Losing Weight Without Dieting: How to Stop Counting Calories Obsessively

We understand that diets do not always work, and some, on the contrary, are harmful, slowing down the metabolism

The basic rule of weight loss, known to everyone, is to create a calorie deficit: spend more calories than you consume. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, on average, women burn between 1,600 and 2,400 kcal a day, while men burn between 2,000 and 3,000 kcal. For the average person, most of this energy is consumed at rest: the brain alone requires about 320 kcal daily, not to mention other organs that also need fuel.

At the same time, many people note that after the first success of the diet, losing weight may stop or weight may even begin to return, even if the diet has not been changed in any way. We know why this can happen.

losing weight without dieting
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Why is everyone’s metabolic rate different?

The rate at which food is processed into energy is different for each person. Even for people with the same weight, the same food can be digested differently. There are many factors that actively affect the metabolism.

What determines your metabolic rate:

Genetic predisposition. You shouldn’t blame the excess weight solely on your heredity—the speed of the process of processing substances only partially depends on the genes.

Body size. Basal metabolic rate in adults depends on their height and weight. The larger the body, the faster it processes food into energy. So, in women, the metabolism is usually slower, due to the fact that they are physically smaller and the proportion of muscle tissue they have less than in men.

Age. The rate of metabolic processes slows down over the years due to loss of muscle tissue, as well as due to hormonal and neurological changes.

The ratio of fat and muscle tissue. Sports help speed up the process of converting food into energy by building muscle. This way the body burns kilojoules faster even at rest. “Sluggish” fat cells, on the contrary, do not show activity in these processes.

Nervous and hormonal systems. They regulate the basal rate at which the body produces energy. Malfunctions can lead to both obesity and sudden weight loss.

The microbiome of the intestine. Low intestinal patency slows down the production of energy that the body receives from food.

A strict diet, fasting or starvation. Eating a small amount of food provokes the body to accumulate energy and slow down the metabolism. Your metabolic rate may decrease by 15%. However, if a person loses muscle tissue in addition to fat, this percentage will increase.

Food. The balance of substances is important. For example, a lack of iodine impairs the functioning of the thyroid gland and slows down the metabolism. And coffee, on the contrary, accelerates it (which does not negate its health risks with individual poor tolerance). The best way to speed up your metabolism is to eat a balanced diet with enough plant foods, complex carbohydrates, and protein.

Ambient temperature. If the thermometer drops very low or rises very high, the body has to work harder to maintain a normal body temperature. This increases the metabolic rate.

Diseases. At the moment of illness, the body mobilizes and begins to work more actively, trying to get rid of the infection. This accelerates the processes of metabolism, which help to build new tissues faster and strengthen the immune system.

Given all these features, restricting food when trying to lose weight can lead to rapid weight gain. Often this effect is observed immediately after the end of the diet.

losing weight without dieting
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Why counting calories to lose weight may be ineffective

The problem is that even the same foods don’t contain the same number of calories. The standard of calories per 100 g, which we see on packages or in tables for weight loss, is very conditional. Take vegetables, for example. We eat the stems, leaves, ands fruits of hundreds of different plants. The cell walls in the vertexes and roots of some varieties are much tougher than in others. The caloric content may vary even for the same products. The weaker the cell walls of the plant material we eat, the more calories we get from it. These changes may depend on the ripeness of the product or whether it has been heat treated or not. When the structure remains strong, vegetables accumulate calories and pass through the body unchanged, such as corn, but spinach or zucchini are destroyed faster when cooked.

Also keep in mind that 100 kcal from broccoli is not the same as 100 kcal from a doughnut. In the latter case, there will be a jump in blood sugar, the process of accumulation of reserves will be activated and the feeling of hunger will return faster. Accordingly, a person will either have a snack again, or his body will reduce the speed of metabolic processes. In addition, the same baked goods and cabbage will have different effects on the state of the hormonal system and metabolism.

The rate of metabolic processes in all people is different. Someone cannot afford to eat a bun, and someone and a whole cupcake will not spoil the figure.

How to help your metabolism?

To maintain your body in a normal state, you should first of all monitor the work of metabolic processes. The following tips will help you set them up.

Set the power mode

This will allow you to balance your metabolism. At the same time, complex carbohydrates should be consumed in the morning: at this time of day, they are better absorbed. But protein and fiber can be left for lunch and dinner.

Drink more water

If there are no stomach problems, it is better to drink cold water. Low temperature activates the processes of energy recycling. In addition, with water, the body does not consume excess sugar, as in the case of juices, even freshly squeezed. Cold water activates the work of the intestines, resulting in a feeling of satiety.

Sports

Physical activity encourages rapid absorption of food. At the same time, in order to stay in shape, an ordinary person does not have to be killed in the gym. Daily walks with a normal step of 30-45 minutes are enough. The more regular exercise, the faster the formation of muscle tissue. This way the body will burn kilojoules more actively even at rest. Fat cells participate in these processes without enthusiasm.

Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep not only slows down metabolic processes, but also reduces the production of leptin, the satiety hormone. As a result, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience hunger.

Expert commentary

The main mistake of dieters is the desire to quickly reduce weight by limiting the caloric content of food and narrowing the set of products. The result can be serious metabolic disorders, a decrease in its speed (the body gets used to saving food energy) and rapid weight gain after stopping the diet, since even a low-calorie diet will be perceived by the body as increased.

The prescriptions of dietitians around the world are quite similar and are reflected both in the recommendations on healthy nutrition of individual countries and in the recommendations of the world health organization. The main principles include:

  • variety of plant foods in the diet;
  • consumption of whole grain bread and foods made from whole wheat flour;
  • a sufficient amount of dietary fiber (food for healthy microflora of the intestine);
  • restriction of easily digestible carbohydrates to prevent a significant increase in glucose levels and additional stress on the pancreas;
  • consumption of 400-500 g of fresh vegetables and fruits per day;
  • use of various types of vegetable oils: olive, sunflower, linseed and others containing mainly unsaturated fatty acids.
losing weight
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It is also recommended to limit the consumption of red meat and replace it with poultry, fish and other marine products rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthier than plant-based sources of omega-3. It is also worth reducing the consumption of industrially processed products with a long shelf life. From dairy products, it is better to give preference to fermented, low-fat products: yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, cheese.

There are no strict rules about the frequency of food intake in science. Someone used to eat twice a day, and someone four or even five.

An important tool for achieving these goals is to monitor the state of the intestinal microbiota and prevent the development of dysbiosis, which is facilitated by the inclusion in the diet of food rich in both prebiotics (dietary fiber) and probiotics (fermented products of plant and dairy origin).

It should be emphasized that such recommendations cannot be considered a diet, since any diet primarily implies the rejection of something. Recommendations allow a person to consume a variety of foods (for example, the principle of traffic lights for vegetables and fruits). For weight loss, it is important to follow these principles for a week or several months, although on any particular day you can occasionally treat yourself to your favorite product, even if it is not included in the list of “super healthy”. Getting pleasure from food is an important component of a healthy lifestyle and does not prevent weight loss.

To “propel” the metabolism, the best recommendation may be to increase muscle mass, which serves as a powerful energy consumer, and reduce the proportion of fat mass. This can be achieved through regular exercise combined with a healthy, balanced diet. Following these simple principles helps the metabolism respond sensitively to both the caloric content and the composition of food, which is scientifically called metabolic flexibility or metabolic adaptation.

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