Dear Slimming World,
You have been present in my life for the past 14 years. You have been something I love, but also part of a mindset which almost killed me. I applaud your support of your members and the amazing achievements they make, however your 11-15 programme is something which must end.
Please note I do not blame slimming world for the following, but merely feel it can be a negative influence if encouraging children to lose weight.
As a twelve year old I was not a member of slimming world but I saw my mother join and thrive on the support and weight loss she achieved. Her many certificates, from slimmer of the week to milestones were taped in her cupboard to 'encourage' and 'support' her. These also became reminders of her set backs and a reminder of my own jealousy of these.
I watched my mother with a beautiful and powerful body, who; created and carried two children, worked hard each day to better the lives of those around her and raise a family, ignore these amazing achievements and see her worth only in certificates.
Without even joining slimming world, I learnt weight loss and certificates were value, not the days my mother spent caring for those at the end of their life, supporting their family and friends and working in a high pressure and demanding job. Weight loss was the achievement.
I became anorexic at 13. I finally 'recovered' from my anorexia at 20 but continue daily with my eating difficulties. In our teenage years we are still learning who we are and how to be. Our bodies are powerful and full of hormones, changes and growth. Children do not need to be taught how to control food and lose weight. There are enough children already missing sleepovers, outings, school trips and parties for fear of 'bad' food.
Before I receive the comments about reducing obesity, diabetes and other health problems. Slimming world is not a solution to poor health. Slimming world is a group designed to support weight loss. Good health cannot be determined by weight loss, by scales, by BMI (which doesn't account for bone density or muscle mass and is not recommended to be used for children), by low fat diet or less calories. Slimming world groups can not calculate your heart rate, cholesterol level or blood pressure. Slimming world can promote and encourage weight loss but not all weight loss can lead to good health.
The greatest lesson I learnt in recovery is balance. I was once told, 'apples are healthy, chocolate is unhealthy yes? Wrong. Eating nothing but apples will result in hospitalisation and eating nothing but chocolate will result in hospitalisation.'
We need balance.
We need fat for growth, we need fruit to heal, we need all food to live. We need to be encouraging our children to explore and experiment with their food, not teaching them to control their food and reduce weight through 'good' and 'bad' food's. Being a child is challenging enough without adults and authority telling them their wonderful bodies are wrong. Food is an incredible thing. It can heal, delight, disgust, save and nourish. We do not need to remove the joy and exploration children have in eating.
Now slimming world have stated the child's GP will monitor their health and weight loss, to keep them safe. Sadly this will not happen, the programme may have the influence of the children's GP but through both research and personal experience I can firmly say GP input will not prevent the disordered eating that will follow. First of all, GP's do not have time to document child weight loss encouraged by an unqualified support group, let alone provide the necessary support for those who have finally accepted they have a problem. It took six months for my initial referral; after telling my GP I was eating 800 calories day, forcing myself to be sick, exercising compulsively, had been banned from PE lessons, was so exhausted I struggled to talk or move and would regularly sit crying in the kitchen because no food was 'safe' to eat, to be referred to specialist services, which took a further few months to access. Oh and at this point my BMI was deemed healthy, despite my visible bones, mental distress, physical pain from starvation and desperate cries for help.
Slimming world I applaud your methods in aiding weight loss of adults who are capable of making their own informed decision in regards to weight loss, but the 11-15 programme must end. I have seen the influence weight loss programmes have on children, I have seen the influence slimming world can have without even being a full member, I have seen the damage caused by encouraging weight loss in children. Slimming world can not provide the mental support and medical recordings to support children to diet. And anyway, we have enough outlets telling our children they need to lose weight, without their trusted family and friends doing this to.
No child needs to learn to lose weight. No child needs to be told their body is not right. No child needs to be taught food is to be controlled, that it is a sin, (sorry 'syn'). No child is to be mentored into an eating disorder.
Oh and those certificates in my mothers cupboard were mysteriously removed one day and replaced with family photos, that day she lost the weight of misery hanging above her.