When you look in the mirror or step onto the scale, you might wish that you could shed a few pounds.
Those jeans you bought a few months back might fit a little snug now, or maybe you’ve had to put an extra notch in your belt.
You may not want to go to the gym, or even have time for it. But it takes working out to lose weight, right?
The truth is, you can totally lose weight without exercising. And in this article, I’ll show you how:
11 Science-Backed Ways to Lose Weight Without Exercising
1. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF for short) involves alternating between periods of fasting and eating.
A typical eating schedule might involve skipping breakfast, having an eating window from 1 p.m.—9 p.m., then fasting for 16 hours.
The real question is: Does intermittent fasting really work for weight loss?
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found IF to be an effective weight-loss strategy.
In the study, 16 participants engaged in alternate-day fasting over 22 days. On average, participants lost 2.5% of their initial weight and saw a 4% decrease in fat over the 22-day study.(1)
Besides weight loss, people who are consistent about intermittent fasting have reported many other health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control, and reduced inflammation.(2)(3)
Want to learn more about intermittent fasting? Check out this downloadable intermittent fasting guide.
2. track your calorie and macro intakes
In order to lose weight, you have to be in a calorie deficit.
Simply put, that just means you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming.
You can focus on your nutrition to create a deficit for yourself. More specifically, you can count calories or track your macros.
Can counting calories really help you lose weight, or is it all just a bunch of hype?
A randomized study conducted by the National Institute of Aging set out to prove whether or not calorie counting really can help with weight loss.
Participants were separated into two groups—one group restricted their calories and the other group continued with a normal diet. With a 12% calorie reduction, subjects in the calorie restriction group saw an average weight loss of 10% over the 2-year study (*Note: the original goal was a 25% calorie restriction*).(4)
Compared to the control group, subjects who followed a calorie-restricted diet also achieved lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
This guide here will walk you through how you can count calories to lose weight.
When you track your macros, you focus on the three primary macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and how much you’re eating of each on a daily basis.
Macro-counting makes it easy for you to align what you’re eating with your health goals. For example, if you’re a powerlifter or like lifting weights, you might want a diet higher in carbs to help you power through on heavy training days.
On the other hand:
If you’re following a keto diet, then you’re going to want a diet super low in carbs, which counting macros can help you create.
Want to figure out your own, personal macros?
This guide on figuring out your macros for weight loss will walk you through how it’s done step-by-step.
If you choose to count calories or track your macros, there are a ton of different apps out there to help you stay on track. Here are some of the more well-known ones:
Take Control of Your Appetite
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3. increasing protein intake
Does your diet tend to go off the rails whenever hunger strikes?
Try increasing your protein intake.
Eating protein reduces hormone levels in your body that make you feel hungry, such as ghrelin, and increases hormone levels that make you feel more full.(5)
But you might not always have the time or energy to prepare your meals.
Good news for you:
Protein shakes are a convenient way to keep your intake high, sneak more protein into your diet, and help you lose weight. Typically, people buy protein powderand mix it together with water or milk to make their own shakes.
Not only can upping your protein intake help you feel more full, but research shows that a high protein diet can also help boost your metabolism because of its high thermic effect.(6)
The “thermic effect of food” can be defined as the increase in metabolic rate after ingestion of a meal.(7)
In layman’s terms, your body needs energy to process the food you eat, and the effort it takes to digest your food actually ends up burning some calories.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a high protein diet can burn 80 calories more per day than a standard diet.(8)
4. eat more fiber
Sticking to a diet plan when you’re hungry all the time can be difficult, right?
That’s where having a high fiber diet can come in handy to help you lose weight.(9)
Fiber consumption has also been linked to many other health benefits, such as:
- Lower cholesterol levels(10)(11)
- Reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer (12)(13)(14)
- Help to deal with constipation (15)
Research shows that viscous fiber in particular is key to helping with feelings of fullness, reducing your appetite, and ultimately, weight loss.(16)
Viscosity is a measure of how thick or sticky a type of food is. For example, honey is more viscous than milk.
The higher a food’s viscosity, the higher the chance it will help you feel more full and reduce your appetite.
Here are some fiber sources that are high in viscosity:
- Oats and whole grains
- Brussels sprouts
5. reduce portion sizes
Are you seeing the same number every time you step onto the scale?
Or even worse, maybe that number’s been going up.
If this at all sounds like you, then it might not be “what” you’re eating but instead “how much” you’re eating that’s causing your lack of results.
Try scaling back on your portion sizes. You might surprise yourself with how fast the number on the scale starts to trend downward in the right direction.
According to the USDA, a good way to think about splitting up your plate is to divide it into fourths (17):
- ¼ for a lean protein source like grilled chicken breast, white fish, or tofu
- ¼ for grains (preferably whole grains) like brown rice, quinoa, or whole-wheat pasta
- ¼ for vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots
- ¼ for fruits like watermelon, strawberries, or grapes
On the side, you can have a serving of low-fat or fat-free dairy (i.e. yogurt, milk, etc).
6. eliminate empty calories
Let me ask you something:
How do you normally feel after eating a donut?
Odds are, you feel pretty satisfied in the immediate aftermath. But after about the first 60 seconds, that satisfaction probably starts to fade.
When it’s all said and done, you probably aren’t left feeling too full either.
For this reason, empty-calorie foods definitely go on the list of foods to avoid when you’re trying to lose weight.
To cut down on empty calories, you want to make sure you’re filling up on foods that are low in calorie density.
Calorie density refers to how many calories a food has relative to its weight or volume.
Foods high in calorie density have a lot of calories in a smaller amount of food, while foods low in calorie density have fewer calories in a larger amount of food.
Research shows that weight loss can be linked to eating foods that are low in calorie density. (18)
One study published in the Journal of Nutrition measured the impact of low-calorie dense foods on weight loss.
The 14-week study separated participants into two groups—one group followed a diet of low-calorie dense foods and the other group ate in a calorie restriction of 1,400 calories.
On average, the group that followed the diet of foods low in calorie density lost 6.2% of their body weight, compared to 3.8% for the other group.(19)
But what if that creamy caesar salad dressing is a must-have for you?
Or you just can’t live in a world without your daily soda pop fix? What are you supposed to do then?
7. choose healthier alternatives to foods you already eat
Instead of having to go cold turkey on your favorite foods, try finding healthier alternatives.
To help you get started, here are some lower-calorie options to foods you might be already eating:
- Lay’s Baked Potato Chips
- Bolthouse Farms Salad Dressing
- Gatorade Zero or G2
- PB2 Peanut Butter
- Halo Top Ice Cream
8. drink more water
Whether it’s your morning coffee with cream and sugar, a few cocktails at happy hour, or even a sports drink like Gatorade, liquid calories count too.
In one study, researchers found that drinking water before each meal can aid in weight loss.
The study found that participants who drank two glasses of water before each meal lost an average of 5 pounds more than those who didn’t over a 12-week period (*Note: both groups in the study followed a low-calorie diet*).(20)
9. get more sleep
You might want to pass on the next episode of your favorite Netflix show tonight because getting adequate sleep is an important (and oftentimes overlooked) piece of the weight-loss equation.
Research suggests that adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. However, according to the CDC, ⅓ of US adults don’t get enough sleep.(21)(22)
Not getting enough sleep causes your body to produce more ghrelin (hunger hormone) and lowers leptin levels (appetite suppressant), which can increase your chances of overeating.(23)
Inadequate sleep can also result in your body producing more cortisol, a stress-response hormone, which like ghrelin, can also increase your appetite.(24)
10. keep snacking in check
The problem with snacking is it’s hard to keep tabs on just how much you’re eating throughout the day.
Those frequent pit stops at your coworker’s candy jar throughout the day can add up without you even realizing it. Or maybe you’re the one supplying your coworkers with a snack drawer full of goodies!
Some of the tips we’ve discussed in this article apply to snacking as well.
Curbing food cravings can be hard but you can help yourself fight off the temptation to snack by doing things like upping your protein intake and making sure you’re eating plenty of fiber.
11. hide items so you’re not tempted
You’ve heard of the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.”
Research shows it can be applied to food and weight loss.
A study published in SAGE Journals found that people who lived in households that kept fruit on display were more likely to weigh less than those who had high-calorie foods out in plain sight, such as candy or cereal.(25)
Moral of the story: If you just KNOW that you’ll overindulge on certain foods if they’re around, keep them out of your line of sight.
Losing weight can be stressful, especially if you’re anticipating having to spend hours on the treadmill or lifting weights in the gym.
Luckily, there are many ways you can lose weight without exercising, and this list should help you get started.
Focus on making sure your nutrition is in check, de-stress by getting enough sleep, and drink plenty of water to put yourself on the right path to dropping a few pounds without working out.
Which tip do you see yourself using? Are there any others you want to see added to the list? Let us know in the comments below!
- “Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism”Heilbronn, K., Leonie, Smith, R, Steven, Martin, K., Corby, Anton, D., Stephen, Ravussin, Eric. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Jan. 2005.
- “Ten-Hour Time-Restricted Eating Reduces Weight, Blood Pressure, and Atherogenic Lipids in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome”Wilkinson, J., Michael, Manoogian, N.C., Emily, Zadourian, Adena, Lo, Hannah, Fakhouri, Savannah, Shoghi, Azarin, Wang, Xinran, Fleischer, G, Jason, Navlakha, Saket, Panda, Satchidananda, Taub, R., Pam. Cell Metabolism. Jan. 2020.
- “Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes”Mattson, P., Mark, Longo, D., Valter, Harvie, Michelle. Ageing Research Reviews. Oct. 2017.
- “2 years of calorie restriction and cardiometabolic risk (CALERIE): exploratory outcomes of a multicentre, phase 2, randomised controlled trial”Kraus, E., Williams, Bhapkar, Manjushri, Huffman, M., Kim, Pieper, F., Carl, Das, Krupa, Sai, Redman, M., Leanne, Villareal, T., Dennis, Rochon, James, Roberts, B., Susan, Ravussin, Eric, Holloszy, O., John. Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. Sep. 2019.
- “Ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 concentrations, 24-h satiety, and energy and substrate metabolism during a high-protein diet and measured in a respiration chamber”Lejeuene, P.G.M., Manuela, Westerterp, R., Klaas, Adam, C.M., Tanja, Luscombe-Marsh, D., Natalie, Westerterp-Plantenga, S., Margriet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Jan. 2006.
- “Diet induced thermogenesis”Westerterp, R., Klaas. Nutrition and Metabolism. Aug. 2004.
- “Measuring the thermic effect of food”Reed, G.W., Hill, J.O. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Feb. 1996.
- “A high-protein total diet replacement increases energy expenditure and leads to negative fat balance in healthy, normal-weight adults”Oliveira, L.P., Camila, Boulé, G., Normand, Sharma, M., Arya, Elliot, A., Sarah, Siervo, Mario, Ghosh, Sunita, Berg, Aloys, Prado, M., Carla. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Feb. 2021.
- “Fiber Intake Predicts Weight Loss and Dietary Adherence in Adults Consuming Calorie-Restricted Diets: The POUNDS Lost (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) Study”Miketinas, C., Derek. Bray, A., George. Beyl, A., Robbie. Ryan, H., Donna. Sacks, M., Frank. Champagne, M., Catherine. Journal of Nutrition. Oct. 2019.
- “Dietary Fiber, Atherosclerosis, and Cardiovascular Disease”Soliman, A., Ghada. Nutrients. May 2018.
- “Dietary Fiber Is Beneficial for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses”McRae, P., Marc. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. Dec. 2017.
- “Dietary Fiber Intake and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses”McRae, P., Marc. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. Mar. 2018.
- “The Benefits of Dietary Fiber Intake on Reducing the Risk of Cancer: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses”McRae, P., Marc. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. Jun. 2018.
- “The Benefits of Dietary Fiber Intake on Reducing the Risk of Cancer: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses”McRae, P., Marc. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. Jun. 2018.
- “Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta analysis”Yang, Jing, Wang, Hai-Peng, Zhou, Li, Xu, Chun-Fang. World Journal of Gastroenterology. Dec. 2012.
- “Can dietary viscous fiber affect body weight independently of an energy-restrictive diet? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials”Jovanovski, Elena, Mazhar Nourah, Komishon, Allison, Khayyat, Li, Dandan, Mejia, Blanco, Sonia, Khan, Tauseef, Jenkins, L., Alexandra, Smircic-Duvnjak, Lea, Sievenpiper, L., John, Vuksan, Vladimir. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Feb. 2020.
- “What is MyPlate?”United States Department of Agriculture.
- “Link between Food Energy Density and Body Weight Changes in Obese Adults”Stelmach-Mardas, Marta, Rodacki, Tomasz, Dobrowolska-Iwanek, Justyna, Brzozowska, Anna, Walkowiak, Jaroslaw, Wojtanowska-Krosniak, Agnieszka, Zagrodzki, Pawel, Bechthold, Angela, Mardas, Marcin, Boeing, Heiner. Journal of Nutrition. Nutrients. Apr. 2016.
- “A Low Energy–Dense Diet in the Context of a Weight-Management Program Affects Appetite Control in Overweight and Obese Women”Buckland, J., Nicola, Camidge, Diana, Croden, Fiona, Lavin, H., Jacqelynne, Stubbs, James, R., Hetherington, M., Marion, Blundell, E., John, Finlayson, Graham. Journal of Nutrients. May 2018.
- “Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-aged and Older adults”Dennis A., Elizabeth, Dengo, Laura, Ana, Comber, L., Dana, Flack, D., Kyle, Savla, Jyoti, Davy P., Kevin, Davy, M., Brenda. Obesity. Feb. 2010.
- “Data and Statistics—Short Sleep Duration Among U.S. Adults”Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention (CDC).
- “National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary”Hirshkowitz, Max, Whiton, Kaitlyn, Albert, M., Steven, Alessi, Cathay, Bruni, Oliviero, DonCarlos, Lydia, Hazen, Nancy, Herman, John, Katz, S., Eliot, Kheirandish-Gozal, Leila, Neubauer, N., David, O’Donnell, E., Anne, Ohayon, Maurice, Peever, John, Rawding, Robert, Sachdeva, C., Ramesh, Setters, Belinda, Vitello, V., Michael, Ware, Castesby, J., Adams Hillard, J., Paula. Sleep Health. Mar. 2015.
- “ Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index”Taheri, Shahrad, Lin, Ling, Austin, Diane, Young, Terry, Mignot, Emmanuel. PLOS Medicine. Dec. 2004.
- “ Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening”Leproult, R., Copinschi, G., Buxton, O., Van Cauter, E. Sleep. 1997.
- “ Slim by Design: Kitchen Counter Correlates of Obesity”Wansink, Brian, Hanks, S.,, Andrew, Kaipainen, Kirsikka. SAGE Journals. Oct. 2016.
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