#ScrewDiets! You never keep any of the weight off. They only leave you feeling hungry, deprived and miserable and, once you put all the weight back on, fed up with the process.
So instead of going on another diet to slim down, here are the 5 steps you can take to lose fat almost effortlessly without going on a diet.
"Drop 20lbs in 7 days - just eat kale all day long!"
1. Manage your portions
The fastest way to losing a few extra pounds without having to count calories is with one of the most basic weight-loss strategies: portion control.
I know. That's not exactly the "biohack" of the century. But sometimes, the most simple and obvious weight loss approach is also the most effective. Research that looked at the results from many previous studies, found strong evidence that by simply reducing your meal portions, you can easily lose weight and keep it off in the long-term.
For example, this lady managed to lose 75lbs by simply using portion control.
But before you go off to reduce all food and start starving yourself, let me really emphasis something:
Portion control does NOT mean cutting down all food.
It means choosing less calorie-dense crap and more nutrient-dense foods.
If you're worried about what are the correct portion sizes, here's a really easy-to-follow guide:
Source: Precision Nutrition - The best calorie control guide. [Infographic] [link]
NOTE: Keep in mind that the above infographic is NOT a definitive guide. As you can see, these portions should be adjusted depending on how active you are, how often you eat, your appetite and your goals.
Finally, if you need more practical tips to nail the whole portion control thing, check out this article.
2. Eat more protein to lose fat effortlessly
When it comes to weight loss, for some reason protein is underrated. It just gets a bad rap. I've heard doctors and other well-educated people, say that protein puts a strain on your liver and kidneys and they will eventually fail.
If you're worried about the effect that protein can have on your liver and kidneys, let me reassure you:
Unless you have an existing liver or kidney condition, eating a high-protein diet is highly unlikely to cause any health problems.
If you actually do have a condition, please speak to your doctor.
So far the research shows no signs that healthy adults should expect kidney or liver damage from increased protein consumption. But for the sake of safety, gradually increase it up to the recommended amount of three palm-sized portions per day + one as a snack.
Now on to the benefits:
1) Protein provides a longer sense of fullness
Protein provides a powerful signal to the brain giving you a longer sense of fullness. One reason is that it helps your gut produce more of the hormone called peptide YY, which is responsible for the sensation of fullness. It also reduces your levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. So a hormonal double-whammy on feeling hungry.
The power of these signals is very effective. A study showed that women who increased how much protein they ate from 15% to 30% of their daily calories, ate on average 441 calories less, without doing anything else. No restrictions, no calorie counting, no "diet" foods.
2) Protein increases your lean weight (i.e. muscle )
Eating more protein also increases your lean tissues, also known as fat-free weight. You build a bit more muscle and strengthen your bones by making them denser.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "I don't want more muscle. My goal is to lose weight, not gain weight!"
Actually, having more muscle tissue promotes fat loss.
Lean tissue is important for several reasons, including a 'quicker' metabolism, good mobility, stronger bones with a lower risk of fractures and even slowing down ageing. It makes your body use up more calories just for staying alive.
Also, remember that your goal isn't to lose weight. You want to lose fat. If you want to look good, feel lighter on your toes and be able to move around more freely, then you need to focus on losing the right type of weight (i.e. fat).
3) Protein boosts your metabolism
Finally, eating protein makes your body work harder to digest it. If your goal is weight loss, this is definitely a good thing.
Your body burns calories in order to digest food. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF) and makes up around 30% of your daily energy use. It's kinda like how a nuclear reactor needs electricity in order to generate electricity.
(How on Earth did we get into nuclear reactors in an article about weight loss?)
When you're digesting carbs or fats, you burn around 5% of the energy gained for digestion. So if you eat a baguette that contains 200kcal (about a 6-inch baguette), you will probably absorb around 190kcal.
But when you digest protein, your body uses up to 35% of that energy for digestion. So 200kcal worth of egg-white omelette (which is a LOT of egg whites ~ 12 large egg whites), you will only absorb around 130kcal.
Add this on top of the benefits explained in the previous two points and you can see why protein is your friend in weight loss.
In order to have a higher TEF, you should increase your protein intake to about one palm-sized portion per meal.
Note: Most trendy diets lead to weight loss mainly because people increase the amount of protein they eat. Keto, Paleo, Atkins, Zone, South Beach, Dukan - they all focus on more protein. The problem with all diets is that they are overly restrictive. They limit healthy food choices (like fruit, beans and whole grains) and they're difficult to sustain for more than a few months. Remember: If your diet is temporary, then so are the results. Keep this in mind next time you get jealous over someone else's weight loss diet.
4) Which foods are the best sources of protein?
Since protein is essential for losing weight and managing hunger, the next question is what foods are a great source of protein.
Honestly, there are plenty of protein choices.
For non-vegetarians, some of the best choices are lean meats like chicken, turkey, low-fat beef/pork mince, virtually all fish, mussels and prawns, and most low-fat dairy like cottage cheese, low-fat plain yoghurt and skyr. For meats, trim the skin and any visible fats.
For vegetarians and vegans, some of the best plant-based choices are tofu, tempeh, soy-based yoghurt, beans, lentils and chickpeas, as well as plant-based protein shakes (popular choices are hemp, soy, pea or rice protein).
3. Get moving, stay active
The other class of weight loss tips is physical activity.
When you hear physical activity, don't just think about jumping on a treadmill and boringly running towards a slow and painful death. But there are better ways to stay on top of your fitness.
Firstly, make a list of 3 exercises you really, REALLY enjoy.
Do you like playing tennis? Or swimming laps? Do you feel like hitting a punching bag to let go of some steam, even if you don't know how to punch?
Make a list of five you like, then cut it down to the three you really enjoy. They should be things you don't do for the sake of exercise but out of sheer fun. Ones that you get lost into, and stay present with at the same time! Ones that make you gain energy doing them.
For most people, this is usually team sports but have an open mind and trust your gut with this.
Your goal is to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. That's one 30-min bike ride five times a week (e.g. Monday-Friday after work). Or you can do two 60-min yoga/pilates classes and a 30-min speed-walk while listening to a podcast. Or whatever floats your boat.
The second part is staying active throughout the day.
Explore all the possibilities you can do here. Here are a few ideas:
increase your walking speed from slow to moderate
take the stairs everywhere
stand up and stretch every half an hour
walk to the water fountain for a glass of water a few times a day
go for a walk after having lunch and get your mind off of "work mode" for a while.
4. Sleep yourself leaner
The fourth aspect you should be considering is this:
Are you getting your beauty 7-9h sleep?
When I advise women trying to lose weight to think about their sleep, they usually look at me as if I told them to eat a whole cake.
That's because we think of sleep as a passive activity. We lie down and do nothing for 8 hours. How is that going to help anyone lose weight?
Despite what you might think, sleep is very much an active state. Getting enough is necessary for your body and brain to function properly.
This is a major help for fat loss. Here's how.
Firstly, lacking enough sleep is directly linked to more fat mass. Several studies show that the less sleep people get, the more fat mass they gain. There's also one study that tested what effect reducing sleep from 8.5h to 5.5h had on dieters. It turns out they still lost weight - but mainly from lean mass. And just as we discussed in the protein section, if you want to keep the weight off in the long term, this is no bueno.
Secondly, sleep affects your willpower & brain function. How much easier is it to say "Screw it!" and reach out for a Ben & Jerry's if you're underslept?
At the same time, can you remember a day where you woke up rested and recovered, and you were virtually a productivity machine for the whole day? You smashed a gym session, your diet was on point, you did amazingly at work and came home to be the world's most amazing partner and mum. Most often, all you need to do for another day like that is to get enough high-quality sleep.
Finally, not getting enough sleep messes with your stress hormones. Not surprisingly, you produce more cortisol (the stress hormone) when you're underslept, which puts your body in fat-preserving mode. One study found that mild undersleeping for 5 days straight (you know, like your Monday to Friday) increased people's cortisol levels on average by 51%.
How much sleep you need depends on how rested you feel when you wake up. I keep on hearing people tell me they naturally only need 5h each night, but this is generally rare. Most of us need around 7.5h. And before you say "I'd love to get that much sleep but I get up for work at 7 am." - the solution is really simple. Instead of trying to sleep in, you go to bed earlier. In this case, you should be in bed by 11 pm and take around half an hour to fall asleep.
Simple? Yup. Easy? Also yes. At the end of the day, how hard can it be to just go to sleep?
Getting quality sleep is necessary for a healthy metabolism, good energy levels, strong willpower, and overall wellbeing.
So, while some weight-loss "experts" will tell you to sacrifice sleep and instead wake up at 5 am to go jogging for an hour, I know you're smarter than this.
You're much more likely to stick to any weight loss programme if you don't slack on your sleep.
5. Eat mindfully and in peace
One of the most overlooked and underappreciated strategies to consistent and long-term no-diet weight loss is this: Just be mindful while you eat.
It's not exactly revolutionary advice. There's no buzz to it. So most "diet gurus" prefer to not talk about it, and instead give you a list of foods that are off-limits.
In reality, though, being mindful of your eating habits is essential for weight loss and establishing a good relationship with food.
Here is a step-by-step guide to eating mindfully.
1. Firstly, be mindful of your eating environment.
You need to be eating in peace. Make sure you're in a relaxed setting with no distractions. That means no phones, Netflix's or Love Island's. Everything around your plate also matters, so eat on a clean and clear table, so you don't feel spatially restricted. If possible, avoid busy loud places. However, feel free to socialise, as long as it's face-to-face with someone in the room.
2. Secondly, stay present while you eat.
If you're eating alone, your goal should be to focus on the sensations of the food.
Pay attention to the aromas and flavours of your meal.
Observe the colours in your plate.
Feel the weight of the fork or spoon - does it feel heavy or light in your hands? Firm or wobbly?
Focus on the texture and the sensation of chewing - how does it feel against your tongue, gums and the roof of your mouth? Is your jaw constantly tense, or does it operate smoothly, switching between contraction and relaxation?
3. Thirdly, pay attention to cravings and signs of fullness.
Finally, mindful eating is about being attentive to your hunger signals and cravings. Pause for a moment and notice whether you're happy with how satiated you feel. Are you pleasantly full or starting to feel a bit stuffed?
As a general rule, stop eating when you're around 80% full, since fullness signals take around 10min to reach your brain. Also, if you feel an urge to eat something sweet after, is that just a craving or a genuine need? Will eating an apple or some carrot sticks relieve it, or do you feel like a biscuit?
Whatever it is, don't try to 'change' the feeling. Appreciate being able to spot it, and decide whether you should have it or not. Maybe you do need some chocolate, or maybe a small banana will be just as pleasing.
Mindless eating leads to overeating. Eat mindfully and appreciate all flavours of the food.
If you're focusing on other things while eating, such as your phone, the TV or your work, you usually end up wishing stronger flavours, which can lead to you eating more than you planned to. By focusing on eating mindfully, you are much more able to notice any signs of fullness and stop. It also allows you to sense more subtle flavours and appreciate food so much more, so you're less likely to feel like dessert.
6. Practice self-acceptance and self-care
Although this is a bonus principle, it is absolutely essential.
Trying to despreately change how they look is one of the main reasons people stay "stuck" with weight loss - either not losing any weight or gaining it back on shortly after.
I have seen people do all the right things. Count calories, cut out carbs, control portions and never give into cravings. And still not lose a single pound.
I have also seen how simply practising self-acceptance has made losing weight and keeping it off almost effortless for some people.
And yes, self-acceptance is not something you either have or you don't - it takes practice.
If you honestly want to improve your overall health and quality of life, then you should know that there's a lot more than simply "becoming slim".
Imagine a scenario:
After a stressful day at work, Kate is fed up and exhausted. She's already resenting having to prepare dinner at home. She finds the cake tin on the kitchen counter and cuts herself a large slice of cake, eating it quickly and mindlessly, without even savouring it. Then she thinks to herself: "Great! There goes your diet, Kate! You're not even able to stick to a stupid diet! Well, since you already blew it, you might as well eat another slice now!". Kate cuts another large slice and eats it just as quickly and mindlessly. "I'll only eat salads tomorrow to make up for this!"
Hopefully, this story made you chuckle, but for some, it usually strikes a nerve. Most people can relate to Kate's struggles with dieting. She's following a very restrictive diet until one day when too much stress builds up and she's not able to control it, she falls back to old habits and uses food as a coping strategy. Then she feels remorse over "blowing" her diet,
You've probably already tried punishing yourself with harsh diets and restrictions in the past. Since you're reading this, it probably hasn't worked. So why not give some self-love a try.
Going for true self-worth gets you to stare the problem right in its eyes. And I strongly advise you to look for the right support if many wounds are surfacing. There are many great books and resources on weight loss self-esteem, body image, and true self-acceptance that will take you in new directions. But even more effectively, joining a group of likeminded people with similar issues will always be my number one advice.
If the thought of doing self-appreciation activities and exercises feels a bit too far for your weight loss, chances are you need it more than you think.
Take 10-min to read the story of this woman that lost 40 pounds by rediscovering her self-love.
Try this simple body-appreciation test:
Look in the mirror and say to yourself "You're gorgeous!". Did it feel natural or make you gag? If the latter, you need to work towards greater self-love and appreciation.
Fortunately, there are tons of helpful self-love exercises you can do to help with losing weight:
Do daily affirmations - In the beginning, these will feel like lies but try to stick to it. Each morning and evening, while looking in the bathroom mirror, say to yourself out loud "I am already awesome and I'm on my way to becoming more awesome". This will feel more relatable in the first few weeks, until you're able to say "I'm gorgeous!".
Keep a gratitude journal - Go and buy a pretty hardcover notebook and create your gratitude journal. Write down 5 things you're grateful for each day. I find it easier to do in the morning, but we have more creativity and open-mindedness in the evenings, so feel free to experiment and see what time of day works best.
Create an achievement journal - In the same (or a different) journal make a daily list of 5 things you achieved on that day. If five things sound like a lot, you MUST do 10! Trust me on this, I had the same issue initially. The whole point is not to write down great achievements every day like "I did a 2-hour treadmill run" or "I havent eaten sugar for a week". Instead, you want to set your bar really low for this, and celebrate the tiniest of wins. Things like "skipped a biscuit offer" or "tried to be mindful on my way to the car". Within a few days you'll notice feeling better about yourself.
The "I'm amazing because..." journal - In the same (or a different) journal write down one thing that makes you amazing. Switch up the aspect to come up with new ideas every day. This week it's "My best attribute is...", next week it could be "My family appreciates my...", and the week after it's "My colleagues/friends admire my...".
Practice reframing negative self-talk - If you tend to put yourself down a lot with thoughts like "Look at how unattractive you are!" or "Why did you eat chocolate again?!", this exercise is what you really need. Any time you catch yourself having a negative thought about yourself, take a minute and reframe that into a positive one. "You look fat" becomes "You have some beautiful curves" (Note: Be specific. Name a few.) "You blew your diet" becomes "You fell for your cravings (again). That's normal. Learn the lesson and move on. You're still on the right path".
Honestly, for the best outcome, I recommend using all of the exercises for at least 28 days.
Losing weight isn't difficult and you don't need a restrictive diet or going to the gym every day to get slimmer. Sorry, "miracle" diets don't exist, and short-term dieting can only give you short-term results.
By applying some simple and easy strategies like understanding portion control, emphasising on protein, finding activities you enjoy, sleeping enough and learning to appreciate yourself and your journey, you make it much more likely to not only lose weight easily, but also to keep it off in the long-term.
Understanding your body and how it functions is key in forming healthy eating habits. Sadly, there is diet information everywhere we turn, most of which is likely to turn you to restrictive eating and harsh diets.
Instead, if you appreciate your health and happiness, as well as actually keeping the weight off, we might be a good fit to work together!
Book your free 30-minute strategy call. My aim is to give you a ton of value right there on the call, and if you decide to take it further you can invest in your health and weight loss with the No-Diet Nutrition plans.
Ready to take your body shape, health and happiness to the next level?
Book your free 30-minute strategy call now!