Slimming World runs weight loss programmes that last for 14 weeks (comprising 12 meetings and two ‘holiday’ sessions) across the UK and Ireland. 12,000 local groups are held in a local community centres, schools and church halls and are led by people who are trained and overseen by Slimming World dietitians and nutritionists. Those who sign up to the programme are helped to set goals and offered support and positive reinforcement from their group peers. They are weighed each week and encouraged to change unhealthy eating habits and increase physical activity. ‘Recent research has shown that commercial programmes like Slimming World have a good success rate in general population groups,’ says Professor Bick.
She and her colleagues want to investigate whether the Slimming World weight management programme can help new mothers lose weight after birth – and if it is possible to run a future trial to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of these groups for women who were overweight or obese during pregnancy.
The CLAHRC maternity and women’s health theme is running a feasibility study to help them plan such a trial – they want to find out if new mothers who were overweight or obese during pregnancy will agree to join and stay involved in Slimming World groups, how best to collect data, and whether women would be prepared to meet researchers at six months and up to a year later to have their weight checked. ‘We would like to explore if attendance at weight management groups also impacts on decisions about breastfeeding and stopping smoking and need to work out how to measure that,’ says Professor Bick.