By Hrefna Palsdottir Authority Nutrition
Sticking to a conventional diet and exercise plan can be difficult.
However, there are several proven tips that can help you “mindlessly” eat fewer calories.
These are effective ways to reduce your weight, as well as to prevent weight gain in the future.
Here are 11 ways to lose weight without diet or exercise. All of them are based on science.
1. Chew Thoroughly and Slow Down
Your brain needs time to process that you’ve had enough to eat.
Chewing your food better makes you eat more slowly, which is associated with decreased food intake, increased fullness and smaller portions (1, 2, 3).
How quickly you finish your meals may also affect your weight.
A recent review of 23 observational studies reported that faster eaters are more likely to gain weight, compared to slower eaters (4).
Fast eaters are also much more likely to be obese. To get into the habit of eating more slowly, it may help to count how many times you chew each bite.
Bottom Line: Eating your food slowly can help you feel more full with fewer calories. It is an easy way to lose weight and prevent weight gain.
2. Use Smaller Plates For Unhealthy Foods
The typical food plate is larger today than it was a few decades ago.
This is unfortunate, since using a smaller plate may help you eat less by making portions look larger.
At the same time, a bigger plate can make a serving look smaller, causing you to add more food (5, 6).
You can use this to your advantage by serving healthy food on bigger plates and less healthy food on smaller plates.
Bottom Line: Smaller plates can trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more than you actually are. Therefore, it’s smart to consume unhealthy foods from smaller plates, causing you to eat less.
3. Eat Plenty of Protein
Protein has powerful effects on appetite. It can increase the feeling of fullness, reduce hunger and help you eat fewer calories (7).
This may be because protein affects several hormones that play a role in hunger and fullness, including ghrelin and GLP-1 (8).
One study found that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of calories helped participants eat 441 fewer calories per day and lose 11 pounds in 12 weeks, without intentionally restricting anything (9).
If you currently eat a grain-based breakfast, then you may want to consider switching to a protein-rich option, such as eggs.
In one study, overweight or obese women who had eggs for breakfast ate fewer calories at lunch compared to those who ate a grain-based breakfast (10).
What’s more, they ended up eating fewer calories for the rest of the day and during the next 36 hours.
Some examples of protein-rich foods include chicken breasts, fish, Greek yogurt, lentils, quinoa and almonds.
Bottom Line: Adding protein to your diet has been shown to cause “automatic” weight loss, without exercise or conscious calorie restriction.
4. Store Unhealthy Foods Out of Sight
Storing unhealthy foods where you can see them may increase hunger and cravings, causing you to eat more (11).
This is also linked to weight gain (12).
One recent study found that if high-calorie foods are more visible in the house, the residents are more likely to weigh more, compared to people who keep only a bowl of fruit visible (12).
Store unhealthy foods out of sight, such as in closets or cupboards, so that they are less likely to catch your eye when you’re hungry.
On the other hand, keep healthy foods visible on your counter tops and place them front and center in your fridge.
Bottom Line: If you keep unhealthy foods on your counter, you are more likely to have an unplanned snack. This is also linked to increased weight and obesity. It’s better to keep healthy foods, like fruits, visible.
5. Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
Eating fiber-rich foods may increase satiety, helping you feel fuller for longer.
Studies also indicate that a special kind of fiber, called viscous fiber, is particularly helpful for weight loss. It increases fullness and reduces food intake (13).
Viscous fiber forms a gel when it comes in contact with water. This gel increases the time it takes to absorb nutrients and slows down the emptying of the stomach (14).
Viscous fiber is only found in plant foods. Examples include beans, oat cereals, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, oranges and flax seeds.
A weight loss supplement called glucomannan is also very high in viscous fiber.
Bottom Line: Viscous fiber is particularly helpful in reducing appetite and food intake. This fiber forms gel that slows down digestion.
6. Drink Water Regularly
Drinking water can help you eat less and lose weight, especially if you drink it before a meal.
One study in adults found that drinking half a liter (17 oz) of water, about half an hour before meals, reduced hunger and helped them eat fewer calories (15).
Participants who drank water before a meal lost 44% more weight over a 12-week period, compared to those who did not.
If you replace calorie-loaded drinks — such as soda or juice — with water, you may experience an even greater effect (16).
Bottom Line: Drinking water before meals may help you eat fewer calories. Replacing a sugary drink with water is particularly beneficial.
7. Serve Yourself Smaller Portions
Portion sizes have increased during the last few decades, especially at restaurants.
Larger portions encourage people to eat more, and have been linked to an increase in weight gain and obesity (17, 18, 19, 20, 21).
One study in adults found that doubling the size of a dinner starter increased calorie intake by 30% (21).
Serving yourself just a little less might help you eat significantly less food. And you probably won’t even notice the difference.
Bottom Line: Larger portion sizes have been linked to the obesity epidemic, and may encourage both children and adults to eat more food.
8. Eat Without Electronic Distractions
Paying attention to what you eat may help you eat fewer calories.
People who eat while they’re watching TV or playing computer games may lose track of how much they have eaten. This, in turn, can cause overeating.
One review article looked at the results of 24 studies, finding that people who were distracted at a meal ate about 10% more in that sitting (22).
However, not paying attention during a meal actually has an even greater influence on your intake later in the day. People who were distracted at a meal ate 25% more calories at later meals than people who were not distracted.
If you regularly consume meals watching TV or using your computer or smartphone, these extra calories can add up and have a massive impact on your weight in the long-term.
Bottom Line: People who eat while distracted are more likely to overeat. Paying attention to your meals may help you eat less and lose weight.
9. Sleep Well and Avoid Stress
When it comes to health, sleep and stress are often neglected. But in fact, both can have powerful effects on your appetite and weight.
A lack of sleep may disrupt the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. Another hormone, called cortisol, becomes elevated when you’re stressed (23).
Having these hormones disrupted can increase your hunger and cravings for unhealthy food, leading to higher calorie intake (23, 24, 25).
What’s more, chronic sleep deprivation and stress may increase your risk of several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity (26, 27, 28).
Bottom Line: Poor sleep and excess stress may disrupt the levels of several important appetite-regulating hormones, causing you to eat more.
10. Eliminate Sugary Drinks
Added sugar may very well be the single worst ingredient in the diet today.
Sugary beverages, like soda, have been associated with an increased risk of many Western diseases (29, 30, 31).
It’s very easy to take in massive amounts of excess calories from sugary drinks, because liquid calories don’t affect fullness like solid food does (32, 33, 34).
Staying away from these beverages entirely can provide enormous long-term health benefits. However, note that you should not replace soda with fruit juice, as it can be just as high in sugar (35, 36).
Healthy beverages to drink instead include water, coffee and green tea.
Bottom Line: Sugary drinks have been linked to an increased risk of weight gain and many diseases. The brain doesn’t register liquid calories like solid foods, making you eat more.
11. Serve Unhealthy Food on Red Plates
One weird trick is to use red plates to help you eat less. At least, this seems to work with unhealthy snack foods.
One study reported that volunteers ate fewer pretzels from red plates, compared to white or blue plates (37).
The explanation may be that we associate the color red with stop signals and other man-made warnings.
Bottom Line: Red plates may help you eat less unhealthy snack foods. This may be because the color red triggers a stop reaction.
12. Anything Else?
There are many simple lifestyle habits that can help you lose weight, some of which have nothing to do with conventional diet or exercise plans.
You can use smaller plates, eat more slowly, drink water and avoid eating in front of the TV or computer. Prioritizing foods rich in protein and viscous fiber may also help.
However, I wouldn’t try all these things at once. Start to experiment with one tip for a while, and if that works well and is sustainable for you then try another one.
A few simple changes can have a massive impact over the long term.