During 2016, nearly 28 million of us will try to lose weight at some point, but there's no need to struggle on your own – HELLO! beauty editor Nadine Baggott looks at why you've more to gain by making it a group effort.
This month, in church halls, meeting rooms, community centres and school gyms all around the country, tens of thousands of people will be signing up – and paying up – to a slimming club. They give advice and encouragement along with a weekly weigh-in, which can be awkward for those who haven't lost weight. So should you join one?
Sticking to weight loss goals can be easier with a group
Despite being parodied by Little Britain, slimming clubs are a tried and tested weight loss method. They have helped countless people – including such famous names as Coleen Rooney – to shed pounds.
With 60 per cent of men, 50 per cent of women and 25 per cent of children in Britain predicted to be obese in 2050, research published in the British Medical Journal suggests they could be our best hope of tackling the UK's growing waistline.
For the study, a team of researchers from Birmingham University divided 740 obese and overweight adults into two groups. Half of them were enrolled in Slimming World, Weight Watchers or Rosemary Conley slimming clubs for 12 weeks while the others were given a group-based dietetics program or one-to-one counselling with either their GP or pharmacist for the same period of time.
At the end of the test time, all of the participants had lost weight, but those attending the slimming clubs had achieved the best results. Subjects using the pharmacy or GP support lost the least, with an average of just more than 3lb, while those who attended Weight Watchers lost the most at 9.7lb. There were similar results from the members of Slimming World and Rosemary Conley.
Slimming clubs can achieve better results than working out alone
The secret to their success lies in the fact that slimming clubs offer support, encouragement and intervention, not only in person but via the telephone, Internet and magazines, all of which are vital when you are trying to lose weight and change your eating habits. Sticking to healthy goals is not always easy so when willpower falters, having others spur you on can be invaluable.
The findings of the Birmingham University study were backed up by further research carried out by the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research University along with the universities of Munich and Sydney. They found that patients who joined Weight Watchers lost twice as much as those who just visited their GPs.
The research was funded by the slimming club, but the team stressed the impartiality of their study, which carried out over a longer period than the previous research, with subjects' weight monitored for 12 months.
Slimming clubs can help you lose weight but keeping it off is down to you
Such is the success of slimming clubs that in recent years the NHS has joined forces with them to allow some health practitioners to refer overweight patients to Rosemary Conley, Slimming World or Weight Watchers, with the health service footing the bill for membership if the patient meets the qualifying criteria.
If you need to lose weight, talk to your GP to see whether this is available through your practice. Alternatively, you can join privately at rosemaryconley.com, slimmingworld.co.uk and weightwatchers.co.uk or at one of their local meetings.
Just remember that while losing weight is difficult, keeping it off is even more so. Research shows that after two years, only 20 per cent of slimmers will have maintained their goal weight while that figure drops to just 16 per cent by five years.
Unfortunately, these figures are no better if you join a slimming club. In other words: they can help you lose weight but they cannot help you stick to your target weight in the long term – that is down to you.