02 Sep How to lose weight and keep it off, without counting calories
This article is going to show you how to lose weight without counting calories or using restrictive diets.
Whilst I recommend tracking macros (a form of calorie counting) for most of my online coaching clients, it isn’t always necessary.
A calorie deficit is required for weight loss. Calorie counting is the most accurate way of measuring whether or not you’re eating in a calorie deficit.
There are a variety of methods that you can use to create a calorie deficit without counting calories.
The problem with most of them is that they’re super restrictive.
You might’ve had a friend who lost weight when they started a Keto diet. Another friend might have lost weight went they went on a raw vegan diet.
These diets worked for them initially, because they removed a food group (or 10) from their life. In doing so, they created a calorie deficit. The problem with this way of losing weight is that it isn’t sustainable.
How do you expect to keep the weight off once you start eating the foods you cut out again?
This article is going to give you 10 ways to lose weight, without counting calories or restricting food groups.
Since no one wants to lose weight and gain it back, I’ll show you how you can keep it off for good too.
Ps. This is for you if you are truly overweight. If you’re skinny fat or just skinny and looking to build muscle, then you’d be better of reading this article here.
10 Ways to lose weight without counting calories
It takes a deficit of 3500 calories per week to lose roughly a pound of body weight. That’s about 500 calories a day you need to cut out from your regular food intake to achieve this rate of weight loss. You can use any of the suggestions below to create a calorie deficit. Do this consistently, every day, and you’ll lose weight.
#1: Eat from a smaller plate
The easiest way to create a calorie deficit is to eat less food than what you normally do. Choosing to fill up a smaller plate instead of a large one can help you eat less. It also gives the illusion of a full plate of food, even though it might be less than what you’re used to.
It’s smart to make sure you’re eating all your food off a plate. Every bite and taste of food counts towards your daily calorie intake. It’s easy to take yourself out of a calorie deficit if you eat from the bowl or packet whilst you’re preparing your meals. You should only eat once all your food is on your plate.
Here’s how having a smaller plate can help you create a deficit of almost 500 calories for the day.
#2: Eat your protein and veggies first
Did your mum ever tell you to eat your greens or you won’t get dessert?
Hate to say it but she was onto something…
To make sure you eat the foods that are going to fill you up the most, you should eat your protein and veggies first. Then eat your carbs if you’re still hungry.
Most of your meals should be built around protein and veggies with some carbohydrates added. A bowl of pasta with some minuscule streaks of chicken and onion needs to be turned into a chicken breast with a cup of salad and a small side of pasta. If you really like eating bowl food rather than separate food that’s fine- just add it to the bowl separately and then mix it together after.
I know it can be hard if you’re eating a sandwich and it’s all squished together between carbs.
Most meals you should have a choice. It might mean choosing to eat more meals where everything is separate (for example a piece of meat and 3 vegetables rather than a bowl of pasta).
Even if it’s a sandwich, you can make it an open sandwich and take the top layer of bread off. If you’re still really hungry, eat the second slice of bread. Most likely you won’t need it and you’ll save yourself those calories.
This doesn’t have to be for every meal. I’m not recommending that you cut out carbs altogether! The aim of this is to make sure you’re eating what’s most important first. Protein and veggies are more micronutrient dense and generally less calorie dense.
If you do this for 2 out of 3 meals per day, you’ll be eating less calorie dense food and more likely to be in a calorie deficit at the end of the day. As a result, you’ll be able to lose weight without counting calories.
Here’s an example showing how having the right quantities of veggies, carbs and fats can help you create a deficit.
Rule #3: Replace all snacks with veggies and protein
Yes, I’m obsessed with veggies and protein. I’m not so obsessed with snacking, especially if you want to lose weight.
Snacks are an easy way to add extra calories to your day. A simple way to lose weight without counting calories is to remove them.
Snacks aren’t necessary, especially if you eat decent meals that leave you feeling full. Often they’re eaten as a distraction to pass time or because you think you’re hungry but really you’re just dehydrated.
If you want to snack and still lose weight, make sure it’s a protein or vegetable based snack. You’ll be happy eating anything if you’re actually hungry so make this a strict rule!
Good options are veggie sticks (carrot, cucumber, celery, green beans), no fat greek yoghurt (can mix with stevia or berries for sweetness), steamed broccoli (if you’re really hungry you’ll eat it), jerky, low fat cottage cheese (mix with berries for sweetness), pickles, sauerkraut, and zucchini noodles with salsa.
Low calorie fruits are also good snack options so long as they are eaten whole and not juiced. Stick to one serving at a time. For example, 1 apple, or 150g of berries, or 1 peach, or 1 plum, or 1 apricot or 150g of watermelon.
And no, you don’t need dips or hummus with those veggie sticks- a little salt and pepper is ok. If you really want a dip, low fat cottage cheese or greek yoghurt is high in protein and can be used as one (mix with spices like garlic, chilli or mustard for flavour).
4: Change your drink of choice
I like wine as much as I like sparkling water.
On those days I’m not in fat loss mode, I’ll choose wine.
On the other days, I’ll choose the sparkling water.
You need to find a no calorie replacement drink that you can learn to love almost as much as your calorie dense drink of choice.
Instead of :
- fruit juice
- milky coffees
- wine/ cocktails/ spirits/ beer
- soft drinks
You need to choose any of these as replacements:
- black coffee
- black tea/ herbal tea
- sparkling water or regular water
- diet soft drink (in small quantities)
Notice how they’re pretty much all water based? Water helps you feel fuller and is good for your health so these drinks are good to have more often for better health too!
Low fat milk or protein shakes (mixed in water) can also be a good choice to have once a day when you’re trying to get more protein into your diet. Note almond milk is not high in protein.
If you have a lot of the calorie dense drinks, you can keep one per day and swap all the others. The more calorie dense drinks you remove per day, the faster you’ll lose weight.
For example, if you replace an orange juice for a lemon flavoured sparkling water, then a milky coffee with black coffee with a dash of milk and then skip those glasses of wine wine with dinner, you’ll save around 500 calories for the day.
#5: Reduce your starchy carb intake
Here’s how to kill two birds with one stone.
Reducing your portion of starchy carbs and replacing that volume with vegetable carbs will help you get more nutrients in, and create a calorie deficit too.
You don’t want to cut out carbs altogether. That will cause cravings, your workouts will suck, and it won’t be sustainable long term.
An easy way to create a calorie deficit is to replace a lot of the starchy carbs you eat (like pasta, rice, bread, oats, potato and corn), with vegetable carbs (like pumpkin, carrot and cauliflower). Starchy carbs have more calories per gram than what vegetable carbs do.
You might want to save one meal for the day where you have starchy carbs. Then for all others you can replace them with vegetable carbs.
Or you could reduce your portion of starchy carbs for each meal by half and then add in more vegetable carbs to get the same volume of food.
Some examples I like to implement into my own diet are:
- Roast pumpkin slices instead of bread
- Cauliflower rice instead of rice
- Zucchini noodles instead of pasta
- Shredded cabbage instead of noodles
I have to stress, you do NOT need to cut out pasta or bread or rice. You can have a smaller portion than usual, then add in veggies to make up the rest. For example, you could have 50g pasta instead of 150g and then make up the other 100g with zucchini noodles.
#6: Skip breakfast
Breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day.
Sorry but it’s true. If you don’t believe this, it’s because you want to have an excuse for being able to eat breakfast.
It’s ok if you like breakfast, you can eat it and use another strategy.
If you don’t like breakfast then don’t force yourself to eat it.
Breakfast isn’t necessary. It doesn’t boost your metabolism.
The key to using no breakfast to your advantage is fasting until lunch time. You can’t skip breakfast and eat a pile of snacks as soon as you get to work to make up for it. That defeats the purpose. Having a strict eating window between 12pm and 8pm (for example) will help you limit calories because it’s a lot harder to eat 2000 calories in 8 hours than what it is over the course of 16 hours.
Cutting out the first meal of the day can make life easier (hello more time to sleep in before work). It’s also smart because we have more willpower at the start of the day. Plus it will help you create a calorie deficit to lose weight without counting calories.
Say you usually eat 500 calories for breakfast. Skipping this equals a 3500 calorie deficit over the course of a week.
If you go out for brunch on the weekend that’s fine. Let’s say you were to skip breakfast for 5 days of the week only. That’s still an overall deficit of 2500 calories and you’ll lose weight.
#7: Increase your activity
When you eat in a calorie deficit, it’s natural to decrease NEAT (non-exercise activity).
To counter this, it can be helpful to ensure you increase activity! This does not mean going crazy in the gym. There’s a reason its called non-exercise activity.
It simply means moving more in your daily life. For example, taking the stairs, standing up when you can, and walking more. This can help you lose weight without counting calories by increasing your energy expenditure.
Walking more is the best way to increase calories out. Unlike high intensity cardio, walking won’t increase stress on your body or your hunger levels.
To help you get into the habit of walking more, aim to hit a daily step target.
Start with 6k steps a day and increase by 1000 steps each day until you’re hitting 10k steps per day.
#8: Stop adding extras to everything
Sauces, dressing, oils, nuts, seeds, fancy powders and all that tasty stuff are no good for weight loss. Even if they’re “healthy” versions.
These things make food taste better because they’re high in sugar or salt or fat. They usually contain more calories than you need if you’re trying to lose weight.
The best way to add flavour to your food is to use any of these:
- herbs/ spices
- hot sauce/ chilli/ mustard
- lemon juice/ lime juice
- white wine vinegar/ balsamic vinegar
- soy sauce
If you do buy a pre-packed sauce, check the label and make sure its mostly herbs and spices with limited calories per serve. Salsa can be a really good way to add flavour for few calories but it depends on the particular brand and ingredients.
Ps. Another low calorie way that I like to add flavour is to mix mustard with smooth ricotta and a little bit of water to make it runny. I use this on salads as a weird dressing but it tastes good!
#9: Watch your fats
Fat does not make you fat. But, fat does have more calories per gram (9 calories) than what protein and carbohydrates do (4 calories).
Any food high in fat is going to be higher in calories per gram.
You need fat to survive and should include it in your diet. Simply be mindful of portion sizes!
A few nuts and a few sprinkles of cheese, plus a few slices of avocado, can all bring you out of a calorie deficit.
This means that to stay in a calorie deficit without counting calories, fat portion sizes need to be smaller than you think is reasonable. Take what you’d usually have and half it or even quarter it. This will help you lose weight without counting calories.
#10: Know what’s in your food
Last but most importantly, you can lose weight without calorie counting but you still need to know what’s in your food!
You need to know whether something is mostly protein or carbohydrate or fat. Knowing whether it is mostly nutrient dense or calorie dense is also helpful.
For example, salmon is not always best for weight loss. It’s higher in fat and calories compared to white fish.
Nuts are a fat, not a protein. The problem with nuts is that they’re very easy to overeat! Portion sizes need to be watched in order to stay under your calorie requirements.
Quinoa is a carbohydrate. Peanut butter is a fat. Beans are a carbohydrate. Avocado is a fruit but it’s mostly fat. Having avocado and salmon together might be “healthy” because they have nutrients in them, but they also have more calories than toast with jam. It might not be the best choice if weight loss is your goal.
Knowing this kind of info will enable you to choose foods lower in calories for most of your meals. This means you’ll be able to create a calorie deficit without tracking simply by smart food choices.
You can still eat salmon and avocado if you want. By being aware that it’s higher in calories than you’d expect, you’ll know that your other meals for the day need to be lower in calories. Or your portion size of the salmon and avocado need to be smaller than what you’d have if it were white fish and vegetables.
There’s so many ways to do this. Tracking your food for a few weeks is the best way to learn more about what will suit your lifestyle best. If you want to learn more about tracking your macros you should read this.
How to Keep it Off
This is the easy part.
Once you start doing these things consistently, they become a habit.
It’s a lot easier to keep a habit than it is to lose it. When you have a habit in place, it’s the first thing you’ll turn to. It won’t be something you have to think about.
Until it becomes a habit you might have to force yourself to do it. But the pay-off is huge.
You’ll be able to enjoy all foods in moderation, lose weight, and keep it off, without counting calories or restricting yourself.
None of these methods are restrictive. If you decide to eat breakfast one day instead of skipping it, then you can just choose another method to save some calories for the day to stay in a deficit. If you want to have a small glass of wine with dinner then that’s ok. It will mean your deficit isn’t as big for that day but as long as it isn’t a daily thing, you’ll still be in an overall deficit for the week and will be able to lose weight.
With these tips, keeping the weight off becomes easy because you haven’t made any drastic changes or given up anything to lose the weight. Even if you break a habit for a day there is still other habits that you can have in place to make sure you stay on track.
Once you feel like you’ve lost enough weight, you might decide to get a new goal like build some muscle. The habits you’ve created may need to change a little but since you’ve already learnt the art of creating habits that lead to your goal you’ll be able to form new habits that lead to your new goal.
If you need any help reaching your goals, send me an email and let’s chat.