MEASLY portions, counting calories, no carbs and a lettuce leaf for lunch – for many of us just the idea of dieting sounds like torture, and as a result it can be hard to stick to.
However, this outdated perception often couldn't be further from the truth, and yes – there are ways to lose weight while eating big portions and your favourite foods like pasta, potatoes and rice.
Mum Rachel McDermott, 31, from Somerset, has been a Slimming World consultant for four years.
Here, she shares what her role entails, and the secrets dieters are always surprised to discover when they sign up…
Member to mentor
When Rachel joined in 2016, initially it was actually as a member herself, successfully losing three stone.
She says: "I fell in love with the ethos of the company, so when I was given the opportunity to open my own group a year later I jumped at the chance.
"As a consultant, I support around 100 members each week to achieve their target weight.
"This is done through focusing around the psychology of slimming to keep members motivated and help them understand the deeper psychological barriers to losing weight and how to overcome them to develop healthy new habits they can maintain for life."
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Unlimited pasta and potatoes
The plan encourages members to satisfy their appetite by filling up on lower calorie foods that can be enjoyed in unlimited amounts.
These include fish, poultry, lean meats, and surprisingly, potatoes, pasta and rice.
Rachel explains: "People are most surprised to hear how much you can actually eat, and that they can still eat pasta, rice and potatoes! Every time.
"I'm not sure I would ever have become a member or a consultant if I couldn't eat unlimited amounts of pasta – it's definitely what attracted me to Slimming world in the first place!
"It's because we live in a society where carbohydrates are often considered bad for us, whereas they actually contain almost the same amount of calories as many proteins.
"It's generally what we eat with them that adds the calories, such as butter, cheese, sugary sauces.
"Members can choose between measured amounts of milk & cheese and wholemeal bread and cereals to ensure they are consuming recommended levels of calcium and fibre.
"Higher calorie items are then controlled through a number of 'syns' allocated per day to avoid food and drink being banned and to avoid members having to tediously count calories."
Eat more, lose more
Thankfully, the Slimming World diet doesn't mean measly portion sizes either, as this couple who lost 17st between them can attest to.
Rachel says: "We think we need to eat less to lose weight, which to some extent is true.
"But it's the higher calorie foods we need to reduce, not the ones that our bodies need to work properly.
"The members who lose the most when they first join are generally the ones eating the most too."
The key to success
Sadly if members are not prepared to make long-term changes to the way they shop, cook and eat, they won't be successful long-term.
Rachel says: "Food optimising isn't a quick fix diet, it's a healthy lifestyle change that can be adapted to the whole family if people embrace it.
"Also, while the food optimising plan is very easy to follow, members often find it hard to lose weight over time if they choose not to get involved with the group support that helps them to change the habits of a lifetime and build their knowledge of ideas, recipes, experiences and strategies to keep them on track.
"As slimmers, we're not always ready to admit to ourselves, let alone others, the habits we have around food and drink, which can go back as far as childhood or may have been triggered by all sorts of life experiences.
"As a consultant, I am trained to help members change the way they think and feel about themselves so that they are empowered to make the changes to what they eat and drink.
"It isn't just a case of finding willpower, it takes a complete, deep-set shift in mindset, attitude and self-perception.
Stripping off for weigh-in
Members can have different techniques when it comes to the regular weigh-ins.
Rachel says: "Having members strip off before they get on the scales always raises a few giggles in group!
"I think the most amusing moments though are when members try to blame weight gains on the myths that you hear about with weight loss, such as eating too much fruit or not drinking enough water.
"It's disheartening when you have a week you don't lose what you think you deserve, but it's funny the mind games we play with ourselves to try and make it better!"
'You've got nothing to lose, but weight'
Unsurprisingly, January is always Slimming World's busiest time of year.
Rachel says: "It's when most people are setting New Years' resolutions and want to change their lifestyles for the year ahead, often after a few weeks of eating and drinking too much over Christmas.
"It's exciting to see people getting fired up for the year ahead and looking forward to slimming down in time for holidays and events – they've got nothing to lose but weight."
Growing in confidence
For Rachel, her role brings huge job satisfaction, and it's been so rewarding watch members achieve their health goals.
She says: "I love seeing members grow in confidence as they lose weight and realise the belief in themselves that they can achieve whatever they set their mind to.
"It's about so much more than just the numbers on the scales – it's the new outfit they can fit into, the new relationships they make, a pregnancy after being told they'd never be able to have children or not needing to take medication any longer.
"Losing weight can literally save a person's life and it's an honour to be part of that journey."
For more information, visit Slimming World's website.
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