by Celia Mellow - Central team member - operations and design
After more than a year attending weekly groups I lost five and a half stone and became a Slimming World target member.
I enjoyed my engagement with my group as a member of the social team, assisting with the ‘weigh and pay’ weekly. I had great relationship with my supportive and inspiring consultant and I immersed myself in the mindset, culture and values of Slimming World.
At the time, I was a student in my first year at University of Derby and quitting my boozy social life to instead focus on losing weight made me feel very lonely and disconnected from my social circles. What made this all the more harder was that I could no longer smother these negative feelings by binge eating.
My Slimming World group was a vital support network for me at this difficult time - it gave me my first sense of being part of the community in Derby, a community I now love so dearly and it reminded me that I was not alone on my weight loss journey.
Margaret Miles-Bramwell OBE is an inspiration of mine. She set up Slimming World in 1969 and her first group was small - just some women from mining town Alfreton, Derbyshire who wanted to lose some weight. Today, Slimming World is an organisation with over 16,000 groups meeting weekly across the UK.
Since joining the Local Welcome central team in March to oversee operations in Derby, many similarities between Local Welcome meals and Slimming World groups have become apparent to me.
Despite it almost seeming ironic - comparing a cooking and eating group to a weight loss group, I
feel that we can learn and be assured of our approach by looking at Slimming World’s successes.
Community spirit, community spaces
The act of joining both organisations sit behind pro-social intentions. The nature of both groups entail achieving something together with people and the strong possibility of turning up to the first meeting without really knowing what to expect.
If you open up a set of doors and walk into either a Local Welcome or Slimming World group you will find a network of people building emotional resilience and tackling issues together. Both groups nurture supportive friendships between individuals in the same community who would never have otherwise met.
At Slimming World, the obvious target is weight loss and all the physical and emotional benefits that come hand-in-hand with it. Local Welcome meal events also provide emotional benefits - helping to combat loneliness by improving interconnectedness between individuals.
Following a ritual, growing together
The rituals at Local Welcome and Slimming World groups help to create safe spaces. At Local Welcome we have our cooking and eating ritual, while Slimming World has a ritual called image therapy.
During image therapy, weight loss achievements are celebrated and constructive support is given if not. The opportunity to be vulnerable and to talk openly about emotional challenges and obstacles that you faced during the week is valuable for building resilience and support networks. This is what Local Welcome’s cooking and eating ritual is designed to offer as well!
At my cooking and eating events in Derby, I see my members and guests become more confident and empowered as the months go by - a change I saw in members at my Slimming World group throughout their weight loss journey also.
Cooking and eating
At Slimming World groups, ‘taster’ sessions are held periodically. Members cook healthy food at home and bring them to group to eat and share together. There are photos of meals I cook and ate whilst losing weight below.
This social sharing of food harmonises with Local Welcome’s cooking and eating events. It also gives an exciting glimpse into what Local Welcome meals could look like in the future, when we are ready to start facilitating member-led sharing of recipes between groups.
The Local Welcome central team is designing and building digital infrastructure to enable the growth of cooking and eating events in towns and cities across the UK. We are currently testing and fine-tuning our use of digital tools to enhance and organise member commitment.
Slimming World’s LifelineOnline App keeps members immersed and engaged outside of the two hours spent at group each week. Across their social media platforms, recipes, news and member success stories are shared regularly. It is exciting to anticipate when Local Welcome groups across the UK will establish a digital community in the future.
Forming a unique brand
Slimming World uses language that only its members understand like ‘body magic’. Likewise, at Local Welcome we use unique language like ‘table leader’ to make roles at cooking and eating events clearer.
The branded decor and displays at a Slimming World group meeting transform the environment of any venue into a friendly and unique, atmosphere. Members can weigh in at any group in the UK convenient for them, see this branding and feel less of an outsider at a new group.
Building upon the physical elements of our brand, such as our grey IKEA boxes and our digital recipe steps, at Local Welcome we are continuing to develop our own unique footprint. This excites me as, once we have launched more groups across the UK, our groups will be a welcoming and familiar space for refugee guests who have moved from one city to another.
Celebrating personal successes with new-found friends
Nothing could match the swell of pride I felt in my chest each time my group applauded me for winning ‘slimmer of the week’ and for each of my milestone (no pun intended) stone and half-stone awards.
During my journey I was nominated by the group as ‘Young Slimmer of the Year’ two years running and Miss Slinky in 2017. My little stack of certificates, stickers, badges and sashes that I keep in a folder in my room are items I will treasure forever. They aren’t just reminders of a personal journey I worked so hard mentally and physically to get through, they also represent my membership to an organisation I so deeply care about.
I’m certain that there are many people like me out there who love Slimming World and will one day love Local Welcome too!