I didn’t join a slimming club until I was 31 years old.
(Well unless you count the time in my 20s when I joined with a friend, ate only cottage cheese for a week, lost 7lbs, was too embarrassed to stay for the talk because I was awarded ‘slimmer of the week’, and scuttled off giggling to buy some chips.)
Anyway I bit the bullet in my early 30s and joined again.
At the time I was at rock bottom regarding how I felt about my body and my size.
I was determined once and for all to do whatever it took to rid myself of my fat, and the shame, embarrassment and self hatred that came with it.
That first meeting though!
Oh my, it was excrutiating! I was horrified at being weighed by a stranger! Mortified does not even cover how I felt at the number actually being written down!
After the weigh in, I thought I’d be able to slope off like I had that time in my 20s. But the leader this time was much firmer and made me sit down for the ‘talk’! All credit to her! In doing so she got me in the habit of staying for the weekly meeting.
And what a revelation to discover that I liked it! I liked staying for the meeting talk!
For the first time in my life, I got to listen to other people talk about how they struggled with food, and with how they felt about their bodies.
For the first time ever I realised that I wasn’t the only one to feel intensely ashamed of my body. I wasn’t the only one for whom the ‘eat less, move more’ philosophy seemed so much more difficult than it sounded.
The community element of slimming clubs is GENIUS!
I was hooked!
And this time round I ‘successfully’ lost weight. (Don’t get too excited- my story is no different to anyone else’s. Keeping the weight off proved to be it’s own challenge! The ‘genius’ doesn’t extend quite that far.)
Now not only did I think I’d found the ‘answer’ to my weight loss prayers, but I LOVED the meeting environment too.
I’d found my kindred spirits!
Just like me, the other members too felt shame. They too ate in secret. They too binged. They too lived in fear of other people judging them for their size. They too cried when they looked in the mirror. They too pretended that it wasn’t them who had eaten their child’s Easter egg!!
I basked in the praise!
In the early days when I was ‘successful’, I felt like the star of the show. I can honestly say I’ve never had so many compliments.
Everyone in the slimming club meeting was in awe of my transformation, my willpower, my commitment! The praise, the compliments and attention made me feel great. The shiny stickers I received for every 7lbs I lost, were addictive!
Honestly, it felt like the most amazing achievement of my life.
NO one praised me that much when I got my degree or my promotion or even after giving birth.
However once I started to struggle with maintaining the weight loss, the compliments dried up. BUT I still had my community of fellow Weight Watchers. And as I say I LOVED being part of that community!
We ‘got’ each other.
We encouraged each other when we ‘failed’ to stick to the plan.
We encouraged each other whether we lost weight that week or gained!
We talked openly about our relationship with food.
We could be honest about our emotional eating habits, and about our low self- esteem.
And often we were able to laugh at the ridiculousness of how we thought and how we behaved.
And this is the bit that slimming clubs have got absolutely right (BTW I do know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea!)
BUT for the many women who rejoin slimming clubs time after time, the group support and sense of community make it feel like a safe, encouraging and nurturing place to be- regardless of whether or not they manage to achieve their weight loss goals. (And the stats show that most do NOT achieve long term weight loss success.)
I myself felt so ‘at home’ that 7 years after joining, I managed to almost get to ‘goal’ again, just so I could become a slimming club leader myself.
I worked in this role for 13 years!! Mostly because I loved the meetings and loved talking with the members.
The truth is I continued to subscribe to something that had stopped working for me many years previously because:
a) It had worked for me once and
b) I LOVED being part of the community.
Of course I know now, that for me and for most other slimming club members maintaining the weight loss is pretty much impossible. And it’s not just slimming clubs that fail to deliver long term weight loss. All diets fail. Our bodies’ weight regulation system in the end is the winner. It ensures that we regain weight lost to take us back to within the range of our set point weights.
But yet in spite of this lack of long term weight loss success, many members rejoin slimming clubs multiple times.
Is it partly that they feel safe in an environment where others understand them? Where they don’t feel quite so alone? I believe so.
And crucially, historically there have been few other spaces for larger ladies to congregate and bond in this way. Like I said- GENIUS right?
For me for many years the benefits of the community, outweighed the humiliation of being a slimming club leader who was unable to maintain her own weight loss.
But you know what? Nowadays there are increasing numbers of online communities that offer similar support, but are there to help us escape diet culture. Now that’s what some might call progress!
If you’d like to be part of my NEW supportive community, which will help you leave diet culture behind, and if you’d like to learn to accept your body just as it is then please click the link to join my FREE private facebook group- Time To Heart Your body and Live Your Life
And let me know about your own experience of slimming clubs in the comments below.
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