Slimming World with ME/CFS

Disclaimer: I am NOT affiliated with Slimming World. I simply attend (virtually at the moment) each week, follow the programme and it’s amazing. I simply wanted to share what it’s like! 

Disclaimer number 2: I would class my M.E. as moderate or 40-50% on the M.E. Association’s Disability Rating Scale. In no way do I suggest that all people with M.E. would be able to follow this programme as living with M.E. is different for everyone. 

I’ve struggled with my weight for a number of years. Put quite simply, I love my food. I love wine. I love chocolate. And I have M.E. which means I spend a lot of time sat or lying down. The combination of all those things only means one thing: weight gain. Family and friends have gently encouraged me over the years to look after my diet a bit better, but I haven’t been ready, neither mentally nor physically, until now. 

So, in January this year – in the midst of the new years’ resolutions flying around – I got my backside into gear and got down to my first group. 

I couldn’t have been made more welcome by Jan, the group leader, and the fellow members. 

Slimming World groups are held up and down the country on all days of the week and at varying times of the day. I needed a group that happened during the day and not in the evening. I simply don’t have enough energy by the evening to get out of the house. I have most energy in the mornings so that was the ideal time for me. 

To find your nearest group, click here. 

At the first group I was presented with the various booklets, pamphlets and reading material and was talked through the Slimming World process. The thing that struck me immediately was the fact that this isn’t a “diet”. Far from it. It’s a set of principles which effectively mean eating healthily, and generally looking after yourself. After all, self-care is essential and food is part of that. 

What I liked immediately about the Slimming World plan was that you didn’t actually have to cut any food groups out. None of these fad diets that last 2 weeks before you’ve put the weight firmly back on. Slimming World is a way of healthy eating with group support to see you through. 

There were several acronyms and terms to get my head around in order to follow the Slimming World plan but once I got into the swing of things it became second nature. It took me several weeks before my chocolate craving had dissipated. I do allow myself an Options hot chocolate of an evening, so I haven’t cut chocolate out completely, but I feel that’s a fair compromise. Although it hasn’t been completely necessary, I’ve cut out alcohol completely as the syn value (read about these later) was too high to waste. Along with this, I’ve struggled with my sinuses for many years, and have even had to have them operated on to manage the symptoms, but since cutting out alcohol those symptoms have disappeared. And I don’t miss it strangely! 

So how does Slimming World work? 

The main principles of Slimming World are “free foods”, “healthy extras” or “syns”.  Food and drink that you consume fall into one of those 3 categories: free, healthy extra or “syn”. 

Free Foods

There is no limit on the amount of free foods you’re allowed. You’re encouraged to fill a third of your plate at each meal with “super free” foods. (Think salad, vegetables, certain fruits etc.) Note that cooked, canned, dried and pureed fruit are not free and have a “syn” value. This includes smoothies too. 

However, very pleasingly, pasta, rice and potatoes are all “free”. No more carb-free fad diets to contend with! 

Meat, poultry, fish, seafood and dairy are all free too, provided they are labelled as “fat free” or at least less than 5% fat. Any oil or fat used for cooking is given a “syn” value. For that reason, the cooking sprays available are recommended. 

Healthy Extras 

Healthy extra “A”s are generally the foods rich in calcium: milk, cheese and dairy free equivalents of these. The quantities of these I find are quite generous so you’ll be unlikely to run out. I personally have cut out dairy as I found it made a drastic difference to my sinus problems, but use oat and almond milks instead.  

Healthy extra “B”s are the foods high in fibre: cereals, bread, dried fruit and nuts. You’re allowed 2 portions of Healthy Extra “A”s and one portion of Healthy Extra “B” a day. The important thing about the healthy extras is that they’re weighed out exactly.

“Syns”

Anything that’s not a “free” food or “healthy extra” has a “syn” value. You’re allowed a certain number of syns each day and it is completely up to you how you “spend” that syn allowance. I’m allowed up to 15 syns a day. Note: this isn’t a target to meet, but the maximum you’re allowed in that day. 

A 175ml glass of red wine is 8 syns, a tablespoon of Nutella is 4 syns, you get the idea. Everything from the main brands of restaurant have syn values attached. I was horrified to learn that one of my old favourites, a Classic American pizza from Pizza Express is worth 42 syns and dough balls are 18. No more of those for me! 

What happens at group? 

Turning up to group is the key of Slimming World. My fear before starting Slimming World was that I would have to share my weight with everyone. I needn’t have worried. Yes you get weighed with lots of people around you but no one needs to know your exact weight. The only thing that is shared is how much you have lost (or gained) that week. The amount of support at group is amazing. 

And do you know what is most pleasing? You get a certificate and sticker for each half stone you lose! My inner teacher loves a nice shiny sticker! 

So how do I make Slimming World work with my M.E.? 

In order to follow Slimming World, there is a great deal of cooking involved. Obviously for those of us with M.E. that isn’t easy. Therefore, I’ve had to work out the spoon-saving activities in order to keep going. 

Slimming World ready meals at Iceland 

These are a life-saver. I know I’m not the only one out there who simply can’t cook every day, so these ready meals are perfect. The rainbow Bolognese is my favourite. They aren’t cheap, but at group there are often deals handed out. 

Cooking in bulk 

Every single thing I cook is done in bulk so that I only have to cook every 2-3 days. In order to preserve energy to look after my daughter this batch cooking is essential. Plenty of Tupperware needed to store it all!  

Doing all food preparation sitting down

There’s a lot of chopping involved in cooking from scratch, so my energy is saved by sitting down to do it all. 

Planning out our meals 

This is mainly to avoid the temptation for take-aways or snacks. By planning out the week’s meals it’s much easier to do the food shop and plan out each day. 

Overall, the Slimming World plan has been absolutely brilliant for me. I’ve met such a supportive group of people at group each week and know that we’re all in this together. I At the time of writing, I’ve been at Slimming World for 11 weeks and have lost 2 stone so far. 

If you want to lose weight, I thoroughly recommend Slimming World. It’s not a “diet”, it’s a new way of life. Honestly. 

If you’re someone who has been to Slimming World what tips would you recommend? Look forward to hearing your tips and advice! 

Until next time, 

Soph x 

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