A new study has revealed that receiving expert group support helps people to lose more weight and can increase their ‘mental toughness’ compared to those who go it alone.
Ireland and the UK’s first independent study into the relationship between weight loss and mental toughness reveals that people who are supported to lose weight in a group environment like a Slimming World group not only lose more weight than those who choose to lose weight without support – they can also increase their mental toughness.
The study by the University of Lincoln examined the relationship between weight loss and ‘mental toughness’ over a period of six months and revealed that members of Slimming World groups lost weight more successfully than a comparison group (who were aiming to lose weight without the support of a group ) and also significantly improved their mental toughness.
During the six months of the study, on average, Slimming World members lost over two stone more than those in the comparison group. Their measures of mental toughness on average rose 10 percent, from a low to an average score in Slimming World group members, whereas the comparison group had no statistically significant change to their mental toughness.
The findings of the study, which was led by Dr Elizabeth Stamp, a lecturer at Loughborough University comes at a time when the Irish adult population is facing a spiralling obesity crisis and also increased mental health problems.
Joining a slimming group such as Slimming World with expertise in helping people change lifelong habits is well established as a successful way to tackle weight gain, but only now has the impact of such a supportive group environment on mental toughness been discovered.
Mental toughness, a concept used in psychology and behaviour change that has been studied within the sports field for many years, and is linked to characteristics such as keeping a clear focus on goals even when under pressure, having a strong sense of purpose and self-determination, and feeling in control.
While it’s linked to resilience, it’s about more than being resilient, with sport psychologists noting mental toughness is what gives an elite athlete their edge. This is the first time the concept has been investigated in relation to weight loss.
“Mental toughness is about how someone copes with the challenges and stressors they face. More than that though, it is about seeking out and taking on new challenges. People who have a high mental toughness have skills like being able to break bigger goals into smaller achievable goals, being in control of their life and the decisions that they make and having the confidence to seek help when needed,” Dr Elizabeth Stamp, who studied the role of mental toughness on health-related lifestyle behaviour change when completing her PhD at the University of Lincoln, asserted.
“The multi-level support to make lifestyle changes which our Slimming World groups provides is specifically designed to help members increase their commitment to their weight loss and the changes needed to ensure they achieve them. It supports them to feel in control of their choices and behaviours and feel more confident in their ability to make the changes even in situations where their commitment and motivation would otherwise be challenged (for example eating out, travelling, staying away from home, socialising ),” Pauline Bliss, who hosts the Slimming World groups in St Kieran’s Community Centre every Wednesday, stated.
“Helping members think about the challenges they face, making plans for when things get in the way and developing strategies for these times,are all ways in which the group supports members to stick to their plans and successfully lose weight each week,” Sinead Morris, who hosts the Slimming World groups in The Shamrock Lodge Hotel every Tuesday, remarked.
“This latest research shows the depth of understanding about the psychology of weight loss we have at Slimming World. It’s been at the heart of our method for more than five decades. In our groups we share techniques to empower and enable members to make their own behaviour changes through a variety of methods, including setting goals, making new decisions and developing new skills to overcome any barriers they might face,” Carol Doran Joyce, who hosts the group in Ballybay Community Hall, every Saturday, commented.
“By encouraging our members to try new foods, transform old, unhealthy habits and change their perception of healthy food and activity, we create an warm environment for our members to challenge themselves on their own time-scales,” Yvonne Briscoe, who hosts the group in The Shearwater Hotel every Tuesday, continued.
“These latest findings are supported by member data from Slimming World groups which reveals that as members progress on their weight loss journeys, they feel more sociable, happier, calmer and more peaceful, and feel they have more energy.
“They are less likely to say they feel downhearted, stressed, or anxious compared to non-members from the general population. Members’ emotional well-being improved over their time at Slimming World and even remained higher during the Covid-19 lockdown, when Slimming World introduced their virtual groups for members, than when they first joined. They also had higher emotional well-being scores than non-members,” Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Research and Scientific Affairs in Slimming World head office, added.
Slimming World groups are open 52 weeks of the year and are run in a safe and Covid-19 compliant way with member safety at their heart, with social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitising in every group.
To join your nearest group, contact your local consultant, or log onto www.slimmingworld.ie for details of your nearest group.