What is the Slimming World diet, what are Syns and Healthy Extras, is it dangerous and are there success stories?

The popular diet lets users have the occasional treats and doesn't promote calorie counting – so how does it work?

What is the Slimming World diet?

The Slimming World diet is run by a Derbyshire-based weight loss company created by Margaret Miles-Bramwell in 1969.

It focuses on a diet of Food Optimising, where members are given a list of 'syn free foods,' that can be eaten in unlimited amounts.

The programme encourages dieters to swap high-fat foods for low-fat foods that are naturally filling.

You can get support from fellow slimmers at weekly group meetings and follow an exercise plan to become gradually more active through their Body Magic initiative.

The Slimming World diet is designed to help you lose about 1-2 pounds a week and currently has around 800,000 members attending each week.

How does the Slimming World diet work?

The Slimming World diet revolves dieters choosing food from a list of low-fat foods they call Syn Free Foods, such as fruit, vegetables, pasta, potatoes, rice, lean meat, fish and eggs.

These foods can be eaten in unlimited amounts.

There’s no calorie counting, no foods are banned, and you’re still allowed the occasional treat.

While no foods are off limits, some of the restricted, known as Syns, have numbers on.

Many of the Syns (also known as synergy) items are treat items, but some can be healthy extras allowing you to increase portion sizes.

Users get a total number of daily Syns they can consume, which can be calculated through specific weight loss plans.

Mostly this ranges from around five to 15 a day, with a guideline one Syn being equivalent to around 20 calories.

What was the Porky Lights sausages controversy?

Dieters were rocked by claims the popular ‘low fat’ sausages they’ve been eating for months were nine times worse for them than initially thought.

Slimming World says Porky Lights should now be counted as 4.5 ‘Syn points’ each instead of just 0.5 – meaning thousands of dieters have been unknowingly breaking their strict diets for months.

The “healthy” banger was a massive hit among he 900,000 members of the diet club due to claims they only contained 2.5g of fat.

When dieters reported putting on weight Slimming World re-categorised them after “analysis showed the sausages were indeed much higher in fat than the nutrition panel indicated”.

However, makers Porky Whites stands by its testing which it insists is “100% accurate and watertight”.

There were even claims of sabotage.

It's not the only Slimming World controversy to dominate the headlines in recent months.

The popular dieting brand took legal action when Asda launched Slimzone ready meals which could be eaten "when following the Slimming World Extra Easy Plan".

The supermarket giant has since removed the meals from the shelves. 

How much does the Slimming World diet cost?

To join a Slimming World group, dieters have to pay £10, followed by weekly payments of £4.95, with discounts for senior citizens.

There are alternative plans available for those who wish to follow online instead of group sessions.

They've also made headlines due to their formerly syn-free snack, Muller Light yogurts being scrapped from the syn-free list.

It's now rated as 1 syn per pot, meaning that followers of the diet aren't able to snack on as many as they want.

Is the Slimming World diet safe?

The BDA says that while the meal plans may lack some flexibility, they are generally balanced.

The group meetings encourage members to share successes, ideas and recipes with each other, but they may not appeal to everyone.

However, without learning about calories and portion sizes, you may struggle to make healthy choices once you’ve left the programme.

No foods are banned, so meals offer balance and variety and are family-friendly.

The portion size from each food group will vary depending on which plan you follow.

Why were people angry about recent SW changes?

In September 2018, dieters on the Slimming World programme were left outraged after the company scrapped Muller yogurts from their list of syn-free foods.

Just eight weeks later, they announced a whole bunch of changes that left slimmers fuming.

From Christmas, dieters will get an additional Healthy Extra 'a' choice each day on the Extra Easy plan, as well as an increase in the amount of whole cow's milk.

Healthy Extra choices are those foods that, alongside the Free Foods, support an overall healthy balanced diet by providing calcium, fibre, other essential minerals and healthy oils.

But dieters daily fix of dairy-free drinks like rice and almond milk has been decreased to 400ml, while reduced-fat/light soft cheese and soft goats cheese will no longer be classed as Healthy Extras.

And due to new nutritional information, a handful of Free Foods that were previously labelled as ‘P’ (or protein-rich), such as baked beans, broad beans, mung beans and all varieties of peas (except split peas), will no longer be marked in this way.

However, these foods will still be Free meaning they can be enjoyed without weighing, counting or measuring.

Does the Slimming World diet work and are there any success stories?

According to Slimming World, members lose 8 per cent of their body weight in six months, and 13 per cent in a year.

Former Casualty actress Rebecca Wheatley was named Slimming World's Woman of the Year in 2005, after losing more than half her weight.

A mother of two who feared she would not live to see her children grow up because she was so heavy has lost more than half her body weight in just ten months.

Another mum, June Adams, lost 6½st after a spa snap of herself reminded her of Shrek’s Princess Fiona.

Determined to beat the bulge, she saw an advert for Slimming World and signed up straight away – and 18 months later dropped six dress sizes and lost an incredible 6st 7.5lbs.

And a size 18 woman dropped five stone in time for her wedding day, and has since shown off her dramatic transformation.

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