"Eat less, move more."
You might have heard this message before.
While the strategy makes total sense, it’s wrong to assume that the only reason people gain or lose weight is because of calories.
The issue is much more complicated than that. Different foods affect hunger and hormones in different ways, and not all calories are equal.
The truth is, there are many things you can do to lose weight — without ever counting a single calorie.
Here are 7 proven ways to put fat loss on "autopilot."
Losing weight can be as simple as changing your breakfast.
Two separate studies have shown that eating eggs in the morning (compared to a breakfast of bagels) can help you lose fat without trying.
In one of these studies, 30 overweight or obese women ate either bagels or eggs for breakfast (1).
The egg group ended up eating fewer calories at lunch, the rest of the day and for the next 36 hours.
Put simply, the eggs were so filling that the women naturally ate fewer calories at subsequent meals.
Another study split 152 overweight people into two groups. One group ate eggs, the other ate bagels. Both groups were on a weight loss diet (2).
After eight weeks, the egg group had lost significantly more weight than the bagel group:
- 65% more weight loss (2 lbs vs 1.3 lbs)
- 61% greater reduction in BMI
- 34% greater reduction in waist circumference
- 16% greater reduction in body fat percentage
The difference in weight loss wasn't huge, but the results clearly show that simple things like changing one meal can have an effect.
Another awesome benefit of eating eggs is that they are among the healthiest foods in the world.
If you think you don't have time to cook a healthy breakfast, think again. Preparing a breakfast with some eggs and veggies doesn't have to take any longer than 5–10 minutes.
Just set your alarm clock a few minutes earlier and problem solved.
Summary Studies show that eating eggs for breakfast can help you automatically eat fewer calories in subsequent meals, compared to a breakfast of bagels.
The human brain is the most complex object in the universe.
It tends to work in mysterious ways, and its control of eating behavior is incredibly complicated.
It’s the brain that ultimately determines whether you should or should not eat.
But there is one neat thing you can do to "trick" your brain into thinking that it has eaten more food — use smaller plates.
The larger your plates or bowls, the less your brain thinks you have eaten. By using smaller plates, you trick your brain into feeling more satisfied with fewer calories.
Interestingly, psychologists have been studying this, and it seems to work. However, one study concluded that the effect may be weaker for those who are overweight (7).
For more ideas, check out this article on 8 tips to reduce food portions.
Summary It is possible to "trick" the brain into thinking that it has eaten more food by using smaller plates.
There is a lot of evidence that protein can increase fat burning and reduce hunger, helping you lose weight naturally.
This is because the body spends more calories digesting and making use of protein than it does fat and carbs.
Protein also increases satiety, leading to significantly reduced hunger (10).
In one study, increasing protein intake to 30% of calories led participants to eat 441 fewer calories per day (11).
One of the best ways to reduce calorie intake is to eat more animal foods like meat, fish and eggs, preferably at every meal.
Summary Eating more protein can boost your metabolism and reduce your hunger. It can also increase muscle mass, helping you burn more calories around the clock.
Another way to feel more satisfied with fewer calories is to eat foods that have a low calorie density.
In one study, women who ate soup (low calorie density) lost 50% more weight than women who ate a calorie-dense snack (22).
Another benefit of soluble fiber is that it gets broken down by bacteria in the digestive tract. This process produces a fatty acid called butyrate, which is believed to have anti-obesity effects, at least in rats ().
Put simply, you can lose weight without reducing the actual amount of food you eat just by choosing foods with a low calorie density, such as high-fiber vegetables.
Summary Choosing foods with a low energy density, such as vegetables and some fruits, can help you feel more satisfied with fewer calories.
One of the best ways to start losing weight without calorie counting or portion control is to reduce your carb intake.
Women in the low-carb group lost twice as much weight (18.7 lbs/8.5 kg) while eating until full, compared to the low-fat group (8.6 lbs/3.9 kg), which was calorie restricted.
The best way to cut carbs is to reduce or eliminate major carb sources from your diet, including sugars, sweets and sodas, as well as starchy foods like bread, pasta, potatoes, etc.
Getting into the range of 100–150 grams of carbs per day can be useful. If you want to lose weight fast, going under 50 grams per day can be extremely effective.
Reducing carbs has another great benefit — it lowers your insulin levels. This makes the kidneys start shedding excess sodium and water from the body, significantly reducing bloat and water weight (30, 31).
Summary Reducing your carb intake can reduce your appetite and cause automatic weight loss (without calorie counting or portion control). It also leads to significant reductions in water weight.
Sleep and stress levels often get ignored when discussing health and weight.
Both are incredibly important for the optimal function of your body and hormones.
In fact, inadequate sleep is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. One study showed that short sleep duration raised the risk by 89% in children and 55% in adults ().
Excessive stress can increase your levels of the hormone cortisol, which is known to increase belly fat accumulation and the risk of chronic, Western diseases like type II diabetes and heart disease (35, 36, 37).
As a result, it is very important to make time for quality sleep, as well as avoid unnecessary stressors in your life.
Summary Poor sleep and excess stress can mess up important metabolic hormones like ghrelin, leptin and cortisol. Getting these hormones under control should reduce appetite and unnatural cravings.
Distracted or inattentive eating is one reason people overeat and gain weight.
Being in tune with your body and paying attention to hunger and fullness or satiety signals is very important.
Many of those who struggle with weight gain or obesity eat out of habit or boredom, rather than necessity.
This often happens when people are doing something else at the same time, like watching TV or browsing the internet.
In these situations, practicing mindful eating could be useful. Mindful eating is a strategy that helps people distinguish between emotional eating and real hunger.
It involves paying full attention to what you are eating, without any distractions, chewing slowly and savoring every bite.
Not only does mindful eating make meals more satisfying, it also reduces the risk of overeating and weight gain (38).
Summary Distracted eating or snacking out of boredom are major reasons for weight gain and obesity. Eating only when you are hungry and eating without any distractions should help keep your waistline in check.
By making a few simple changes that optimize hormones, reduce hunger and boost metabolism, you can lose a lot of weight without ever counting a single calorie.