Before we jump into the strategies for how to lose weight without counting calories, I want to establish a simple truth. This truth is a law of physics, which states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. If your body is putting on body fat, it has to be coming from somewhere! It cannot just appear out of thin air (unless you're some kind of wizard?!). Therefore, the number one rule that you must keep in mind when trying to lose weight is calorie deficit. This means that you must be expending MORE calories than you are consuming!
In my opinion, counting calories is something that everyone should try at least once! It's a great tool to get a clear look at where you're ACTUALLY at and takes the guesswork out of things. I can tell you that with my years of experience coaching clients, they wildly underestimate how much they're eating and have no idea what their macro breakdown is. That being said, for some, counting calories can have negative effects on their mental health. It can also be a pain in the butt to enter everything you eat into an app/tracker.
What is a "macronutrient" anyways?
All foods are made up of 3 different macronutrients: Fats, Proteins, and Carbohydrates. To survive as humans, we must hit an essential amount of fats and proteins. In the past, fat was demonized as making us fat, which is wildly untrue and that hypothesis has lead to an even greater obesity epidemic. The truth is, no individual food will make you fat. It's the overconsumption of all food that leads to putting on weight, remember to go back to our rule of physics! Follow these steps and I guarantee you will be healthy, happy with your physique, and won't have to count a single calorie!
1. Avoid Heavily Processed Foods
This is probably one of the most important factors when looking to lose fat. Processed foods have literally been manufactured to try to get you to eat more. Give us a freaking break here! They have been specially made to taste irresistible so that you will keep buying/eating more. Take a bag of chips for instance. The typical bag of chips is made up of approximately 4 potatoes. If you just baked 4 potatoes and tried to eat them with no butter or salt, good luck! You would be gagging! But put them into chip form and BAM, you can crush a whole bag with no problem. Try to stick to foods in their true form. If it comes in a bag or has a long shelf life, limit it as much as possible.
2. Drink More Water
Often times when we think we are hungry, it's actually because we are thirsty! It takes a conscious effort for most people to drink as much water as they are supposed to in the day. If you focus on drinking more water, you won't be thinking about snacking as much. As a bonus, you will be getting up to go pee more often which will add in some extra movement breaks away from the desk! I think we could all use more of that right now. A simple hack is to buy yourself a big water bottle and make sure that you drink the whole thing. Tracking is key! If you're not surprised by how much you're going to the washroom, you're doing it wrong!
Here is a simple equation to figure out how much water you should be drinking per day:
0.033 x kg body weight = litres/day
3. Mindful Eating
These days we rarely do anything without a screen of some sort. Watching tv while eating dinner, replying to emails or taking a selfie during breakfast. It has become strange to sit down and just eat without any distractions. By having our attention diverted from our food, our body doesn't register how much we have eaten. Next time you have a meal, try to leave the screens alone. Take some deep breaths and be present with your food. Ask yourself how that food makes you feel. By mindfully eating and being aware of how the foods make you feel, you will start to draw positive correlations to foods that are healthy and make you feel good.
4. Define Eating Window
Why is it that when I tell clients not to eat after 7pm that they lose weight automatically? Food doesn't magically become more calorie dense at night, so what is it then? When you have a smaller eating window, you just tend to eat less meals in the day. Specifically at night, that tends to be where people break out the snacks. Anyone else watching Netflix at 9pm and craving ice cream? Start with a 12 hour fasting window and reduce from there. Everyone is different so check in with yourself and see how you're feeling.
5. Add Instead of Remove
Most people do not have enough protein and vegetables in their diet. By prioritizing these in your diet, you won't experience as many cravings. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and vegetables add mass to your meals with fibre which also makes you feel more full. Focus on adding in a big ass salad every day and I guarantee you won't be searching for as many processed foods.
Sleep is so underrated when it comes to weight-loss! When we do not get enough good quality sleep, our hunger hormone ghrelin increases while our hormone that indicates that we are full, leptin, decreases. This sends a signal to the body to search for more food, even if it doesn't need it. By prioritizing sleep, the overall stress response will be lowered in the body, allowing your hunger cues to regulate and reduce cravings.
7. Smaller Plate/Fork
This is a cool hack that plays on our psychology. I know when it's dinner time, I usually grab enough food to fill up my plate. It has been proven that by using a smaller plate you will eat less and by using a smaller fork you will eat slower and therefore be more mindful about when you're full. If you're still starving after your smaller plate of food, you can always go back for more.
8. Walk After Meals
Taking a walk after meals is a game changer! It's perfect for the person who can't fit a bigger walk into their schedule. If you take just 15mins after each meal, that's 45mins at the end of the day! Knowing that you're about to go outside and move makes it much less likely that you will over-consume.