And here’s the thing: if the idea of standing on scales in front of a group of hefty strangers fills you with dread, don’t be scared. Take it from me: weight falls off better if you join a gang of others, and pay for the privilege.
Four years ago my friend Michelle and I, during a particularly porky period, decided enough was enough, and joined Slimming World (other dieting groups are, of course, equally effective).
Of all the satires on the telly, this genre is portrayed most accurately. From Fat Friends to Fat Fighters there’s more than a low-cal grain of truth in them all (and I mean that in a good way). Whilst our group leader, the fabulous Dyanne, with her bouffant do and wardrobe of smart blouses and dove-grey suits, explained the rules we were, I admit, distracted by the lump of fat, always in our sights. Not an actual human exhibit, you understand, but a 2lb rubber replica. Yes, even grosser than it sounds.Then there were the lovely ladies who took your money. One fat, one thin, both strict, funny, ancient and encouraging in turns, according to their mood and your progress. On days of low pound loss, we would take off our jeans and re-weigh ourselves. Who knew decent denim adds an extra 20 ounces?
Fellow slimmers were the usual North London melting pot of the confident, noisy, shy and self-conscious, all ages, all walks of life. They offered encouraging advice like (my own favourite), “if you’re on the lash for the night, forget the wine and just neck vodka and slimline tonic”. Very sensible. And copious talk of curry nights and saving up syns (not sins); heart-warming group therapy at its finest and most inclusive. If you weren’t in the mood for groaning at others’ failures or whooping at successes, then you could just sneak in, get on the scales and make a swift and smug exit.
The day I hit two stone Dyanne was away, and the replacement lady smiled wanly, before saying: “Don’t go and celebrate too much”. A lost afternoon of champagne and laughter followed. Yet, all in all, that year I lost 32 pounds over 7 months, and maintained it for several more.
All it took was a big birthday, a couple of festivals, a change of location, loss of job and a few holidays to put the weight back on.So, being January, I have predictably joined a new group and am happy to report, three weeks in, that things are much the same as they were before. It’s computerised now (fancy), but the process and the money-taking ladies are still there (the new Dyanne is a little more street and only wears black). There is, of course, another lump of fat, this time coupled with a bowl of plastic fruit to remind us of what a pear and a banana look like too.
So be my guest, if you think you can follow the rules without forking out a fiver just to have someone coo, “ooh half a pound this week WELL DONE”. Absorb the fads in the Sunday Supplements, re-organise your food to your blood group and only eat standing up in the dark. But I can tell you that you won’t feel half as warm, giggly and engaged as you do at a slimming club. Like most things, it’s more fun in a group. And this year I’ve got a sneaky feeling that I’m going to last well into February.
Words and pics: Susie Innes
Got a story about a slimming club? Share it below…