Thinking about dieting to lose weight? Well, that’s a good idea! But before you sign up for yet another fad diet or start tracking your calories, it’s good to know there are other ways to drop pounds — and keep them off — without going hungry.
In fact, a recent study found that people who make small changes in their eating habits, exercise more frequently, and maintain those habits long-term see greater health benefits than those who undertake much more dramatic changes but can’t maintain them over time. Here are some natural ways to lose weight without a strict diet:
Walk More (and Walk Faster)
There’s a good chance that when you think “walking,” you picture strolling leisurely around your neighborhood. But researchers have found that people who walk faster burn more calories and lose about the same amount of weight as those who walk more slowly.
The secret is to push yourself: If you usually stroll at 3 miles per hour (or 6 minutes per mile), aim to walk at 4 miles per hour (7 minutes per mile) for 30 minutes three times a week, suggests a study published in the journal Preventive Medicine. Keep in mind that walking is also good for your health, so it’s a win-win situation.
Eat More Protein
Eating more protein has been shown to help you feel fuller and reduce cravings, which are big factors in weight loss. Research also shows that people who eat more protein lose more weight and keep it off, compared to those who eat the same amount of calories but less protein.
How much is enough? Experts recommend a daily intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2 lbs.) of body weight — that is, 56 grams for a 150-lb. person.
Try adding more protein to your diet by swapping out one meal per day with a protein-rich food, such as boiled eggs, tuna, or beans. You can also include protein-rich foods in your snacks, such as peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers, or yogurt with nuts.
Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is not, as you might expect, fasting for all of your meals. Instead, it involves a pattern of eating that cycles between a period of no food (typically 16 hours) and a period of high protein intake (typically 8 hours). The remaining 8 hours are spent eating whatever your regular diet is.
Research shows that people who follow this pattern while dieting loses an average of 7% of their body weight in 12 weeks, compared to people who follow a standard diet and exercise program who lose only 3% of their body weight in the same time period.
What’s more, the IF group maintained their weight loss for another year after the study ended. So why does it work? One theory is that when your body is in a fasting stage, it uses calories more efficiently and burns more fat as fuel.
Plus, many people feel less hungry during their fasting period and eat less during their eating period, so they end up consuming fewer calories overall.
Hit The Gym — But Don’t Overdo It
Getting regular aerobic exercise, like brisk walking or cycling, is one of the best ways to lose weight. You don’t need to hit the gym, though. In fact, exercising in a gym might not be best for you.
For starters, research shows that people who exercise at home lose the same amount of weight as those who work out in a gym — and they see greater benefits, such as improved sleep and mood. You also have more flexibility to do what works best for you at home.
For example, some people prefer to walk or run outdoors during nice weather, while others prefer to walk or run indoors on rainy or cold days. Plus, you don’t need special equipment, and you can do it at any time of the day.
Cut Back On Sugar And Rotisserie Chicken
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard this advice: “Cut back on sugar.” But how much should you actually cut back? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that you limit your daily intake of added sugar to 10% of your daily calories, which amounts to about 12 teaspoons for an adult who eats about 2,000 calories a day.
That’s not too hard to do if you avoid obvious sources of added sugar, such as ice cream and soda. Where you might fall short, though, is in foods that you might not think of as sugary. A single serving of rotisserie chicken, for example, can have as much as 2 teaspoons of added sugar.
Get Enough Sleep
Research shows that sleeping less than 7 hours a night can lead to weight gain, especially among women. What’s more, people who sleep less than 6 hours a night are at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease than people who sleep 7 to 9 hours a night.
The reasons for this are unclear, but sleep experts believe that not getting enough sleep disrupts the hormones that regulate metabolism. This can lead to weight gain, reduced energy, and increased cravings for unhealthy foods. Now that you know how important sleep is to your health, here are some tips on getting more shut-eye every night.
- Turn off your phone: The blue light emitted by electronic devices inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep.
- Keep your room cool: You’ll fall asleep more easily in a room that’s between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Avoid large meals right before bed: Food in your stomach can keep you awake.
- Drink less caffeine: Limit your caffeine intake to no more than two cups per day, and don’t drink it after 2 pm, so it has enough time to leave your system before bedtime.
While it’s true that some people can lose weight through dieting, for most people it’s a temporary fix that often leads to regaining the weight, plus more.
Losing weight and keeping it off, on the other hand, involves making small but lasting lifestyle changes — like increasing your activity level and eating more protein. While many of these methods work best when combined with a healthy diet, they can also be used alone as part of a weight-loss plan.