How do you lose weight without dieting?
Like, actually lose weight in a sustainable and enjoyable way…
Still drinking alcohol and eating foods you love…
And keep it off?
Is that even possible?!
Yes, it absolutely is, and this post I’ll show you how.
How to lose weight without dieting
Let’s start by taking a quick look at the big picture.
If you are overweight, all this means is that your current energy intake is higher than it needs to be.
Therefore it’s likely that one or two changes to your habits, implemented consistently, would create weight loss.
You could keep in a lot of what you enjoy, but just have smaller portions of favourite high calorie foods, or create a plan that helps reduce snacking, and you start to see progress.
When you’ve mastered one of those, you can add in another one and work on that.
This way it feels doable and like not like you’re having to overhaul your entire life.
It’s incredibly easy for calories to add up, especially with alcohol and weekend eating. To get to a healthy weight and stay there, we need to find the easiest way to bring it down.
You don’t need to change everything. You just need to know what really works, and build habits that work for you.
Let’s look at an example.
Brenda’s weight loss story
Brenda is a mum of two young kids. She tries to eat well most of the time, but struggles with emotional eating. Chocolate and biscuits are the go-to choices in those situations, which can be a few times a week if life is hectic and stressful.
She loves chocolate and the odd slice of cake, but tries really hard not to eat those ‘bad’ foods when she’s ‘being good’ or on a diet. (Ironically, if she feels like she messes up her diet, she immediately eats lots of those foods. Her brain tells her that she’s ruined it anyway so may as well keep going).
Brenda sometimes snacks on the kids food, when preparing it or when they leave some behind (or both). And she eats fairly late with her husband, so often gets hungry before dinner. This is another time when snacks and nibbles can easily creep in.
Brenda suspects her portion size at dinner is bigger than it needs to be. If her husband serves up, he gives her more than she wants. As a child Brenda was encouraged to eat all her dinner in order to get dessert. So she still has a tendency to clear the plate, even though it can leave her stuffed and bloated after.
At the weekends, Brenda loves to relax with her family. Maybe order a takeaway and share a bottle of wine with her husband. They’ve developed a habit of following the wine with crisps or chocolate.
Brenda doesn’t tend to plan her food, other than dinners in the week.
She wants to finally lose the weight she’s been losing and regaining for years. But she’s not sure what to do. Nothing so far has worked.
Should Brenda start another diet?
No! No is the answer to that question. There’s a better way than starting yet another diet.
Let’s look at the numbers for a moment. Although there’s more to it than this, weight loss comes down to calories.
If your calorie intake is more than what your body burns, you gain weight.
If your calorie intake is about the same as what your body burns, you stay the same.
And if your calorie intake is less than what your body burns, even just a small amount less, you start to lose weight.
Brenda’s average calorie intake is 2200 daily.
(as a side note, she guesses it’s 1700-1800 but is among the vast majority of humans, including dieticians, who naturally underestimates how much she consumes).
This isn’t 2200 every day – on days when she’s ‘really being good’ she sticks to around 1500.
But snacks, nibbles, larger portions, and the odd emotional eating binge add 2000-3000 extra calories over the week. And the takeaway (often with wine and crisps alongside) adds another 1500.
Brenda, though fictional, is a very normal person.
And the figures, though also made up, are very common.
Something I want to point out – the quotation marks I’ve used on ‘bad foods’ and ‘being good’ are there to highlight the language many people use.
Removing those labels is a key part of achieving long term weight loss success and a healthy relationship with food.
Ultimately, there are no good or bad foods, and you are not good or bad based on what you eat.
Finding balance and freedom is the goal.
That means anything can fit in moderation, and you are an awesome human regardless of what (or how much) you eat.
How to lose weight sustainably (and keep it off)
A common mistake people make when deciding to lose weight, is trying to go all in right from the start.
This often involves cutting out everything – unhealthy snacks, chocolate, biscuits, takeaway, alcohol.
If counting calories, they immediately aim to drop to the lowest doable figure. I see many women plump straight for 1200-1400 calories when their average intake before that was 2000 or more.
Maybe you’ve done this.
Kudos to you for taking action if you have. I’m hoping that here I can show you a more enjoyable (and sustainable) way to do it.
When you jump in at the deep end like that, you:
- Make it really hard on yourself
- Leave yourself no room for more progress later.
You’ve gone from standing still to sprinting up a massive hill without even warming up. Now you’ve got to keep running, hoping you don’t trip and tumble all the way back down.
Most people who follow this approach quickly run out of steam, or pull a metaphorical muscle mid-sprint. It’s too hard. Not fun or sustainable. Destined to not end well.
What I like to do with my clients is see the hill as an enjoyable hike. Not some evil mountain to sprint up.
Let’s just take consistent steps forward, allow it to feel doable, and enjoy the ever-improving view along the way.
The fast approach might last for a few days or weeks, but generally it’s not sustainable.
Soon enough you feel like you’re missing out.
This is where the all or nothing approach appears, and we experience big pendulum swings from one extreme to the other.
You’re either all on the diet, being ‘really good’, keeping your calories as low as possible each day.
Or you have something ‘bad’ and you’ve blown it. You’re off track.
This opens the door to takeaways, alcohol, chocolate, and the cycle continuing.
How to lose weight sustainably (and keep it off)
What if we did it a different way, and just took small, consistent steps forward?
Let’s quickly revisit Brenda.
Brenda’s body has been maintaining her current weight at an average of 2200 calories.
So if she made a few small changes and dropped to an average of 1700 calories, she’d lose 1lb a week. More if she started walking more too. That would feel a lot more doable than cutting out everything and aiming for 1200 calories. And there’s plenty of room to do more over time.
Note that I’m talking about this in terms of calories, but you don’t have to count them.
You just need to know how you’re living and eating right now, and make a few tweaks.
The point is that wherever you are now… if you consistently improve one area, you will see progress. You don’t have to make huge changes.
If you’re not sure where to start, write down a food diary for a week. Don’t change anything, just eat and drink as you normally would. Then take a look at it.
Where could you do a little better?
Set a goal for next week (that feels doable) and go from there.
Make it a challenge that feels achievable.
Simple steps for weight loss
What I look at with clients is how can we gradually create a lifestyle that works for you?
How can we keep in what you love, help you get more nutrition so you feel at your best, and make this journey fun?
At the fundamental level, we just need to find the easiest way to reduce your calories consistently.
These are some simple steps that might work for you.
- Planning meals – so you get enough protein and nutrition, have less thinking time later, and save calories by avoiding mindless snacking
- Smaller portions – maybe eating from a slightly smaller plate. You could also try swapping 1-2 tbsp of your carbs (potatoes / rice / pasta) for 1-2 tbsp of extra veg instead.
- Checking calories – start looking more closely at packets. What does a recommended serving look like? If you don’t know, try weighing it out. Just doing this a handful of times can empower you with knowledge to that makes a big difference to your portion sizes (and therefore calorie intake) over time.
- Default snacks – fruit or protein. Having a piece of fruit or a source of protein (such as a protein shake, Greek yogurt or boiled egg) as your go-to snack choice saves you thinking power, gives a boost of nutrition, and keeps you fuller for longer.
- Drinking more water – very often cravings are thirst in disguise. Maybe you could build the habit of having a glass of water and waiting 15 minutes before you snack?
- Getting to bed earlier – this can make a huge difference. More sleep means less cravings for sugary snacks, and more energy to be more active in the day.
One more key factor is this…
How to improve your relationship with food
This is something I work on in depth with my coaching clients.
I wrote about it recently in my article here –
As mentioned already, it starts with removing the labels and restrictions. Nothing is good or bad or naughty… it’s all just food.
Anything is ok. Nothing is off limits. You’re choosing what makes you feel best most of the time (great nutrition), but also saving some calories for the best of whatever else you love.
Practice tuning back into your body and working with it, not against it.
Diets tend to cause us to forget the basics – eating when we’re hungry and stopping when we feel satisfied.
We have a built-in system that tells us when we need fuel, and when we’ve had enough. Most of us have just unlearned the habit and skill of listen to it.
Fortunately, you can relearn that.
A book I would highly recommend checking out when it comes to mindset is Chasing Cupcakes by Elizabeth Benton (find it on amazon HERE).
Planning helps a lot. Most people are too busy not to plan. Winging it leads to hunger and sugar crashes, overeating, grabbing food on the go, mindless snacking, feeling frustrated by a lack of progress.
When you plan, you have structure and nutrition to keep your energy and blood sugar levels balanced. You get to save calories for the best of what you love.
Because you’ve reduced your intake elsewhere (often by cutting out snacks and choices that weren’t that enjoyable anyway), you can mindfully enjoy some of your favourite foods, guilt-free, and still make progress. How great is that?
Food can become a relaxed, enjoyable part of your life.
It can do this while also fading into the background, because you’re having so much fun being the BEST version of you.
Healthy, fit, energised, balanced.
You can do it.
It takes small steps consistent steps, and enjoying the process.
This is what I can help you with through online coaching, and you can find more info here:
If you need any help or have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me HERE.