Slimming World has launched a virtual service to support members stuck at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Consultants have been hosting virtual meetings on the Zoom platform so members can stay in touch and receive support when sticking to their plan may become more difficult.
The company runs 19,000 slimming groups across the UK and Ireland, which have had to be suspended due to the lockdown.
Staffordshire and Cheshire consultants – who are self-employed franchisees – have loved the digital service and keeping in touch with their members.
The sessions are being offered at a reduced rate of £2.50, instead of the usual £4.95 – and will follow a similar, but adapted structure to the physical sessions.
For those wishing to become a member during the UK lockdown, they will pay a £5 joining fee – half of the usual fee of £10 – and then pay £2.50 per session.
Consultant Sue Ash runs the Maybank and Wolstanton groups and said: “I ran five Zoom sessions on Thursday. It’s lifting everyone’s spirit and we’ve shared any struggles.
“People are taking advantage of their hour of exercise and also getting involved in virtual YouTube classes, too.
“Everyone left feeling more positive and with a game plan, but they can’t wait until we are all back together again.”
Julie Pugh, aged 56, is a consultant in Rode Heath, and added: “Slimming World have put this package together for consultants and members and it’s wonderful.
“I held two Zoom sessions on Monday for 45 members in total. Some are self-isolating and don’t really have contact with anyone at the moment, so everyone is supporting one another in a different way.
“People are struggling to buy what they usually would so people are sharing ideas and tips, and exercise in the house.
“It’s been a massive learning curve, but it’s brilliant. And we are still doing weight loss awards with members achieving target weight, so have virtual certificates we can send across to them.”
Members have been joining their first digital groups from the comfort of their living rooms this week.
Consultants have been sharing culinary advice after members have struggled to get their regular food shop, as well as fitness tips for indoors under the current circumstances.
Member Katie Bromley, aged 23, has lost 5st 1lbs with Slimming World, and had her first virtual meeting at the end of March.
Katie, from Congleton, said: “It’s harder to stick to plan at home with nothing to do as you just pop to see what’s in the cupboards or fridge.
“With not being able to get out I’ve not been shopping as I usually have, which is harder, but having the group has really helped as everyone is so supportive.”
Laura Bounford, team developer for the Congleton & Biddulph Slimming World groups, said: “Over the past two weeks we have been working tirelessly together, to come up with creative ways to support all of our members and each other too.
“We wanted to make sure no-one felt isolated at this time, and have run our first virtual groups last week, with members young and old joining in, it’s been truly remarkable and our care, commitment and community spirit is really shining through more than ever.
“It took me three years to find the courage to physically walk through the doors of my local Slimming World Group and I truly believe this new temporary virtual group option may be just the stepping stone some people may need to ease them into joining us.
“From the comfort of your own home, without even leaving your sofa, you could join in with our online virtual groups which could help to build your confidence and reduce social isolation at such a challenging time for us all.”
Slimming World’s CEO Caryl Richards says: “Our groups bring people together in the heart of their communities, to support and inspire one another every week.
“In these anxious times, the community spirit and the genuine care we provide has never been more important.
“We’ve had countless messages from members who are genuinely distressed at losing their group and their weight-loss lifeline, who are already missing the camaraderie each week, and who desperately want to hang on to the changes they have made towards a healthier, fitter lifestyle.
“So we’ve done our very best to put a new ‘virtual group’ in place which gives our members the same practical help, caring support and friendship they’ve come to rely on, and gives our Consultants the means to sustain their livelihoods in the challenging times ahead.
“None of us knows just what we’re facing in the next few weeks, so we feel sure that anything which can bring practical support as well as friendship, relief and reassurance will be welcome.”