference to the impact that this crisis has on people’s health
“In normal times, our 18,000 weekly community groups provide support to nearly 1 million members. Those groups are currently operating virtually following lockdown but we are poised to open our doors to support people in their own communities as soon as it is safe to do so.
“As well as helping members to develop new healthy sustainable habits, the social support network of attending regular weekly groups provides members with a framework that keeps them accountable and has a positive impact on health and wellbeing.
“Slimming World is making a real difference to the impact that this crisis has on people’s health; we play a crucial role in supporting the nation to be slimmer, fitter, healthier and more resilient both physically and mentally to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.”