5 Ways to Lose Weight Without Dieting
By Carolyn Suerth Hudson, RDN, LD
February 23, 2021
In a recent Dishing Up Nutrition episode How To Lose Weight Without Dieting we shared why we at Nutritional Weight & Wellness aren’t fans of “diets.” One, we want to re-frame how we see food, because after decades of dieting, so many people (our new nutrition counseling clients included) have a bad relationship with food. We want to change that and restore food's place as nourishing and enjoyable. With obesity on the rise, you could say we’re a nation of people who are undernourished and overfed. People are desperate and they’re being taken advantage of with liquid diets or pre-packaged program foods, just to name a couple examples.
Which brings us to our second reason why we don’t “diet” – we want to focus on health first, weight second. Often, when clients fix their health problems with better nutrition, their weight tends to naturally improve. Dietitian Melanie was my cohost on the How To Lose Weight Without Dieting episode and I loved this client story she shared on health first, weight second.
“I have a client who came to me after her doctor told her, 'I need to get your A1C down.' A1C is just a value that shows whether your blood sugar’s in a normal range and hers was very high, which indicated that her blood sugars had been high for quite some time. So her doctor said, “I can't perform this knee replacement on you until your A1C is down.” That was her focus when she came to see me. And with work we did get her A1C down. We did get her blood sugars within normal range. She was able to have her knee surgery and she healed beautifully from it. Then here's what happened: as we focused on her overall health, she reached her goal of her surgery, and her cholesterol really improved. And she dropped 50 pounds. The list goes on! Again, we focus on health. That is the primary goal and everything else falls into alignment.”
So, rather than focus on dieting (which can be harmful), let’s instead focus on the five takeaways shared in our Dishing Up Nutrition episode How To Lose Weight Without Dieting. It is possible! Here’s how:
Cook at Home
Being comfortable preparing meals is a really powerful and effective way to lose weight. Here's an interesting fact: researchers are now linking weight gain and obesity to poor cooking skills. It’s probably not a stretch to link poor cooking skills to other health problems as well. But as dietitians and nutritionists we see several clients who have never really cooked before. So what did they do for dinner? They come home from work and they look in the refrigerator and just grab whatever they want: crackers and cheese, maybe a little glass of wine or a cocktail. Not a recipe for good health, good moods, or good weight management.
Cook with Natural Fats (Not “Franken Fats”)
When you’re cooking at home, use natural fats not “Franken fats”. What are Franken fats? They are fats that don’t occur naturally (soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, and canola oil are Franken fat examples) and are highly processed, meaning a whole bunch of chemicals was used in making them. When we’re eating these unnatural fats, our cells suffer because every cell membrane is made of fat! So we need the fats that we're eating to be good quality, natural options (butter, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, bacon grease for example) so our body can recognize them and build healthy, strong cell membranes. Only then can our bodies function properly. A big part of cells working well is a result of the fats we’re eating. We know that most takeout foods, and certainly all fast foods, are cooked in refined vegetable oil (an all too common Franken fat!). Research points to these fats (again, vegetable oils such as soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil and canola oil) as causing epidemic levels of heart disease and obesity.
So in a nutshell, to have a healthy metabolism and lose weight without dieting, cook at home with natural fats. Cut out those refined oils that will slow down your metabolism.
Eat Enough Protein
While you are cooking food at home, make sure to include four ounces (oz.) of high-quality protein for women at meal times, six oz. for men. For snack time, make it 2 oz. for women and 3 oz. for men. Every meal and snack should have some protein. Most people don’t eat enough protein, especially women. But most don’t know that protein boosts your metabolism by 30%. Eating protein gives you the energy to move, to play, to enjoy life. Eating protein also supports your brain health and function. Animal protein breaks down into amino acids, which then makes all of our neurotransmitters like dopamine. Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter that we need to feel good and reduce cravings for sugar and alcohol. It’s much easier to stay committed to eating well when your dopamine levels are good, because you just feel better overall.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleeping seven to nine hours most nights is another way to lose weight without dieting. Lack of sleep often means more cravings for sugar, inflammation, a slow metabolism, irritability, and a fuzzy brain that can’t focus. No thank you! We also learned from Matthew Walker in his book, Why We Sleep, that lack of sleep actually harms our immune system. Sleep is really, really important.
When helping numerous clients with sleep problems, we found that some need magnesium. Others need GABA or melatonin or 5-HTP. Some people need all of the above to get a good night’s sleep. This post on getting better sleep covers our better sleep recommendations perfectly!
Supplement with Vitamin D
Last but not least, make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Researchers have found that people with low vitamin D blood levels are more likely to be obese. We also know that vitamin D has been cited as one of the most powerful factors for a strong immune system (and research is also saying those with higher vitamin D levels may recover from COVID-19 better). If you live north of the equator, it’s recommended to supplement with vitamin D but it’s a good idea to know your levels before you start. To do so, ask your doctor to check for your vitamin D; a good range is between 50 and 80.
Our Dishing Up Nutrition episode, How To Lose Weight Without Dieting shares even more of the ins and outs of these 5 recommendations, along with the fascinating science behind them. For one-on-one help from one of our nutritionists and dietitians consider signing up for a virtual (Zoom) nutrition counseling session, designed to help you meet your health goals, be it weight loss, better sleep, whatever is important to you.