If you’re wondering how to lose weight without dieting I’m guessing it’s because you’ve tried one or more diets in the past and after days, weeks or months of feeling deprived you ended back where you started.
Whatever the reason that made you quit your diet is, let me assure you that you are not alone.
With the UK weight loss and diet industry estimated to be worth £2 billion, and with 20% of us dieting at any one time, we try over and over again going from one promise to another, only to be let down.
Diet Industry Is Failing You So Let’s Put Things Right
The diet industry is failing us, and it is my mission to put it right. With this article I hope to help you to understand what great nutrition is.
I’ll show you exactly how to lose weight without ever feeling deprived, angry or guilty about food. I’ll even show you exactly how much you should be eating without ever counting a calorie!
In addition I want to reassure you that you are not the problem and that the diet industry is to blame for any failed diet attempts, and the reasons why diets fail in the long run.
And wouldn’t it be nice escape the ‘diet trap’ completely? Well I’ll help you with that too.
In the end I want to provide you with a very easy actionable step so you can stop ‘information gathering’ and start ‘practising’ by taking steps in the right direction.
Part 1: Why Do Diets Fail To Promote Long Term Change?
Part 2: What Makes Great Nutrition?
Part 3: How Much Should I Eat To Lose Weight Without Dieting?
Part 4: Limiting Factors
Part 5: Next Steps – Weight Loss Cheat Sheet
Food Is To Be Enjoyed Not Worried About
How would it be if you could just stop worrying about what to eat? Maybe you get anxious about upcoming social occasions because you know there will be lots of ‘off limits’ food. Or maybe you feel pressure and guilt surrounding a certain food group.
Before we tackle what to do about that, let’s first see why diets fail to promote long term change. After all, it seems everyone has a different belief, and advocates of many popular diets often have a clear cut view of their chosen method being the only way – because it worked for them it must work for you – right?
Why Do Diets Fail To Promote Long Term Change?
Have you wondered why diets tend to fail in the long run, and how to lose weight without dieting?
It’s most frustrating that the diet and weight loss industry has become such a vicious cycle of failure. Maybe you have been motivated by emotions, fear, pain or frustration, and while looking for information on what best to do about your nutrition and health you were bombarded with promises.
Promises that draw you – the consumer – into trying out new diets in the hope of achieving your ultimate health and happiness goal.
In the short term a certain diet may have worked for you.
But every time you start to see progress, something crops up and you end up back where you started.
Every time the ‘diet’ ends when you are faced with a change in routine. Your work commitments infringe on your time. Or the event such as a wedding or holiday has come and gone and you get back to old habits.
And habits are what make us who we are.
Here’s A Summary Of The Failing Diet Industy
This is a short whistle stop summary of the current state of the diet industry, the reasons diets fail and what to do about it – the alternative to dieting. You can find out more on that at https://onehabitnutrition.co.uk which is where I keep all my client resources.
- Diet industry in the UK is worth £2 billion.
- UK spends £6-8 billion annually on obesity prevention.
- This is 1% of the social cost of obesity.
- Obesity has trebled over 30 years.
- 61.7% of us in the UK are obese or overweight.
- 20% of us are on a diet at any one time.
- Dietitian support over 6 months results in 5-10% weight reduction, but after 4 years 83% of dieters regain more than they had lost.
Supporting Or Hindering Habits
I empathise with you if this sounds familiar. You are not alone and the diet industry knows this. You will always be presented with the next big promise.
The next fad diet, supplement or even surgery and pharmaceuticals will be promoted to you and pull at your emotions to make their promises seem irresistible.
If you are tired of going from one thing to the next and you feel like you are going around in circles, then isn’t it time you made a change?
Today I hope to highlight why so many diets have initial success. Why you have ended up back where you started. And what to focus on instead.
In a nutshell… What you need to know.
- Diets often work initially but don’t result in permanent change.
- People go from one diet to the next in a cycle of failure.
- The diet is not the problem and often non-food related issues are.
- Identify and work on your limiting factors to achieve permanent change.
Common Factors Among Diets
With so many ‘authorities’ out there it is really difficult to know what is the best advice to follow.
Even governments cannot decide what is best, many even casting blame on the USDA nutrition advice for the massive surge in obesity and related disease over the last 20 years.
But Wait – You Know Your Body!
You have your own nutrition experience and nobody knows your body like you do. You are you – 24 hours a day 365 days per year.
So you know what has worked in the past. What foods affect your mood, energy and health. You know your individual response to food more than anyone.
So why is it then that you may have tried following a variety of completely different ways of eating, and had moderate success initially, but then ended up at square one?
Maybe you tried a high fat and started seeing results, only for some reason your initial progress to halt after a period of time.
Maybe you tried a low fat diet with a similar experience.
Maybe you tried vegetarianism, the paleo diet, the Zone diet or the Atkins.
So many people have tried at least one diet – and even had success with several – but always ended up back where they started.
The reality is that all popular ‘diets’ have several common factors:
- They create an awareness of what you are eating.
- Simply by paying attention to what and how you are eating can result in improvements in health, body composition and performance.
- They make you focus on food quality.
- It doesn’t matter what system you are following, you will be seeking certain foods and avoiding others.
- They control calorie balance by the awareness created.
- Choosing more nutritious, filling foods will result in improved body composition and health.
- ‘Diets’ generally take you away from processed junk food, and thus have help to eliminate nutritional deficiency. Often trends in diets also subscribe to some form of regular exercise.
There Is No Such Thing As One Best Diet
The truth is that there is no single diet that is best for everyone. We have evolved to be very adaptable to a whole range of dietary conditions and many popular diets do promote good nutrition.
I want to help you find a way of eating that will meet your current needs. No matter what your beliefs may be, it is possible to achieve good nutrition with a little thought and guidance.
The great thing about this is that you can achieve better health, performance and body composition goals while eating foods that work for you.
Where Diets Go Wrong. Habit Based Coaching V Diets
In essence, the best diet is the one that works for you!
In addition to this, it is best to think of your habits rather than your diet. Imagine if you were to start a new diet today. It would mean a whole overhaul of your current nutrition and lifestyle habits. It would be a massive change all in one go.
Because of this nature of diets, they fail eventually. Whether you last a day, a week or a year, eventually they drain too much from your finite store of willpower, and you revert back to old habits.
I prefer to help you build habits intelligently and sustainably over time through a process of habit based coaching. This approach considers your lifestyle, and leads to permanent positive change.
Quick Round Up And Next Steps
Keep a food journal for a few days to get an honest snapshot of your eating habits.
From here consider one improvement you could make to your eating habits, and try to implement it for the next two weeks.
So, What Makes Good Nutrition?
I just did a search for ‘diet books’ on Amazon. With 142857 results listed in the books section alone, it is no wonder we are all so confused about what to eat.
With so many diets being marketed to us every day, it is my aim to help you avoid the fads, stop wasting your time and money on the latest craze, and to show you how to eat without even thinking about it.
In a nutshell… What you need to know
- You will not have to think about great nutrition - it will become natural, a way of life, a habit.
- Great nutrition is not a ‘diet’ that you stick to. It will not come to an end.
- Great nutrition will properly control energy balance.
- Great nutrition will provide nutrient density.
- Great nutrition will provide an improved body composition, health and performance.
- Great nutrition is honest and outcome based.
- Great nutrition is sustainable for you.
Properly Control Energy Balance
Probably the fundamental concept that underlies good nutrition is the calorie balance.
If you think of your body like a bank account. If your income exceeds your outgoings, your balance will increase. If outgoings exceed your income your balance will reduce. And if they are balanced there will be no change.
There is a lot of discussion on the net and about calories not counting. But they do.
With that said, if your goal is to lose weight so that you can achieve and maintain leanness, it is unlikely that you need to count calories.
I am not one for getting you to be a slave to counting calories. Far from it, but it is a consideration that you need to be aware of – if you need to lose weight, you need to create a negative calorie balance, and if you need to increase your weight you need to create a positive calorie balance.
Provide Nutrient Density
Great nutrition provides nutrient density.
Nutrient density is the ratio of nutrients – such as vitamins, minerals and fibre – relative to the total calorie content of the food.
Therefore foods with high nutrient density contain a high number of nutrients per 100 calories.
An additional consideration to this is the calorie density of food.
Calorie density is the number of calories – or energy – provided per unit of food. Therefore foods with high calorie density provide lots of calories in a small portion.
With calorie balance in mind, if your goal is to improve your general health, and to lose some body fat so that you look and feel better, aiming for high nutrient density and low calorie density food is a good place to start.
Improve Body Composition, Health And Performance
Good nutrition is more than weight loss or weight gain.
We are bombarded with messages from the weight loss industry, but weight loss itself is symptomatic of other issues.
It is true that many people want to lose weight. The nature of this goal can often have powerful motivators and emotions driving it. This can often lead to seeking a quick fix such as a potentially harmful crash diet, questionable surgery and weight loss supplement or drugs.
If these have a positive effect, it is often temporary, and in the long term result in negative health implications.
For these reasons also focusing on health and performance is wise. They go hand in hand with body composition goals and result in long term gain.
Some health and body composition goals:
- Improved blood lipids.
- Insulin sensitivity.
- Reduce diabetes risk.
- Bone density.
- Body fat levels.
- Lean body mass.
Some performance goals (you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to consider these):
- Improved energy levels.
- Stamina to keep up with the (... grand/children, friends etc).
- Ability to perform tasks in daily life.
- Athletic performance at every level.
- Mental performance (for example at work)
If you eat well, and this is matched by your general healthy lifestyle choices, you will begin to look better and this will naturally cross over into improved health markers and performance.
For permanent improvements it is best to focus on these three outcomes, rather than one at the expense of the others.
Honest And Outcome Based
Linked with the improved body composition, health and performance, good nutrition is honest and outcome based.
You might be wondering what does this means so let’s take a look at some examples of honest and outcome based nutrition.
Have you ever heard yourself or others saying something like:
‘I eat really well… but I’m still 20lbs over weight’
‘my diet is perfect… but I often feel sluggish and tired’.
‘I make really good nutrition choices… but I have type II diabetes and my blood pressure is sky high’
While it is possible that a person can make good nutritional choices over the long term and be suffering from lifestyle related disease, it is unlikely.
Nutrition is honest and outcome based, and as humans are amazingly adaptable. You probably know many people who exhibit health and vitality, yet seem to be eating contrasting diets.
For example many people thrive on a vegetarian diet, while in contast we also see people thriving on a paleo type diet.
Whatever the reason for following a certain eating habit, people have thrived on many. Mediterranean diet, Atkins diet, the zone diet, high fat, high carbohydrate, low fat. You name it, people have done well on it.
Whichever nutrition plan you choose to follow, if you are not getting the health, body composition and performance goals that you want, you are either not adhering to the plan, or the plan is not good for you.
This is where the challenge lies. There is no single best diet. Finding one that works for you is important, and it has to be doable forever.
I can help you to identify your sticking points and overcome them so that you improve your plan so that it works for you and your adherence lasts forever. If you do this your weight loss, health and performance results will follow.
Sustainable For You And The Planet
With an ever increasing population demanding ever more resources from our planet, it is essential more than ever that we eat in a sustainable way.
As it happens, what is best for us is also best for our planet.
Ask yourself ‘where does my food come from?’ next time you go food shopping. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:
- How far has it travelled to get to you? Greenhouse gasses from freight is of global concern, so minimizing food miles is a good idea.
- How has the meat been raised? Organic, free range or traditional intensive farming? Grass fed or corn fed.
- GM free? Vegetables from GM or non GM sources?
- Sustainably caught fish?
- Organically or traditionally grown?
- Packaging? Is it wrapped in plastic that’ll end in landfill, or is there another option?
- Your personal beliefs and food choices?
I’m not saying you have to go and start farming the land, build the chicken coop and only eat organic, local produce. Just be aware of these factors and consider them in the context of your own values.
In addition to questioning the environmental sustainability of your food intake, you need to think about your own sustainability too.
Any diet that you have to stick to rigidly is going to be a challenge. Even if it doesn’t fail it will ultimately has an end point, which could leave you questioning ‘what next?’.
Ask yourself ‘can I do this forever?’. Financially, logistically, practically? If you can’t, then you need to figure out a way to eat that you can sustain forever.
Quick Recap and Next Steps
Imagine you eat three meals a day. Thats over 1000 times you get to practice eating well every year. So your next step is to practice eating with an awareness of the points covered so far today.
If you slowly improve your nutrition habits over the course of a year, you’ll achieve fantastic results in health, performance and body composition without even realising it.
You’ll never have to think about ‘dieting’ or feel guilty or panic at the thought of being offered a food that’s off limits. You will have a healthy relationship with food that is natural and permanent. Try it.
How Much Should I Eat To Lose Weight?
Forget calorie counting and start enjoying food!
Good nutrition means properly controlling energy balance, and if you are eating well you will be at an optimal weight and body composition and you will overall be eating as much energy as you need. No more and no less in the long term.
If you need to lose weight you must eat in such a way as to create a calorie deficit. You must create a negative energy balance. You must use more energy than you consume.
If you have lost weight in the past you will have created an negative energy balance in your body. How long did this last though?
Maybe you tried a calorie restricted diet in the past. Or maybe you eliminated a main macronutrient – such as low carbohydrate diet or a low fat diet – and in doing so reduced your energy intake. Or maybe you went on an exercise regime full of enthusiasm and motivation.
I’m guessing you are here because you have tried to either lose body fat or gain lean mass in the past, and that you’ve ended up back where you started – plus some!
How To Create A Calorie Deficit
To create a calorie deficit is easy.
The trick to good nutrition is to properly control energy balance to prevent excessive swings in calorie intake – avoid excessive starving and binging – in order promote health.
In a nutshell… What you need to know
- Calories do count despite what you may read.
- To lose weight you need to create a negative calorie balance.
- You do not need to count calories to achieve manage your food intake.
- What you don’t eat matters as much as what you do eat.
Risks Of Over And Under Eating
If you weigh 75kg your body consists of around 100 trillion cells. Each cell is affected by how much you eat.
Everything from your metabolism to you hormones to your mood and performance is affected.
Eating too little will result in a negative energy balance and weight loss as well as a shutting down of non-essential bodily functions. As your body switches into survival mode it will exhibit the following:
- Metabolic decline.
- You’ll find it difficult to concentrate.
- Thyroid reduction.
- Testosterone reduction.
- Reduced performance in all areas.
- Reduced bone and muscle mass.
Eating too much will result in positive energy balance and weight gain. This happens by a combination of overeating and inactivity and will lead to:
- Poor health.
- Plaques build up in your arteries.
- Increase blood pressure.
- Increase cholesterol.
- Insulin resistance.
- Type II diabetes.
- Increased risk of cancer.
- Joint pain and low back pain.
The Problem Of Counting Calories
While counting calories may seem like the obvious way to meet your calorie needs, it does come with several drawbacks.
You may have been successful while counting calories, as many people do enjoy it for a time, but I suggest that the act of counting calories made you more aware of the foods you were eating and so made you more of a mindful eater, which resulted in the results you may have attained.
When it comes to the crunch, accuracy of food labels is questionable, as is the accuracy of your own estimations / weighing and measuring.
The faff factor of having to count calories also makes is too to much for many of us to want to do ‘forever’, which is an important consideration for long term success.
Alternative To Counting Calories With Personalised Portion Sizes
An effective and easy alternative to counting calories does exist though.
A very simple and personalised approach to judging how much to eat is to use your own hand to estimate portion sizes.
As a start point consider the following portion sizing method. Based on eating three to four meals per day gauge your intake by using your own hand.
Not only will this measure food intake – therefore energy intake – it will also ensure you have a balance of macro-nutrients on you plate.
1x palm sized portion of protein
1x thumb of fat
1x fist of vegetables
1x cupped palm of carbohydrate
2x palm sized portion of protein
2x thumb of fat
2x fist of vegetables
2x cupped palm of carbohydrate
Measure The Outcome – Are You Losing Weight?
While the above portion sizes are a good start point, it is important you observe whether it is working for you. Do this by measuring your outcomes – weight and body composition – and adjust your intake accordingly.
You may need to eat more or less depending on your goal, so please feel that you can adjust the amount of each food group to match your exercise needs and activity needs, and your goal, be it weight loss, maintenance or weight gain.
For example, If you are trying to lose weight and you’re noticing no change, try reducing your meal size by a cup of carbohydrates from to see what happens. Or if you know you are going to be more active one day, you could have your biggest meal of the day after the workout, and include a bigger portion of carbohydrates in this meal.
There are too many variations to consider here, but the above is a great starting point and it gets you away from counting calories.
Quick Recap And Next Steps
Plan your eating using your own hand, and monitor your outcome - what is your weight or body composition doing?
Adjust your food intake as needed - more or less depending on the outcomes - and if you are getting the desired result then keep doing what you are doing! If not, then consider your adherence and your plan, and make a change.
What limiting factors are holding you back, and how to overcome them?
A limiting what?… Exactly, and that’s exactly what I thought when I first discovered the concept of limiting factors.
A limiting factor is anything that makes it more difficult for anyone to achieve a goal.
Since training as a coach I now see the importance of identifying our limiting factors and how to overcome them in order to achieve a goal.
In A Nutshell… What You Need To Know
- A limiting factor is anything that makes it more difficult for anyone to achieve a goal.
- Identifying your limiting factors, you’ll find they fall into one of five categories.
- Limiting factors are important to identify in order to overcome them and continue progressing.
- You should identify the easiest limiting factor to change that will have the greatest impact on your progress. Find your weakness and fix it.
What Is A Limiting Factor?
A limiting factor is anything that makes it more difficult for anyone to achieve a goal. It could be any number of things.
In terms of health, performance and body composition goals, there are five categories that limiting factors fall into.
- Physical activity patterns
I have been asked by clients in the past something like this:
‘I really feel like I’m doing everything possible to work towards my goal. But I’m my results are very slow. Do you think it could be my genetics holding me back? Maybe I’m just not designed to lose weight?
I know, it’s frustrating, and while genetics could be a limiting factor, it is unlikely that you are nearing the edge of your personal genetic potential – very few people are.
You may well have genetic limitations that set you apart from the elite in human performance.
Perhaps you may never be a world class 100m sprinter, play professional rugby or football, or be the winner of the Tour de France or London marathon.
However you can make progress towards your genetic potential. By implementing a good plan you can gain better health, body composition and performance.
Does the thought of exercise send shudders down your spine? Or have you got a keen passion for a chosen sport (not just watching it – playing it)?
Your body is designed to move. It has to in order to remain healthy.
So if your daily lifestyle is mainly sedentary – sitting to eat, travel, work and sit some more at home – then you are likely heading for lifestyle related disease such as weight gain, type II diabetes and low back pain to name just a few.
Energy balance is an important factor if you want to lose your weight. To lose weight, it is important to create a negative energy balance. In other words, you must spend more energy than you consume.
The easiest way to do this is not only by including purposeful regular exercise into your life, but by increasing your general activity as well.
Those who take 10000 steps daily on average are seen to be much leaner and healthier than those who are sedentary – taking 5000 steps daily.
If you do nothing at present then start doing something. Something is better than nothing and while this may sound silly, it is a great starting point and we can build from there. Don’t wait for the perfect plan before you start. Take action today with a really easy new activity. It could be as easy as walking for 5 minutes daily.
By combining an active lifestyle and good nutrition that focuses on nutrient density you will get improved health.
Physiology may be a limiting factor. If you have a great plan that you are adhering to, it is important to consider your physiology as a limiter.
Do you have one of the following physiological limiting factors?
- Gastrointestinal dysfunction.
If you are not getting results with your plan and your nutrition is good, it might be worth seeking medical guidance on these.
It is important not to use any potential physiological limiting factors as an excuse to start eating well and being active.
Keeping a positive mindset is essential and has been shown to improve results.
There is so much information available today that there is a risk of becoming an information gatherer, but not taking action and implementing the advice.
All the information in the world is no use unless you action it into daily practices in your life.
Take this moment to think about one single action that you can implement in your daily life. Do this for a month, with 90% adherence and you’ll have cracked it.
It’ll become a habit and you won’t even have to think about it any more. Stop thinking about what to do, and do it.
Saving the most important limiting factor until last. Nutrition is the biggest single limiting factor to your success.
Everybody has their own opinion on what makes good nutrition.
And this is most frustrating for you, because as you research information you’ll find hundreds of ‘authorities’ who all have different takes on this topic.
Common ‘diets’ include:
- The zone diet.
- Atkins diet Paleo diet.
- Vegetarian or vegan diets.
- The list goes on...
For now let us consider that in reality many of these diets have some merits and some pitfalls, but they all have two things in common:
- They all get you to become aware of what you are eating.
- They help you to create a negative energy balance.
These two points are common among any method of eating you choose. The problems lie in adherence, and in the fact that being on a diet itself suggests it is only short term.
For truly long term and permanent change, you need to create healthy habits that you don’t even think about.
Next Steps – Weight Loss Cheat Sheet
Weight Loss Cheat Sheet
Hold yourself accountable by tracking your adherence and the outcome. By doing this you can make informed decisions and you’ll achieve your goal.
As a supplement to this article, you might also find this weight loss cheat sheet useful.
It provides you with five habits that you can work on straight away, that will help you to lose weight.
In addition to the weight loss cheat sheet, you will also be guided through a series of lessons that go with this article. If you want to work with me or need further support surrounding your nutrition, I do offer on to one nutrition coaching.
I can help you take control of your eating and free you from diets so please contact me to get in touch and I will gladly help.
If you're not ready for one to one coaching, you might also be interested in leaning about One Habit Nutrition Coaching where you'll be taken through an entire curriculum designed to get you away from the diet trap by developing weight loss skills.