Slimming World 'Syns' diet plan criticised for encouraging food guilt

'We should encourage positive messages surrounding what we can and should eat, not what we can't and shouldn't'

Rachel Hosie@rachel_hosie
Thursday 14 December 2017 12:29
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Slimming World has come under fire after making changes to its diet plan.

A top nutritionist says the programme will “damage our relationship with what we eat.”

Dieters following Slimming World’s regime are allowed certain ‘free’ foods, and everything else has to be counted in a tally of ‘Syns’.

Until now, ‘free’ foods included various pasta and noodle meals and snacks.

However a change to the plan has been announced, meaning foods that were previously ‘free’ have to be part of the Syns tally.

A Slimming World spokesperson says: “We frequently review the products we hold on our food databases.

“As part of this process, we’ve recently taken a closer look at the ever-growing range of pasta and noodle snack pots and sachets that are now readily available, and decided that these are not filling and satisfying enough to be classified as Free Food on our Food Optimising eating plan.

“As a result, and to protect our members’ weight losses, some products that were previously free will now have a small Syn value – of between half Syn and three Syns.

“Plain dried pasta and noodles are still classed as Free Food - alongside hundreds of other everyday foods - and because the new Syn values for pasta and noodle snack pots and sachets are still so low they can easily be included within a member’s daily choices, if that’s what they want to do. Slimming World has no plans to develop an equivalent product.”

Many Slimming World members haven’t reacted well to the change, and one nutritionist has spoken out to explain why she doesn’t think the programme is advisable.

“Naming certain foods as ‘Syns’ just contributes to an unhealthy anxiety that prevails around food all too often,” leading Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert explained to The Independent.

“The diet industry just fuels feelings of guilt and shame, it’s no wonder we have an obesity problem and a rise in eating disorders!”

Lambert believes that Slimming World is “vilifying” certain products and brands, classing foods either as good or bad. “In doing so we are damaging our relationship with what we eat,” she says.

“Those lucky enough to have never strayed into eating disorders or struggled with their weight may not see it this way but for the ones who are supposed to benefit most from this Slimming World system, those who eat too much or not enough, labelling foods is a negative and guilt-ridden idea.

“We should encourage positive messages surrounding what we can and should eat, not what we can't and shouldn’t eat.”

Lambert, whose book Re-Nourish is published on 28 December 2017, is concerned that the system of Syns and ‘free’ foods will encourage people to obsess over food.

“An obsession over which foods are good and bad is an impossible, rule-driven way of eating that is familiar to so many eating disordered people, a behaviour that I see in my clinic every single day,” she says.

“Diet culture is seen everywhere from restaurant menus to supermarkets and I believe that if we perceive what we eat as good or bad, it is often an extension of how we perceive ourselves.”

In response to Lambert's comments, a spokesperson for Slimming World told The Independent: “The ‘y’ in the word Syns is of particular importance and refers to the synergy between the three parts of Slimming World’s eating plan – Free Food, Healthy Extras and Syns – which together empower people to lose weight without hunger, deprivation or guilt.

“Instead of counting calories or fat, with our plan members can satisfy their appetite on Free Food choices that are low in energy and filling. Free Food includes a long list of hundreds of everyday foods like fruit and veg, pasta, rice, potatoes, lean meat, fish and more. All foods that aren’t Free have a Syn value and Syns are the way our members can enjoy the foods that many diets ban without a shred of guilt.

“Far from making people feel ashamed about what they eat, our plan is about lifting the burden of guilt people feel around food and providing a healthy, flexible and realistic way of eating that fits with every lifestyle and that can be kept up for the long-term.”

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