This article is about how to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself

How to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself

Though a lot of articles and people in my field like to bash calorie counting, that’s unjust. Counting calories is one of many tools that have helped many people lose weight. Yet I also understand counting calories is not for everyone. That’s why I decided to create this article. Showing you how to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself.

It is true, the only way losing weight is possible, is in a calorie deficit.

But what is great for some people can be bad for others. This applies to a lot of things in nutrition. Counting calories is one of those things.

For me and many others like me, it was the driver I needed to lose the excess 20kg of body fat I had. Yet for others, it can lead to a sense of unhealthy obsession. Or for people of various generations or those adverse to maths, it can all be a bit much.

My top tips on how to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself would be these:

  • Limit alcohol
  • Reduce liquid calories
  • Portion out your fats
  • Eat more fruit and veg
  • Eat more wholemeal carbohydrates
  • Increase protein and distribute it better
  • Eat leaner sources of protein
  • Eat more beans pulses and legumes in place of red meat and refined carbs
  • Limit snacking
  • Navigate restaurants with a plan
  • Stick to regular meal times
  • Chew regularly and slowly
  • Eat at a table without distraction
  • Use photos and/or journal
  • Cut down on salt

Limit alcohol

This is one of the simplest changes you can make. I’m biased and would say, it’d be best to completely knock drinking on the head. The benefit to drawback ratio is poor.

Alcohol is calorie-dense. After fat, it is the most calorie-dense macronutrient with 7 calories per gram.

Not only is alcohol calorie-dense, but it also has the magic of making you lose your inhibitions. Whilst alcoholic drinks are calorific, they also make you want to eat everything in sight.

If it’s covered in fat, sugar, or salt your body wants it. Your brain has also lost its ability to say no too. When you drink you don’t only get a lot of calories from the drink, you also get all the added calories from all the foods. (1)

Then let’s not forget hangovers. Once hungover there’s a likelihood you’ll overeat on this day. This is whilst only achieving 100 steps for the day, as your energy and mood are completely zapped. (2)

In social situations, you can do many things to not drink. You can drink non-alcoholic beers and wines, which taste great. You can have low-calorie mocktails too, made with diet tonic water for example. These are the best ways to not drink without warranting unwanted attention.

But if you still insist you must drink, go for spirits. Either drink them lean, on the rocks or with a diet mixer. Instead of drinking 200-500 calories a glass, you can get away with 50-100. I’d not make a habit of it though.

A good way to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself is to cut alcohol

Limit liquid calories

This coincides with alcohol. Coffee and cola, I’m looking at you. The average coffee in Starbucks is over 200 calories and a can of Coke is around 150. A few of either of these each day and the calories rack up. The same goes for fruit juice. Though fruit juice is nutritious, it still contains lots of sugar and calories. It’s glorified Coke, hence why the government recommends limiting fruit juice to 150ml a day.

Not only are these drinks calorific, but they also are not at all filling. This means you can drink a load of these without feeling full. Whereas if you ate hundreds of calories of lean protein and veg, your stomach will more than likely feel it.

Here are some simple swaps that can make a huge difference over time:

  • Swap sugar with sweetener
  • Use lower-fat milk instead of creamer in coffee
  • Swap to diet coke or coke zero
  • Drink more water
  • Use sugarfree squash
  • Eat whole fruits instead of the juice

Another way to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself, is to cut sugary drinks due to the calories.

Portion out your fat intake

Though eating fat doesn’t make you fat, it is easy to overeat. Fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient, it has 9 calories per gram. This is double protein and carbohydrate, which is 4 calories per gram. This means you get more than double the calories for the same mass of fat.

Thus, it is a good idea to be aware of your portioning. So, be considerate when pouring out your peanut butter or drizzling olive oil.

For most of my clients, I’d get them to weigh out a spoonful, so they know how much of a spoonful is. But if you’re not counting calories, I’d suggest going for the thumb method. This means you have a thumbs’ worth of healthy (unsaturated) fat in a meal. So a thumbs worth of olive oil, peanut butter, or nuts for example.

This means you’ll get the benefit of healthy fat in your diet. Whilst not overeating 1000 calories in olive oil alone.

Another way to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself is watch the amount of healthy fats you're eating.

Eat more fruit and veg

This sounds super obvious, but most of us aren’t eating enough. In 2018 only 28% of adults the government recommended 5 fruit or veg a day. The average amount eaten was 3.7.

Evidence shows there’s a correlation between eating more fruit and veg and being a healthy weight.

The main reason being is that these foods are high in water and fibre. Most foods in the western diet are low energy-dense and high in fat and sugar. So replacing these foods with fruits and vegetables will allow you to still feel full.

So if you’re not currently eating 5 a day aim for that, if you can get in more that’s even better.

Here’s some easy way to increase your intake:

  • Use frozen fruits and veg
  • Make soups with leftover veg
  • Use canned (Make sure they are low in salt, sugar and syrup)
  • Add some salad to your sandwiches
  • Add some chopped fruit to cereal and porridge

Increase protein and distribute it better

Protein is arguably the most important macronutrient for weight loss.

This is for many reasons:

  • The most satiating macronutrient
  • Highest thermic effect of food

Protein has been shown to be the most satiating macronutrient. Thus it keeps you more full compared to eating the same amount of calories of fat and or carbohydrates. It seems to have a stronger effect on certain hunger hormones.

Protein also has the highest thermic effect on food. This is a fancy way to say, your body burns more calories by eating protein. For every calorie of protein, you eat your body burns around 30% of it indigestion. This is a lot more compared to fats and carbohydrates.

If you want to track your protein number, current evidence suggests 1.6g of protein per target kg of body weight is a good place to start. If your goal weight is 80kg, then aim for 130g of protein per day. Though this does seem to be the gold number, there is no reason why you couldn’t aim higher if you wanted. The only caveat being, your diet will be expensive.

Finally, aim to distribute your servings evenly. I don’t know why, but it seems in the west, most people get the bulk of their protein during their last meal.

For many reasons, you’re better off splitting the protein evenly throughout the day. This will be beneficial to your muscles as well as your hunger levels. So if you’re eating around 130g of protein per day, split that into 4-6 equal-ish servings instead.

Eat leaner sources of protein

A lot of people think any kind of meat is good protein. I guess it’s true to an extent that all meat is a completely bioavailable source of protein. But a lot of meat proteins come tagged along with a lot of fat. When it comes to finding ways on how to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself, lean protein is an easy win.

Then you have plant proteins, which tend to have a lot of tags along with carbohydrates.

Thus when it comes to animal protein, opt for leaner sources. These can be sources such as:

  • Skinless chicken breast or thigh
  • Lean cuts of steak
  • Lean pork loin
  • Shellfish
  • Chicken sausage
  • Chicken/turkey mince
  • Egg whites
  • 5% fat beef mince
  • Protein powder
  • Whitefish
  • Low fat Greek yoghurt
  • Icelandic yoghurt

If using animal sources with a healthy fat such as:

  • Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel

You can go without the other fat source, which I mentioned earlier. These protein sources tend to be higher in fat, so have more calories. You don’t want to cut out these foods as they have loads of benefits. So instead, reduce the olive oil, nuts, or whatever fat source you were going to use instead.

As for plant protein sources such as:

  • Beans
  • Quinoa
  • Pulses
  • Lentils
  • Quorn
  • Tofu
  • Soy
  • Tempeh

These sources come with some tags along with carbohydrates. Thus you may want to reduce the carbohydrate you get from the rest of the meal to compensate.

Sources of protein with saturated fat will be limited. Not only are they high in calories, but saturated fat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

You don’t need to drop these foods completely, but they will definitely need to be limited to a fat loss diet. I recommend you stick to the government’s 30g of saturated fat a day limit.

These foods include:

  • Chicken with skin
  • Steak with fat
  • 20% fat mince
  • Pork belly
  • Ribs
  • Sausages

Yeah, I’m sorry, I’ve listed all the tastiest protein sources, I know. But hey life isn’t fair is it?

Eat more beans pulses and legumes in place of red meat and refined carbs

These foods are abundant in fibre. Why does this matter? Were recommended in general to get 30g of fibre per day. Or as the latest evidence suggests 14g of fibre for every 1000 calories.

Yet the average amount of fibre eaten in the UK is 17.2g for women and 20.1g for men.

There are strong links between eating more fibre and being a healthier body weight.

Foods rich in fibre contain a lot of water and are not calorie dense foods.

You’ll also reduce your risk of high cholesterol. All this whilst still getting some protein and reducing calorie intake.

As for replacing refined carbs with more legumes. You reduce calories, increase satiety and increase your micronutrition.

Some simple things you can do are:

  • Half your steak and add some beans
  • Half your rice and add some lentils
  • Incriporate legumes into salads

Limit snacking

Notice how I said limit snacking, not stop snacking altogether.

They say in the UK we are a nation of snackers. In the UK we are the biggest snackers in Europe eating 4 times as many crips as the French and Italians.

One paper showed the time of day your snack is also important. This paper showed people ate healthier snacks in the morning, snacks such as fruit. Midday snacks were mixed. The evening snacks were the most calorie-dense foods and least nutritious.

Another paper showed that in the US, people that snacked more frequently were more likely to be obese and lead to weight gain.

When you snack you are adding calories, which could be up to 1000 on top of what you’re already eating.

Most snacks are usually eaten out of boredom. Another thing is a lot of these snacks are things we don’t even register that we’ve eaten. Lots of little licks, tastes and bites. Milk from the bottle, spooning peanut butter, or sneaking nuts from the cupboard. These all count.

Navigate restaurants with a plan

The role of a restaurant is to appease your tastebuds, not your waistline. Thus a lot of dishes will be loaded with butter, salt and sugar. They’ve got to do what they can to make the food taste great and earn there money, nothing wrong with that in my view.

But it’s down to you to make decisions, that will best benefit you, both physically and mentally. It’d be easiest for me to say, don’t go to any restaurants until you’ve hit your goal. But I know not everyone can or will do that.

Here are some suggestions, that will help in a restaurant:

  • Pick 2 of the 4: Alcohol, starter, main, or dessert
  • Choose lean protein options
  • Ask for dressing and/or sauces on the side
  • Have a little less food before, to make room (Don’t make a habit of this, use this sparingly)
  • Don’t feel obliged to clear your plate (You’re an adult)
  • Stick to regular meal times
  • If you usually have 4 meals a day, stick with 4 meals per day. If your first meal is usually midday, keep it at midday

The point is your body likes it when it has set meal times. There’s evidence showing when people have a set mealtime, they eat fewer calories and show a lower rate of hunger. The opposite seems to happen when people don’t have regular set meals.

I know this isn’t realistic all the time, but if you do it most of the time, you’ll find your hunger easier to deal with.

Chew regularly and slowly

If you’re anything like me, you have a reputation for clearing your plate as soon as it touches the table.

I found a study, which had people chewing pizza at different rates. Long story short, the more they had to chew, the less food they ate.

“These data indicate that increasing the number of chews before swallowing might be a behavioral strategy to reduce food intake and potentially aid body-weight management.”

Zhu & Hollis, 2013

Thus, if you make an effort to chew your food a bit more, this could help you reduce your calories. Antoher great way to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself.

Eat without distraction

You might have noticed in Mediterranean countries, they tend to eat around a table. Whereas in countries such as the UK or US, people will eat in front of the TV or at the desk at work.

There’s evidence to suggest this isn’t great for your food intake.

In 2013, a meta-analysis analysed 24 different studies. The studies indicated eating without distraction leads to fewer calories eaten.

“Evidence indicates that attentive eating is likely to influence food intake, and incorporation of attentive-eating principles into interventions provides a novel approach to aid weight loss and maintenance without the need for conscious calorie counting.”

So if you eat dinner in front of the TV, now might be a good time to consider sitting at a table with the TV off.

Journal or take photos of your food

This isn’t the same as logging each gram of food into Myfitnesspal.

You’re not weighing what you eat, but you are just writing it down. This will bring about a consciousness of what you are eating. Thus leading you to more suitable choices.

The reason I suggest this is because evidence shows it is a good strategy for weight loss.

Taking photos also helps, as it allows you to reflect on what you have eaten. It won’t be perfect, but if someone is eating a standard western diet, this is an easy way to make quick improvements.

Overall this is another great tactic to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself.

Cut down on salt

Not only are we eating too much salt. The average person in the UK eats around 8g per day, but the Uk guideline is 6g maximum. In some parts of the world, it is 5g maximum.

This is problematic as too much salt is linked to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

But for the purpose of this post, cutting salt can also help decrease energy intake.

Let’s take nuts. Nuts are very high in calories.

If I left a bowl of salted nuts, next to a bowl of unsalted nuts at a gathering, I know which bowl would be most popular. The reason for this is due to the salt. Salt makes boring ordinary foods taste amazing.

Same with chips, crisps and meats such as bacon.

So if you make an effort to cut your salt intake, you’ll more than likely drop your calorie intake. This is because you’re not eating all these high-calorie tasty foods. Saltless snacks arent as tasty, thus calorie intake drops.

One study showed this. When participants ate food higher in salt, their calorie intake increased by 11%.

This is another way you can lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself.

Final thoughts

So here we are. If the thought of counting calories doesn’t appeal to you, this might help. Also for a lot of fo people, I reckon they could work on improving their diet quality first. These changes alone will make a great difference.

Yet if you’re looking to get into super lean conditions, or are still struggling. Then you may want to count calories, as it may be a useful tool to self-assess where you are.

But if you want to lose weight without counting calories or starving yourself, to sustain a healthy weight, these methods should be enough.

Anyways hope this is helpful and let me know what you think if there are any questions.

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