Pursuing weight loss is an extremely personal experience. There are countless opinions around the most effective ways to lose weight, many of which include counting calories.
Understandably, it can be overwhelming to choose the best path forward, and calorie counting may not be attractive. If you’ve found yourself in this position, the good news is that you can stop counting calories and start losing weight.
It’s Not Just About Calories
You’ve probably heard something along the lines of “calories in, calories out” to describe how your diet influences your weight. This saying suggests that your weight will remain stable as long as you’re burning as many calories as you’re eating. On the other hand, an imbalance will lead to weight gain or weight loss.
While the concept is partially true, it’s not the whole story. Your overall energy intake is one component, but calories aren’t the only factor involved in the process of achieving a healthy weight. After all, not all calories are created equal, and successful long-term weight loss also involves other everyday habits.
The “calories in, calories out” philosophy ignores the fact that there are different types of calories.
Your body tends to have a natural weight range in which it feels the most biologically comfortable, so your body’s “happy weight” — also known as your set-point weight— is unique to you.
Rather than emphasizing a desired weight number, practice healthy habits that will naturally support your body’s optimal weight range. In other words, give your body the tools and environment it needs to be happy and healthy, and trust that it will achieve those things.
If you want to know how to lose weight without counting calories, below are eight healthy habits that can help.
1.Design a plan for success.All too often, we’re led to believe that if we purchase a product, take a supplement or remove a food group, we’ll achieve desired weight goals. Diet programs are sold in a way that makes them look like a quick fix, but most people would tell you they don’t work in the long run and often lead to regaining weight. Plan ahead for your success instead of jumping in blindly. Be specific with your goals and make them realistic by examining your lifestyle and creating steps to achieve them. It can be helpful to write these down somewhere like a journal, where you can continue to track progress and hold yourself accountable.
2.Practice meal planning and prep.Make your weight loss journey sustainable by adopting healthy habits that you can stick to even after you achieve your goals. Rather than relying on diet program meals and snacks, cook as much as possible. Planning your meals for the week ahead can help reduce stress involved when it comes time to eat. This may include spending some time on a Sunday to look at your calendar and determine your meals for the coming week.
Once you have your list of meals and snacks, head to the grocery store to pick up what you need and start preparing. To save time, find meals that use some of the same ingredients or make enough that you’ll have leftovers. You can also pack them in individual, meal-size containers or bags for convenience, and even freeze some portions for future weeks. If you don’t have time to prep meals for an entire week, you can add our super-nutritious superfood ingredients into the mix.
3. Pay attention to added sugar. While your weight-loss plan may not totally exclude added sugar, it’s helpful to be aware of how much you’re consuming and where it comes from. Foods that are high in added sugar tend to be higher in empty calories. This means they contribute a significant amount of energy without much nutritional value, which may promote overeating and hinder weight loss. Keep in mind that added sugar, found in many packaged foods and snack items, is different from natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables. The latter contain sugar naturally, but are also packed in incredibly healthy nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals that help support weight loss.
4.Emphasize nutrient-dense foods.The “calories in, calories out” philosophy ignores the fact that there are different types of calories. More important than reducing your calorie intake is choosing healthy calorie sources to make up most of your diet. One of the best things you can do is to base your eating pattern on whole, minimally processed foods. This includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean proteins, nuts and seeds. It’s these foods that will support natural weight loss as well as overall health for the long haul.
5.Stay hydrated.Getting enough fluid is important for your overall health, but can alsosupport weight loss. Staying hydrated can help keep you feeling fuller for longer and prevent overeating or boredom snacking between meals. Water is also calorie-free, unlike soda, juice and sports drinks. Stay hydrated by filling a water bottle every morning and keeping it with you for easy access. If you get bored of plain water, try carbonated water or adding slices of lemon or cucumber for natural flavoring.
6.Move your body.Along with good nutrition habits, staying active is an important aspect of encouraging healthy weight loss. This doesn’t mean that you have to enroll in an intense gym program if that’s not your style. It just means finding avariety of waysto sweat that you enjoy and that can help support your weight-loss goals. If you’re not already active, this is a perfect time to try new things. Many people enjoy riding their bikes, doing yoga, taking up jogging, dancing, playing tennis or swimming. Mix it up with strength training and resistance exercises to burn extra calories and fat and help tone your muscles.
7.Get restful sleep.Getting enough high-quality, restful sleep is another important component of your weight-loss journey. In fact, some research shows thatsleep restrictioncan impede weight loss. Help improve your sleep habits by creating an environmentconducive to sleep, getting in a regular sleep-wake routine and avoiding things that may make it more difficult to fall asleep, like eating a large meal orusing technologytoo close to bedtime.
8.Practice mindful eating.One of the biggest factors for achieving your body’s natural “happy weight” is to become aware of your own hunger and fullness cues. Mindful eating means being in tune with your body, your appetite, when you’re satiated and using your intuition to guide your eating habits.It can be helpful to eat a little more slowly, pay attention to every bite and practice being present in the moment while you enjoy a meal. Healthy eating isn’t about restriction or guilt, but rather understanding what your body needs and providing it.
You Don’t Have to Count Calories
Weight loss is a multifaceted journey that is unique to everyone. While counting calories is often encouraged as a necessary part of weight loss, the truth is that it doesn’t have to be. Instead, practicing healthy diet, hydration, sleep and exercise habits can help your body achieve its natural “happy weight” and serve your overall health in the long run.
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