Sunday, 20 November 2016

Why I joined and QUIT Slimming World

Trigger Warning - I am discussing Eating Disorders in this blog post!

I never ever in a million years expected to be writing this post. Firstly, because I have always been a bit confused about the principles of Slimming World, secondly... because when I was originally planning to write this post a few weeks ago, it was meant to be titled: 'I joined Slimming World'. Unfortunately, it just brought out the worst demons in me and I ended up relapsing pretty badly into an eating disorder I've suffered with since my early teens.

It's quite hard talking about it and I only mention it vaguely in weight loss related blog post, but I think I should probably talk about it openly to break down the stigma around eating disorders and mental health. It happens to so many people. Keeping quiet won't help anyone. So... Since the age of 12/13, till I was around 22/23 I have suffered with bulimia. At times, it was so bad that I am surprised I never ended up in the hospital. I was fainting and lived on less than 500 calories a day... Sometimes I had periods of being fine for weeks/months, but it would eventually come back with a vengeance later.

Starvation, exercising for hours on end, laxatives (hence why I hate all the flat tummy tea sponsorships!), binge eating, purging, you name it... I've been there. I wish I could turn back time and get support or learn about body positivity. I wasn't even big back then, but I thought I was massive. Being bullied and called fat didn't help. Once I hit 23 me and my husband started trying for a baby and that's when I was 'magically cured' from the horrible thoughts as I had to eat well and not purge to get my body ready for the baby. Basically since I fell pregnant for the first time, became a mum and was breastfeeding, I was in my 'safety blanket' and didn't really suffer any relapse episodes (with few exceptions after I stopped breastfeeding Zac), until I joined SW.

I might talk about it in more detail in the future, but that's all you need to know right now to understand the Slimming World failure for me. I have always been 'kind of' against Slimming World. Yes, the unlimited fruit and veg is great, loads of water etc... I also really like the fact that they make a point about filling most of your plate with veggies, with a side of protein and carbs like potato, rice etc. I have always done this and will continue to do so, because that's a balanced meal (+some healthy fats). Fab!  But I have always thought that counting 'syns' and considering good fats like avocado and nuts 'bad' was not on! I also didn't like the promotion of artificial sweeteners and low fat food. It was almost like a Slimming World rule no.1 - replace all sugar with artificial sweeteners asap! 

But... I joined anyway, as one of the first things your doctor can do for you to sort out your weight is joining Slimming World. I did that just to see how I get on. It was basically my last resort, as I kept losing a stone or two and than putting it back on (and more) and lacked motivation. My friend joined with me and we were pretty optimistic about it all, despite finding the full weigh-in at a group and lining up a bit grotesque. I thought that the weekly weigh-ins will really motivate and help me and they did, but only until they turned into a real trigger. Some members were literally depressed due to lack of weight loss or putting some weight on. Some were serial 're-joiners' who started and quit many times with no success. 

I actually did great in my first few weeks and I was enjoying the plan. I obviously didn't eat any artificial sweeteners, as I strongly believe that they cause cancer, but I did the unlimited fruit and veg thing and stuck to eating 3 healthy meals a day, plus healthy snacks. I lost over 1 st (18lbs) in total in a few weeks and I was sooo pleased. 

Unfortunately, as the weeks went on, I became obsessed with the scales. A warning sign for me, as I used to weigh myself 20 times+ a day when I suffered from various eating disorders. Twice a day turned into a few times a day an by week 5, I was checking my weight 10+ times a day. Only someone who suffered from and eating disorder will understand this. It is a mental issue and we just think it's normal/needed to know our exact weight all day after each meal, before bed etc.

As I am breastfeeding, I had to stay healthy. I couldn't limit my calorie intake drastically. I was walking every single day for at least an hour to give me that extra boost. It was great. I think that all the weight loss was actually due to that, mixed with eating mostly fruit and veg and avoiding junk. After a few weeks, I noticed that I would find excuses to go out to the shop or for an extra walk just to burn more calories. I would get up on the day of my weigh in, early in the morning and do fasted cardio at 6 o'clock in the morning, just to sweat out that extra 1 lb that I didn't lose last week. I just had to lose every week, otherwise I was a failure, right? That's how disordered eating works... It's obsessive!

When extra exercising stopped working, I found myself punishing myself and ended up binging and purging a number of times and that's when I said ENOUGH! I am not compromising my mental and physical health for this. I don't want to end up being the 16 year old me again. After missing a week, going back and paying them for the missed week and then going back once more, I just never went back. It's not for me. I told my husband and my friends about my relapse, so I can feel safe around them and they can look out for any weird behaviours from me.

So, I am not saying Slimming World is completely evil and will give you an eating disorder. I just want to warn anyone who has a past of bulimia, anorexia etc to really think if this is a good environment for you. Consult your doctor and therapist first.
What I also don't like is that many members were obsessed with food and the scales and considered it a healthy behaviour. It's not, it's the start of an eating disorder! Also, the amount of encouragement for artificial sweetener consumption, especially diet coke daily (the SW drink of choice) and 'healthy' snacking on some very questionable foods didn't really make sense to me and made me angry. I was told to do this to love weight! It's soooo bad for your body, it's basically poison! For example: an unhealthy junk like a Mug Shot is considered a free food, that you can eat without 'synning' yet an avocado or a handful of nuts will have about 15 syns! Madness! Also, a tuna sandwich on  brown bread from Greggs was over 25 'syns'. Whaaaaat? Just doesn't make any sense. 

My friend who doesn't have a history of eating disorders  also quit SW and she found all the rules and the general mentality very off putting and quite unhealthy. Don't get me wrong, the consultant was very nice and supportive and I met some very nice people at the group, but it just wasn't a good environment for me mentally. 

So here's my confession I never thought I would make. I JOINED (and quit) Slimming World. Who am I? I guess I was just so desperate to lose the extra weight I put on over 5 years ago. It's purely because I think that my current weight might affect my health in the future I don't have any problems now and I eat well and keep active most of the time, but I don't want to end up with knee problems or diabetes when I am 40. I am actually pretty embarrassed that I joined SW (I am against diet culture!), but sometimes when you're so desperate to lose weight, you will try something you might not completely agree with. Every time I said something that contained the words 'Slimming World' I cringed so hard, I wanted the ground to swallow me up.

I will probably have to start therapy now to make sure I am in the right frame of mind again. Thankfully the main trigger (Slimming World) is out of the picture now and I am focusing on being healthy and nourishing my body to be able to continue breastfeeding. Since quitting, I have been fine again, so that's good. I just know to avoid SW for the rest of my life now.

I also have to mention that 16 out of the 18 lbs I lost was actually due to eating well and daily exercise and the eating disorder behaviours started once my weight loss plateaued after a few weeks.

Have any of you had a similar problem? What do you think of Slimming World? Did you have a positive or negative experience?

Sandra


PS. My breastmilk was still perfectly nutritious while I was going through all that, just in case someone's wondering. Scientifically, even breastmilk of a smoking mother or someone who eats junk is more nutritious than formula. I thought I would add this to avoid any 'concerned comments'.



  
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