In previous films I’ve directed for the BBC (Women and Money) I’ve explored the private monologues that run in people’s heads.

I’m curious to discover the deeper truths that our daily preoccupations reveal about us. So turning to the subject of our complicated relationship with food seemed like very fertile territory to me.

I wanted to make a warm-hearted film that told the story of people’s individual psychology in relation to what they eat.

‘I really feel proud of myself’: Rosemund’s boring Christmas paid off

My films often have a personal starting point and I’m as preoccupied as the next person with what I eat.

I’ve never been a member of a slimming club but I’m very aware that, like many women, I have a tyrannical voice in my head that dictates what I do or don’t feel entitled to eat.

The decision to make a film about slimming clubs was quite straightforward. It seemed the simplest way to find people with stories to tell about their relationship with food.

And as a filmmaker I knew the value of having a particular place or community in which to set a film.

(When I embarked on this film I’d just finished making Walking With Dogs, a film about people’s relationships with their dogs which was filmed in a single location - Hampstead Heath.)

This film is set in three different slimming clubs – Weight Watchers in Dulwich, south London, Slimming World in East Finchley, north London and Rosemary Conley Diet and Fitness in Epsom, Surrey.

I chose to feature three different clubs because I wasn’t setting out to assess one particular brand or product.

'Be a bit more cautious with your cottage cheese': Slimming World’s Ginny gives advice at a meeting

What really struck me was the fact that all over the country thousands of people were scuttling into slimming clubs every week.

It was as though I’d happened upon a new religion and it seemed significant that the three groups I chose all held their meetings in churches.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the prevalence of religious language and the many similarities with religion that I came across – finding support in a communal environment, working to a shared set of rules and directives and confessing one's transgressions on a weekly basis.

In the course of researching this film many of the people I met used the same phrase. They all said that if they didn’t attend their slimming club regularly they were worried they would ‘balloon’.

I felt they were expressing a fear of their own appetites and a terror of losing control.

I’m not sure ultimately that this fear is actually about food, but clearly for many of us food has a profound and unconscious significance that means it’s rarely just straightforward fuel.

I hope the choice of people featured in the film reflects the great variety of factors that affect people’s eating habits and that those of you who watch the film will maybe find aspects of yourselves reflected in the programme.

Vanessa Engle is the producer and director of Welcome To The World Of Weight Loss.

Welcome To The World Of Weight Loss is on Wednesday, 21 August at 9pm on BBC Two and BBC Two HD.

More on Welcome To The World Of Weight Loss
The Guardian: Vanessa Engle: why a slimming documentary doesn't have to be heavy

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • Comment number 13. Posted by Pearson

    on 18 Sept 2013 10:30

    This comment was removed because it broke the house rules. Explain

  • Comment number 12. Posted by boylamn

    on 11 Sept 2013 20:29

    Have to say I'm all about keeping a food diary - by far the best method I've found for extreme weight loss for good.

    I don't believe in weighing in daily - once a week, the same time each week, is best I think

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by melissa

    on 9 Sept 2013 01:15

    Great Blogs. Talking about weight loss and being aware of what you are eating to be have a healthy life style..It is more interesting to discuss the the following steps in getting weight loss. Drinking water can loss your weight .It is the best way to start all over again.. More discussion are waiting on how you loss weight by just drinking water..[Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by VanessaEngle

    on 5 Sept 2013 16:57

    Many thanks for all your lovely comments. We’ve had a fantastic response to the programme, and are very grateful to all those who took part. Like Lindy, I admire the contributors for being so open. As Errol says, we really wanted to look at the complex reasons why people might want to lose weight, and for many of the people we interviewed, the clubs appeared provide them with the support they craved. Mary – I’m so glad you enjoyed watching Joan and Sharon – they were wonderful interviewees and delightful to get to know. Sam – I’m sorry to read that you didn’t enjoy the programme. I think the film reflected a real range of different people with interesting and often surprising stories to tell, all of whom were very enthusiastic members of their various slimming clubs.

  • Comment number 9. Posted by Barry Honeycombe

    on 1 Sept 2013 15:05

    This comment was removed because it broke the house rules. Explain

  • Comment number 8. Posted by Sam

    on 31 Aug 2013 00:10

    I thought the programme was very flat and considering Vanessa Engle interviewed such a broad range of people she only came up with slimming club cliches. I have been a slimming world member for a number of years now and the programme did nothing to really show the enthusiasm generated by such a broad range of British characters. It is silly of her to suggest that it is a religion as most slimming club members are able to incorporate it into their everday lives. Overall Vanessa Engle's dead pan approach leaves one feeling depressed which seems to me a rather pontless means of making documentaries.

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by Lynne

    on 22 Aug 2013 20:16

    I was a WeightWatchers leader some years ago. A member (who turned up year after year, never actually losing any weight, seeing it as a social outlet) phoned me to say she'd been in hospital due to a nosebleed that wouldn't stop. I spent quite some time sympathising, privately wondering why she was telling me this, didn't she have closer friends or any family? Her killer question, eventually, was: "They think I've lost a pint of blood. How many points is that, is it enough to have a pizza and a Mars Bar?"

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by wjwright

    on 22 Aug 2013 20:08

    what I found very difficult to understand was that not very much real food was cooked or eaten by most of the people taking part in this programme

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by Jennifer

    on 22 Aug 2013 19:23

    I thought the programme was really interesting and accurate as a portrayal of food obsession. Endless bargaining, negotiating, trying to get away with extra food etc etc. All very familiar to me after a lifetime of yo yo dieting. I tried weight watchers, amongst many other things. Nothing worked for me apart from Overeaters anonymous, a 12 step programme for compulsive overeaters, anorexics and bulimics. Www.oagb.org.uk.

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by Paul

    on 21 Aug 2013 21:28

    I enjoyed the programme in terms of the links between mood and food and the link between a need to monitor what we eat and companies that peddle the need to make us feel good about ourselves. I thought Vanessa Engle did not fall in usual trap of preaching about diets but let the viewer make up his/her mind about the validity of such clubs. I think we often forget the social need for people to belong to clubs and acceptance, when perhaps it is not always the case in the home.

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