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How Diabetes UK’s partnership with Slimming has angered the type 1 community!

  • 5 min read

How Diabetes UK’s partnership with Slimming has angered the type 1 community!

Last week (28 February 2024), Diabetes UK announced a 3-year partnership with Slimming World (SW) and it didn’t go down well with the type 1 community and others. If you haven’t followed the comments on social media here’s an overview of the situation and if you feel strongly too – please let us know and perhaps share your comments with the community on Twitter/X .

What is the partnership about?

Diabetes UK announced the partnership by claiming “Around 60 per cent of people with Type 1 diabetes and around 85 per cent of people with Type 2 diabetes are living with overweight or obesity.

They added "this partnership has never been more needed than it is today”.

And, Slimming World stated “We’re coming together to share expertise on weight loss, long-term healthy eating and diabetes”.

“We’ll be collaborating on resources, producing co-branded recipes, increasing our knowledge and sharing our expertise.”

Who are Slimming World?

Slimming World is a commercial business based on members joining that are willing to follow the SW eating plan to lose weight. The plan involves Food Optimising with members learning “how to cut calories without counting them”.

Members are also allowed a certain number of "syns" which many participants interpret as 'sins' and foods that should be avoided. Many of these syns are the types of foods needed to address a hypo.

So, what’s the issue with the T1D community?

As the leading charity on diabetes in the UK, Diabetes UK state that their aim is to advocate for all those with diabetes, not just type 2s. However, the decision to partner with Slimming World has created controversy on several fronts with many type 1s feeling the charity no longer speaks for them.

The key concern is the association between slimming/diets and eating disorders which is well-established and yet Diabetes UK do not seem to have taken this into account before agreeing this partnership.

A member of the diabetes community posted “SW has been proven to enhance disordered eating” whilst many others commented on social media about their poor experience of Slimming World and that they had experienced stigma from those involved with running the SW groups.

Diabetes UK themselves state on their website that eating disorders are experienced by up to 30% of people with Type 1 Diabetes and 5 to 9% of people with Type 2. 

The timing of the announcement was particularly poor being during Eating Disorders Awareness Week and also just weeks after the launch of the UK Parliamentary Inquiry: Type 1 diabetes and disordered eating presented byFormer Prime Minister (and T1D), Theresa May, and Sir George Howarth MP.

There is also concern that the relationship does not take into account the stigma that pwd suffer by associating their condition with their body shape. The partnership may fuel the stereotypes and only make stigma worse.

What have Diabetes UK done?

Realising the announcement had caused concern in the diabetes community, the charity issued a an initial response (1/3/24) - click here to read in this in full.

However, rather than showing understanding, the response included several statements that seemed to further add fuel to the fire.

These are extracts from that response:

We know that many people living with diabetes find keeping to a healthy weight a considerable struggle. Around 85% of people with type 2 diabetes and 60% of people with type 1 diabetes live with overweight or obesity.

“we acknowledge that the timing of this partnership announcement during Eating Disorders Awareness Week was wrong, and we’re sorry about this.”

However, many posts on X were further angered by these comments, pointing out that although the timing was not appropriate, the real issue was the appropriateness of the partnership at all.

Another response has now been posted (7/3/24) by Diabetes UK. Click here to read this in full.

What have the community said?

These are some of the points raised by the community:

  1. Stigma and misconceptions: The partnership's emphasis on weight management perpetuates misconceptions about diabetes, potentially leading to feelings of stigma among those living with the condition.

  2. Eating disorders and disordered eating: Concerns have been raised about how Slimming World's approach could exacerbate eating disorders or disordered eating behaviour when managing diabetes.

  3. Diverse needs: The communication stresses that the weight management needs of individuals with diabetes vary widely, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not adequately address these differences, potentially causing harm.

  4. Importance of individualised care: Effective diabetes management requires personalised approaches that consider individual medical, nutritional, and psychological needs.

  5. Governance concerns: There are concerns about whether Diabetes UK followed its governance principles in consulting individuals affected by diabetes about the partnership, and if not, why not.

  6. Call for involvement of Lived Experience: Before agreeing to such a partnership this should have involved discussion with the  lived experience committee to ensure it addressed any concerns such as potential harm and stigma.

A quick poll run on twitter by #gbdoc, resulted in 82% of participants voting against DiabetesUK and Slimming World’s partnership.

Post on Twitter from #GBDOC poll of diabetics

In arranging the Partnership with Slimming World Diabetes UK appear to have ignored their own processes and did not consult with their own Living Experience Panel or with those involved with training or mental health.

The Chair of Diabetes UK's Lived Experience Advisory Committee confirmed that he, and the committee had not been consulted.
Dr Rose Stewart, from the Diabetes UK Professionals Advisory Committee also confirmed that they had not been consulted about the partnership.

What have the community done?

The reputation damage in the type 1 community is likely to be significant, but as only representing a small fraction of the membership, it is unlikely that this will have a great impact on Diabetes UK’s operations.

The actions taken by type 1s so far include:

-cancelled memberships

- cancelled sponsorships

- cancelled participation

This article appeared in The Independent:

Unfortunately this article in the Independent is paywalled but if you have Apple News you may be able to find it there.

As this story is ongoing updates will appear here as and when things evolve and change.


Type 1 Community Letter

GBDOC letter of response

Diabetes UK News (1/3/24) 

Diabetes UK response (7/3/24)

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The author of this blog has type 1 diabetes and uses the FreeStyle Libre 2 which is provided on NHS prescription.

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