How Slimming World Works

Over the course of this post I’m going to set out how Slimming World works for you so that you have everything you need to start losing weight in a healthy, happy and sustainable way! Before I get started I obviously want to stress that I’m not an official Slimming World consultant, however I have been doing this now for almost two years and like to think I know my way around the plan pretty well. I was really thrilled to sit through the  new member talk at my Slimming World group last night, as it has given me a whole new determination, and I therefore wanted to help anyone who doesn’t have the luxury of going to group, or maybe just needs a refresher from time to time, have that same feeling! This article is set out in the following sections: 

  • The Basics
  • Free Foods, including: 
    • Speed Foods
    • ‘P’ Foods
  • Healthy Extras 
  • Syns 
  • Easy Extra SP 

I really  hope that this guide to Slimming World is helpful for you but if you have any queries just ask in the comments below! You can of course always contact Slimming World too for any queries and there is a wonderful online Slimming World community who are always happy to help! More than anything I wish you every success on your Slimming World journey, this plan has totally changed my life and I really hope I can help some others change theirs too! 

The Basics of Slimming World

Slimming World really isn’t complicated and works on three very simple principles. You have unlimited ‘Free Foods’, measured ‘Healthy Extras‘ and 5-15 ‘Syns‘ every day. Once you understand which foods fit into these categories, explained below, Slimming World is easy peasy! The plan works on a pyramid really and is all about filling yourself up on the unlimited free foods, before digging into your syns and in addition to your Healthy Extras… something like this: 

How Does Slimming World Work

What Are Free Foods? 

Free Foods are the foods which you can eat in unlimited quantities to keep you full and satisfy your appetite. This includes vegetables, fruit, lean meat, fish & poultry, vegetable proteins, meat replacements, fat free dairy, rice, grains, eggs, potatoes and pasta! That’s a lot of different food to pick from so you can already see that Slimming World is really non-restrictive! Free Foods as a category are broken down into three further categories, ‘Speed Foods’, ‘Protein’ with everything else simply falling under the general ‘Free Foods’ banner. Free Foods are the foods which are lower in calories but high in density so they fill you up without putting too many calories in your system. Whilst we never count calories on Slimming World, it is essential to realise that if we are trying to lose weight we can’t continue consuming the same amount of calorie rich food as we have been…otherwise nothing changes! We will come to ‘P’ foods later, but one key thing to remember on Slimming World is that most meat and fish are ‘Free Foods’ no matter how you cook it, as long as you cook it without the fat! Poultry can be cooked with the fat on as long as it is removed before eating! If you eat the fat it must be synned (something else we’ll cover later!). 

How Does Slimming World Work

How Does Slimming World Work

What Are Speed Foods?

Speed Foods come under the free food category and are made up of fruit and vegetables. Whilst all fruit and veg is ‘Free’, apart from Avocado (sorry!) some have lower calories and less sugar than others and are therefore classed as ‘Speed Foods’. Slimming World recommends for the plan to work best that you fill up 1/3 of your plate at every meal with Speed Foods! This means that you are replacing a third of your plate with lower calorie, lower sugar but high density filling food, perfect for boosting weight loss without ever needing to be hungry! The key is not to just add a helping of Speed Foods onto the side of an already packed plate (for instance as a side salad), but is to actively replace a third in order to get the best possible results. You can find a list of all the Speed Foods on Slimming World here in my Speed Food Shopping List

How Does Slimming World Work

What Are ‘P’ Foods? 

On Slimming World ‘P’ stands for protein! This is therefore made up of all of the highest protein foods, from meat and fish to vegetarian substitutes and vegetables like peas. Although Slimming World don’t specifically say that you have to fill up a third of your plate with protein, it is incredibly important to get lots in your diet so it’s a good principle to work to anyway. ‘P’ Foods are made up of the foods which are highest in protein, and does in fact cover the vast majority of meat and fish as well as the other categories I’ve already mentioned. You can find a full list of ‘P’ foods on my ‘P’ Food Shopping List here

How Does Slimming World Work

What Are Healthy Extras?

Healthy Extras are the only part of the plan that you have to measure, and they are made up of your Healthy Extra A choices and Healthy Extra B choices. You get two Healthy Extra A choices (often referred to as ‘HexA’) and these are made up of dairy foods which are highest in calcium. It is incredibly important to maintain a high intake of calcium in order to maintain your bones, vitamin D levels and general good health, and it is also important for weight loss. Depending on the fat content of the dairy your eating (fat free dairy is generally syn free, although you should always check to make sure), this will effect the amount of it you can have. For example you can have 350mls of skimmed milk as your Healthy Extra A but just 175mls of whole milk! There are plenty of resources available to find out what counts as your Healthy Extra A choice (I’ll put one together soon) and they are always clearly marked on the Slimming World app if you’re a member. If you’re on the go or looking for options for a lunch box there are a number of ‘grab and go’ options, for instance you can have four Dairylea Light triangles as your A choice for the day. 

Healthy Extra B choices are your fibre intake for the day, and are made up of bread and cereals. You get one Healthy Extra B  choice and again there are plenty of resources out there for Healthy Extra B choices but many high-fibre wholegrain cereals are (both branded and supermarket own) and probably one of the most generally used B choices is 40g of oats. Similarly, many people use their B choice for wholemeal bread, where you can have either one slice from an 800g loaf or two slices from a 400g loaf (or 60g of any wholemeal bread if you have scales to hand!). You can also pick up quite a few breakfast bars which count as your Healthy Extra B choice which is handy if you’re on the go! 

Although not eating your Healthy Extras on any given day won’t cause you to gain weight, it is important to eat them for long term weight loss…because let’s face it, what is life without bread and cheese! You can’t carry over your Healthy Extra choices to another day, so if you haven’t had them you still only get one of each the next day (providing you’re following the standard plan). If you have already had your Healthy Extra As or B, you must syn any additional ones that are eaten. 

What Are Syns? 

Syns are the final part of the plan, and essentially anything that isn’t a ‘Free Food’ has a syn value. You can have between 5 and 15 syns every day on Slimming World, and different things have different syn values. For example a teaspoon of oil contains 2 syns whilst a chocolate bar might contain 12. Syns are built in to allow you to have the things that you just can’t live without, like chocolate, wine and higher fat foods, and are the main reason that Slimming World is such a maintainable lifestyle plan! Nothing is off limits, it’s just a case of enjoying them in moderation, i.e. within your syn allowance for the day. Syns also allow you to be flexible, for instance if you over indulge one day you know you can account for it in your syns the next day…it’s wonderful! It’d be rather tough to create a list of all of the synned foods in the world, however if you are a Slimming World member you can always check the website or app and if you’re not there is a whole community of people who can help you out! A good rule to bear in mind is that as long as there is no ‘Free Food’ allowance in something then 20 calories is equal to one syn, a handy rule for things like chocolate and sweets. 

What Is Easy Extra SP? 

Easy Extra SP is an additional plan on Slimming World, to help boost weight loss even further. It’s great if you’ve got an event or holiday coming up and you just want to shift an extra few pounds beforehand, or if you find your weight loss slowing down to give you a kick start. It is not recommended for anyone who has been doing Slimming World for less than a month as you need to get your head around the general plan first, but it can be a great resource! I cover all of the details of Easy Extra SP here

Easy Extra SP explained

I really hope that this guide has been useful, and given you everything you need to start your weight loss journey with Slimming World! I can’t recommend enough the benefit of going to a Slimming World group (I wouldn’t have lost my weight without it!) but I know that’s not possible for everyone, so fingers crossed this has been helpful if that’s the case for you, or if you just wanted a bit of a refresher! 




  • Linda dunlop

    11/01/2017 at 11:50 pm

    I just had a read cat your positive comments not been weighed at sw class since Dec 2916 now lost the place with the plan your article has encouraged me to 've kind to myself stop messing about I m going back next week 18th Jan 2017 x ta
    1. Cliona

      11/01/2017 at 11:56 pm

      I am so pleased to hear that Linda! It's comments like these that really make what I do worthwhile. Good luck going back to group! I'm sure it'll be a wonderful decision! X
      1. natalie Bishop

        20/09/2017 at 8:07 am

        Hello have i in got this right every meal i csn have unlimited free foods, 1x third of my plate with speed foods and a third of p foods. And once a day i can have a healthy extra from the a list and one from the b list plus my syns?
        1. Cliona

          26/09/2017 at 12:15 pm

          Hi Natalie, that's absolutely correct :)
  • Emma Dennis

    12/02/2017 at 7:14 pm

    Is this the most up to date SW? Thanks
    1. Cliona

      12/02/2017 at 7:25 pm

      Hi Emma, yes it is ?
  • porshe04

    17/02/2017 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Cliona, thanks so much for all of the information you've listed. One question, does start weight affect the amount of syns you're allowed? or any other part of the diet? If so do you have any idea of what weight = how many syns. Thanks
    1. Cliona

      17/02/2017 at 1:43 pm

      Hi there, you're very welcome! I don't have any information on that I'm afraid, although I believe above 16 stone you're allowed more. It's probably best to ask a Slimming World consultant to find out the extract details though!
  • Sandra Gilbert

    26/02/2017 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for this comprehensive break down, I was thinking of joining SW but there wasn't much of an explanation on their website.
  • Kathy Honey

    16/04/2017 at 4:09 pm

    Struggling 4lb to go any tips please
    1. Cliona

      17/04/2017 at 2:02 pm

      Hi Kathy, have you tried doing an SP week by any chance? It can really help get those last few pounds off! You can find out more about it here:
  • elizabeth

    27/04/2017 at 3:16 pm

    I am so chuffed i came across your site, i have been debating weather or not to do slimming world but after being to meetings before i cold never get m head around things. You have explained it so well i now feel confident enough to start at a meeting tomorrow. I love how you did the list of foods, thank you!
    1. Cliona

      02/05/2017 at 11:52 am

      I'm so glad that this was helpful for you Elizabeth! Well done for starting your journey, it's an amazing plan and works for so many people!
  • Melanie

    06/05/2017 at 10:06 am

    Can you tell me when you will be providing a list of HexA & B
    1. Cliona

      07/05/2017 at 11:58 pm

      Hi Melanie, I haven't got any in the works at the moment but I'll let you know when I do!
  • Llinos

    22/06/2017 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Cliona - thanks for this info. Trying to lose my baby weight now LO is 3 months over... my question is - as a breastfeeding mother, am I allowed more syns or healthy extras? x
    1. Cliona

      01/07/2017 at 10:21 am

      I believe that you do but I would suggest checking with Slimming World directly as I wouldn't want to give you any incorrect info!
  • Irene Greenman

    23/06/2017 at 9:55 pm

    Thank you so much for this comprehensive introduction. I have enrolled in SW online, but just seemed unable to get my head around meal planning. I hope that, having found your site, I can do better. Only 3 days to my first weigh in. Thank you again.
    1. Cliona

      01/07/2017 at 10:19 am

      Good luck!
  • Carol

    04/07/2017 at 7:04 pm

    Enjoyed your explanation about s/w ,I can't get to class as my car Brocken but I need to lose weight I just need extra help I have never lost at any club but I am now 14 stone I feel too heavy
    1. Cliona

      13/07/2017 at 9:47 pm

      Hi Carol, I'm glad you found this useful! Hopefully it'll be some help if you can't get to class too! Good luck with your journey!
  • Kate

    17/07/2017 at 4:47 pm

    Hi I have been on sw from Feb and I just can't seem to lose the weight at the speed I thought it would be at I have not reach the 2stone which I thought I would be at. I have been on the eesp plan for quite a while now this getting me down feel like just giving up
  • Chrissy

    03/09/2017 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks for providing a wonderfully straightforward explanation. It was far clearer than the Slimming World website. I have recently joined Slimming World Online and your explanation has greatly assisted my understanding of the guides and resources and has increased my motivation.
    1. Cliona

      04/09/2017 at 8:35 pm

      I'm so pleased that you found this helpful! Good luck on your Slimming World journey!
  • Irene Hand

    05/09/2017 at 6:26 pm

    I have chosen to follow the Slimming World plan for the simple reason that no food is "bad". I like a glass (or two) of wine, butter on my jacket potato, bread (I won't be having this combination on a daily basis obviously) and Slimming World lets YOU fit what YOU like into your daily diet. In my first week I lost 5.5 lbs (yay) and am aiming for 1 - 1.5 lb per week. Good luck to everyone on their journey.
    1. Cliona

      26/09/2017 at 12:18 pm

      Good luck Irene!
  • Christina

    07/11/2017 at 1:15 am

    Any suggestions for doing this online? Would you recommend it? They don’t offer groups where I live.
    1. Cliona

      13/11/2017 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Christina, lots of people do it online very successfully so that's definitely a good option! There are lots of Facebook groups you can join too, including my own one, where people offer support and help!
  • Leila

    07/01/2018 at 6:06 am

    Hello thank u for the explanation is it possible to get a list of the syns
    1. Cliona

      08/01/2018 at 11:46 am

      Hi Leila, I don't have a list of syns on here but you can often find them on Google or on Facebook and Pinterest has some good lists available!
  • Claire

    10/01/2018 at 10:53 pm

    Hi, Just one point, the article reads like if you over indulge one day and go over your syns then you can account for it the next day. That is not the case, SW advise that if you go over your syns you write it off and forget about it, treating the next day as a normal ‘on plan’ day with 5-15 syns as usual. I believe the reason is because people were accumulating syns for special occasions and that’s not the idea. If you have a special meal, etc, then have what you like and don’t syn it but get right back on plan as soon as you an. Allowing people to make up for over indulgences the following day is similar to a yo-yo diet and encourages that behaviour. Kind regards
  • Helena

    11/01/2018 at 10:36 pm

    Hello Cliona, your plan seems to be really doable and I'm motivated to start straight away. Thank you so much for helping us all! The only question I've got about the app. What's the name of the app, please? I've seen at least three slimming world apps in Applestore but none of them seems to be the right one. Thanks in advance.
    1. Cliona

      13/01/2018 at 10:28 am

      Hi Helena, I'm very glad you found this useful! The app on the App Store should be marked as the official one ?
  • Tara

    12/01/2018 at 6:18 pm

    Great read! Does the syns allowance vary per individual or can everyone have 5-15? Thanks
    1. Cliona

      13/01/2018 at 10:26 am

      Hi Tara, glad it's helpful! Everyone can have between 5-15 but there are some exceptions who can have more, like men for example, but you'd need to check the exact figures with Slimming World ?
  • Kath

    17/01/2018 at 4:33 pm

    Can you have 500ml of semi skimmed milk per day l can’t do without my milky coffe .
    1. Cliona

      22/01/2018 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Kath, I don't know the amount off the top of my head but yes you can have semi-skimmed milk as your healthy extra A!
      1. Kath

        23/01/2018 at 4:58 pm

        Thanks for the information I have a punnet of fruit per day mainly melon and grapes can the natural sugar in the fruit prevent my weight loss
      2. Rachel

        20/02/2018 at 9:54 pm

        350ml of skimmed or 250 semi skimmed
  • Shana

    21/01/2018 at 7:23 am

    This was a great read, and very helpful. ❤
  • layar

    22/01/2018 at 8:19 am

    Hello, You say that we are allowed a slice of bread. Is that a slice a day or a meal pls. Thanks for the great article.
    1. Cliona

      22/01/2018 at 9:44 pm

      You can have a slice of bread as your healthy extra B per day, or two slices depending on the weight of the bread :)
  • Amy Stretch-Parker

    22/01/2018 at 9:25 pm

    Totally inspired me to join a class. You made it sound so doable, and for people like me, who like to go somewhere with at least a bit of info about what I'm going to commit too first, this page is perfect. Thanks! (my mum has been trying to get me to go for months, she is 4lbs off her target weight and looks amazing) WISH ME LUCK XX
    1. Cliona

      22/01/2018 at 9:44 pm

      This is amazing! I'm so glad I've inspired you to go! It was a similar thing with me, my mum was trying to encourage me to go but it took me ages to decide to actually do it! Piece of advice...stock up on some things that you know are within the plan (lean meats, veggies, wholemeal bread etc...) because you'll want to get started when you get home and there's nothing worse than realising you've got to wait another day! Good luck!
  • Judy Colston

    12/02/2018 at 3:23 am

    Hi. Iwason SW years ago and got on with it well. Can you let e know it it red or green or food optimising it would be called now I guess. But it thisthe same thing. Thanks judy
    1. Cliona

      12/02/2018 at 9:33 pm

      Hi Judy, Slimming World no longer do the red and green days and they now do the Easy Extra Plan :)
  • Julie

    18/02/2018 at 9:32 pm

    Hi I’m vegetarian, do we still have 1 healthy A and B? Is it the same xx
    1. Cliona

      12/03/2018 at 6:48 pm

      Hi Julie, yes the healthy extras stay the same :)
  • Rachel

    20/02/2018 at 9:52 pm

    Hi! I’m glad I came across this pin. I’ve been a member for almost 2.5 years and my weight has sustained now for a year. I’m no longer a member but follow plan daily. I help my friends out who want to follow it but not necessarily go to group. This has helped to explain the SW simply and love the 20 cal to 1 syn rule. This is useful. I’ve saved this pin as I will be using it again. Thank you
    1. Cliona

      12/03/2018 at 6:48 pm

      Glad I could help Rachel!
  • susan godfrey

    27/02/2018 at 7:49 pm

    Hi, I to did Red & Green days and found it good but would like to try Extra easy BUT I cannot get my head around you can eat most things but only 1 piece of bread BUT you can eat 2 and call it a syn? Is that right.
    1. Cliona

      12/03/2018 at 6:45 pm

      Hi Susan, you can have 60g of any wholemeal bread for your healthy extra B. This could be one, two or even three slices of bread depending on the loaf. As a general rule of thumb however, it's one slice from a full sized loaf and two from a small loaf. If you have any more on top of that then you'd need to count the syns for the additional bread. Hope that helps!
  • Jeanette

    08/04/2018 at 11:08 am

    I’ve found you in the nick of time! I have done ww & sw a number of times each time I’d loose about 2 & 1/2 stones tten hit a brick wall, change my exercise etc to switch it up but would just be stuck. A few yrs have passed, I needed open heart surg ( out of the blue, nothing to do with my weight ironically tho probs brought surg forward). While in hosp, to have surg safely I had to loose 6 1/2 stone asap, so much to dietitians unease. Cardiologist put me on600cal daily diet ( 3 x 200ml shakes) and tbh it was my only way & let’s face it I was ill & had no appetite anyhow. Then I’d have 2 shakes so 409 cal & 200 cal prepped meal from home. Low carb high protein was pref. So I did it in less than 4 mths had surg & kept it off for 4 yrs tho now I’ve probs put a stone on, can’t abide fried foods for some reason or choc but savoury is my downfall. I blame my husband for getting a new toaster! Bread! With butter! When you look at me 16 & 1/2 stone you’d think I stuff my fave but no I’m doing it all wrong, I’m not a breakfast person, never was and sometimes don’t even have lunch and I’d have smaller than average portions- I’m a slow eater, mindful eater. I used to struggle to eat the amount on sw, just so much of it! And now I’m basically immobile, I can tootle around the house with my stick but if I’m out I need a mobility scooter or wheelchair. My daughter has booked a cruise which is in about 35 days and I dare not try to see if my sumner clothes still fit! I think I need the Sp plan to get me going.
  • Karen A

    29/04/2018 at 9:33 am

    Hi Cliona What a very useful guide to SW you’ve provided. Been a member twice over the last 20+ years and follow the plan loosely most of the time. Always struggle with the last 6lbs though... I’m inspired enough to use your advice and get to my target ie none dimply thighs for summer! Will also share with my family. My men wouldn’t join a group even if I asked them but your simple explanation may back up my efforts in the kitchen. Thanks for being so unselfish as to share a succinct précis of the SW way. Expect a call from Margaret as you’d make an awe inspiring speaker.... just sayin x
    1. Cliona

      23/05/2018 at 10:53 am

      Hi Karen, thank you for your kind words! Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you, I've been having a bit of a wobble myself and haven't been creating as much as I'd like! I'm so glad you found this post useful and that it'll help back you up at home. Maybe you could even try and motivate people at home with your own little SW group, setting yourself challenges and keeping eachother motivated! x
      1. Teresa Gordon

        13/09/2018 at 12:21 pm

        Hi, this looks great. Is it the up to date SW programme? Thanks
        1. Cliona

          17/09/2018 at 8:43 am

          Hi Teresa, as far as I'm aware although since writing they have updated various syn values etc... but the core facts of the plan remain the same :)
  • Michelle Morrell

    28/05/2018 at 9:14 pm

    Hi this is great, I did weight watchers lost over 6 stone, but over last 2 years I've put it on and more?. I've found it very hard to lose weight since I got my gallbladder removed. But I now understand the plan and I'm starting tomorrow ?
  • Ray

    30/05/2019 at 1:17 am

    Hi Cliona, I just wanted to say thanks as your article clearly explained the plan and has motivated me to commit to it.
    1. Cliona

      30/05/2019 at 6:19 pm

      I'm so glad! Good luck Ray!
  • Gabi

    08/04/2020 at 7:51 am

    Thank you so much. It has helped me understand how it works now.
  • Nancy

    24/01/2022 at 3:17 pm

    You have been such a help! I'm in the USA and have been trying to figure this out on my own for about a month. There are no groups I can join so I thought of joining SW online but then every recipe I've tried has to be converted to pounds and ounces, ughhhhhhhh. Would you have any knowledge of a group that would be easy to understand as far as meal prepping? Thank you in advance and thank you for all your information!

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