The best way to lose weight without a diet.
Diets don’t help you lose weight. Bold statement I know, but I’ll let Dr. Henry S. Lodge back me up on this one. “The message from thousands of studies, over decades of medical research, is clear: Never go on a diet again.” (Henry S. Lodge, MD. From “Younger Next Year” Second Edition page 215)
One of my favorite nutrition books, The F*ck It Diet, written by Caroline Dooner, constantly stresses that going into a harsh deprivation of food puts our bodies into an evolutionary survival mode that robs us of our health and vitality which makes it almost impossible to lose weight in the long term. Diets don’t help you lose weight.
Now, the counter argument you may be screaming in your head right now. “But Steven! I went on a diet last year and I lost 35lbs!” And then what happened? Did you regain some of that weight? Did you regain all of that weight? Did you gain extra weight back? In various surveys, they’ve found that 85-95% of people who go on a diet regain that weight within 3 years.
Again, diets don’t help you lose weight. They may get some weight to drop off for a little while, but all the weight we lose in diets gets found down the road. To truly lose weight, once and for all, we must do something new.
The best way to lose weight without a diet is to establish realistic and reasonable daily habits around food.
More importantly than that, those daily habits should give us immediate energy and joy.
Okay, that last sentence may sound a little hippy, but let’s look at that impact.
One of my followers, Natasha, once asked me “what is health?” because I always emphasize that we must improve health above and beyond any other Fitness pursuit. (Curious why I used a big letter F for Fitness? Click the link to read “What is Fitness?”).
A person that is healthy feels a vibrant amount of energy. They have the energy necessary to complete the day without dragging. They have the energy to meet challenges and adventures. They have the energy to share joy and happiness with loved ones. Healthy people have energy.
On the other side, if you look at the sickest people, people with terminal diseases and cancers, the most visible symptom across the board is fatigue. They are literally on their deathbed. When your body is unhealthy, many functions begin to shut down and fail. Unhealthy people lose energy.
I also believe your nutritional habits should give you joy. This isn’t necessarily a physiological or microbiological choice, but it is more a psychological and quality of life mandate. Food habits that give us joy are easier to stick with and give us higher levels of satisfaction.
Who wants to suffer for life just to meet some stupid beauty mag standards without rewards?
We want to keep energy and joy in the back of our minds as we discuss daily nutrition habits. Daily nutrition habits will lead to long term weight loss that is meaningful.
What should those habits be?
I believe your daily nutrition habits should be both easy and flexible. Easy will allow you to do it with a very high repeatable success rate. Nobody got skinny eating one salad, right? Nobody got fat eating one double bacon cheeseburger. It’s the consistent habit, so we need to make it easy to be consistent.
Let’s be honest. Most diets are not easy.
Take “sugar-free” diets for example. It’s simple for sure, only 1 rule to follow. But that rule is brutally difficult to follow. Sugar-free means turning down every piece of candy ever offered to you for the rest of your life, missing out on every cone of ice cream, every slice of birthday cake and retirement party cakes, missing out on every dessert and sweet crepes or pancakes, and we lose half the condiments we put on our foods. That’s a very big ask, and it’s easier to fail than to succeed.
Something that I think is much easier, and what I encourage my clients to do, is to categorize foods into one of three categories. Where are your Proteins, where are your Carbs, and where are your Plants? Fairly simple to put food into those categories. You can look at 90% of plates of food throughout your life and figure out what fits into those three areas. (If you’re an adventurous eater, it might be harder to figure out what category some exotic food is.)
Side Note: Technically there are 5 categories. Proteins, Plants, Carbs, Fats, and Treats. For fat, that’s usually taken care of with protein, especially if you eat animal products. Treats are a separate conversation which I discuss more in this article about BLTs and Weight Gain.
Fairly easy to figure out what you’re eating. The second easy step is how much are you eating.
Except diets make it really hard to figure out how much you’re eating. They use measurements that feel entirely arbitrary and foreign. Most diets use language like “½ cup of rice” or “6oz grilled chicken” or “5g dressing”.
I know that we all know how to measure stuff using measuring cups and food scales, but… without those tools, how the hell do you actually know what ½ cup of rice looks like? How many ounces of chicken is in that chicken sandwich? Without measuring tools (which are bulky and awkward to carry with you everywhere), measuring your food intake is a hard process on diets.
Or maybe you’ve been on a diet that wanted to you count calories and track what you ate in an app like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt (don’t click those links, I strongly DISCOURAGE using those apps). Then you go over to your brother’s house to visit his family one weekend and he makes you a sandwich for lunch. Uhh…. how many calories are in that sandwich? I’m a certified nutritionist and have been a fitness professional for 13 years… I have no fucking clue how many calories are in that sandwich. It’s too hard to count calories accurately.
We need to know how much food we eat, but we also need it to be easier than measuring food and counting calories.
“So what do we do?”
Give yourself a hand! That’s a great question! And also a great answer. Use your hand.
With my clients, I use a hand reference guide for choosing portion size. I use a modified version of THIS HAND PORTION GUIDE from Precision Nutrition (the source of my original nutrition certification). There’s a lot of nuance, but here’s a simple overview.
Proteins: 1 – 1½ palms for lower resource needs, 1½ – 2 palms for higher needs
Carbs: 1 fist for lower needs, 1- 1½ for higher needs
Plants: 2 cupped hands (a hand basket) or more as desired.
That’s pretty easy, isn’t it?
Much easier than trying to carry a set of measuring cups with me everywhere or carrying a food scale for sure. And I still don’t know the calories, but it’s good enough.
Yes, I will often hold my hand directly over my plate to compare serving size vs my hand. I have a video demonstration of that within my coaching program so clients know how to do this honestly and effectively.
But is that specific enough?
Diets are very specific. They have a very exact list of what food to eat, when to eat it, and what not to eat. I only gave you some categories and portion sizes.
And that’s all I will ever do. Meal Plans and Diets suck for long term weight loss because they limit your ability to be successful. With a general template and outline, this gives you more options to choose the foods that fit within both those categories AND your own personal enjoyment.
Besides, remember that rant I went on earlier about Health and Energy. Some foods, for some people, rob them of energy for various biological reasons. That can be impacted by genetics, diet history, gut health, medications, and so much more. By not telling you exactly what food to eat, I give you space to eat more of the foods that treat your body well and give you energy.
If you want to learn even more about my nutrition system, how to track it, and how to adjust it for goals, check out episode 138 of The Health REBELs Podcast where I talk about my entire Nutrition by Addition system. The podcast is available on Apple, Spotify, and most everywhere else you listen to podcasts (If I’m not on your favorite platform, email me at [email protected] to let me know. I’ll get it fixed right away)
The best way to lose weight without a diet is to follow easy and flexible daily habits that give you more energy and enjoyment.