Should the NHS be sending people to Slimming Clubs? Not in my opinion!

 

Last weekend, I was asked to go on BBC radio Bristol to talk about why I think it’s a bad idea for GPs to send people at risk of type 2 diabetes to slimming clubs. In the end we didn’t really get round to chatting about it much, so I thought I’d do it on here! 

So much to say but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible. 

Yes, type 2 diabetes is more common in individuals with a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 30/35 and therefore it’s commonly blamed on a person’s weight, however, weight isn’t the only factor at play. There is a genetic component to diabetes and this could also be involved in weight gain as could lots of other factors. 

For example, if someone has a gastric bypass (not that I’m recommending it, I’m SO not) apparently this results in a reversal of diabetes in days, before weight is lost. So, perhaps there’s more to the development of diabetes than just a person’s weight?

By the way, the study they mention, that ‘proves’ the case for weight management clubs to help us prevent diabetes was based on only 166 people and involved blood sugar tests at 6 months and 12 months. 

So, they sent people to a weekly slimming club for a year and measured their blood sugars after 6 months and 12 months. Yes, they saw a small reduction in blood sugars in ONLY A THIRD of people, but even so, not everyone with a high blood sugar develops type 2 diabetes. So, perhaps it’s my cynicism, but I don’t understand why referring people to a slimming club would help with the diabetes prevention programme?!

Could it be that we are being ever so slightly manipulated into thinking that weight loss is the cure for everything? It isn’t. There’s also the implication that the only way to lose weight is to join a slimming club. It isn’t. 

I forgot to mention as well, that the slimming club that is recommended by conclusions in the study, part funded the study! Hmmm....🤔

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When I heard about the notion of more GP referrals to slimming clubs, I literally put my head in my hands because I know that GPs are ALREADY funded to refer people over a certain BMI to slimming clubs (because I was offered that!) AND also, Midwives refer pregnant women over a certain BMI to slimming clubs,.

Fundamentally, these programmes only ‘work’ for a tiny percentage of people PLUS, life is miserable, measuring & counting points. PLUS, the success stories you hear of, only look at maintenance of ‘goal weight’ for a year. If they went back to their successful participants after say 3 or 5 years, it would tell a very different story. Because, in fact, doing this makes you put on weight in the long term as dieting messes up your metabolism and makes your body try and compensate by holding onto the calories you consume and making you DESPERATE to eat calorie dense foods. Your brain is wired to keep you where IT thinks you should be, not where YOU, or our society’s obsession with thin-ness thinks you should be. (Look up ‘Set Point Theory’ if you want to find out more) 

This is such a waste of NHS resources, and fundamentally, just sends us down a trip to diet land. Even if it’s called a ‘healthy eating plan’ it’s still a diet really, because it’s based on reducing calorie intake via whatever system. And what happens when you can’t sustain the ‘healthy eating plan’? Yup, you fall off the wagon and eat everything you can get your hands in because you’ve BLOWN IT! And you feel bad, because you’ve eaten ‘bad’ food.  

Aaargh! 

What I KNOW would help so much more, is if GPs would refer people to Mindful Eating Professionals, like myself. Because the focus is NOT ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS, it’s about working out WHY we eat in the way we do and changing our mindset about food. If food is our enemy, we fight with it, but if food becomes something you are ALLOWED to enjoy, and you find peace around it, you stop the internal fighting and learn to listen to what your body needs. It’s all about empowering people to KNOW what they need and eat in a way that nourishes them, rather than a lifetime of “I can’t eat that” “How many points are in that?” “I’ll just have a salad because I ate earlier” etc

I know which option I’d prefer!