Exercise is one of those rare activities that doesn’t seem to get easier the more you do it. (At least, if you’re doing it right.) But there are a number of reasons why you may not be ready for intense physical activity, and have a specific goal in mind, like losing weight. Can you lose weight without exercise?
“I always tell clients that going to the gym can be easy. One hour is 4 percent of your day,” says dietitian and WBFF Diva Fitness Pro Alyssa Reyes, M.S., R.D. “Food, on the other hand, is all around us multiple times a day, so there is a lot more opportunity for change, but also more challenges.”
Those opportunities for change needn’t involve diet pills or starvation, but rather, healthy adjustments to your diet and lifestyle. Read the following tips to learn how to lose weight without exercise.
Can You Lose Weight Fast Without Exercise?
Just as you’ve (hopefully) developed a healthy skepticism about get-rich-quick schemes, so should you also approach any routine or nutritional advice that promises rapid miracle weight loss.
A quick Google search will return loads of diet “life hacks” that promise to help you shed pounds as, say, that wedding date looms on your calendar. These mostly focus on water weight, which is reduced by cutting carbs.
For every molecule of glycogen (the stored form of carbs in the body), there are 2–3 associated molecules of water. So technically there’s science behind the strategy, but it’s not recommended.
“If you’re cutting carbs drastically to lose a few pounds the week before your high school reunion, then the main weight drop comes from that water weight loss,” explains Krista Maguire, R.D., C.S.S.D., and Nutrition Manager for Openfit. “But it’s important to realize that quick weight loss like that likely won’t stay off, and the approach isn’t something you want to continue long term.”
Simply cutting out certain types of foods without making other lifestyle changes will typically yield fleeting results — or worse. “If weight loss happens too quickly it may lead to binge eating if you’re not careful,” says Reyes. “Many individuals who lose weight quickly don’t learn how to maintain that weight because they never made lifestyle changes to fit their personal tastes, budget, and schedule.”
Maguire goes on to explain that although you can cut a significant amount of carbs from your diet and register a significant drop in weight, the consequences these “crash diets” have for your long-term health far outweigh the immediate gratification. “These diet plans are often extremely restrictive, unsustainable, and lack valuable nutrients required for lasting health benefits,” she says. “You may also see undesirable side effects like fatigue, inability to concentrate, and even bad breath.”
Dry mouth is the leading cause of halitosis — dehydration inhibits the production of saliva, which fights off bacteria. And the relationship between cutting carbs and oral putridity has become so ubiquitous it’s become referred to as “keto breath,” thanks to the popularity of the carb-averse dietary strategy.
How to Lose Weight Without Exercise — Healthily
While most “get thin quick” schemes preach dangerous and unsustainable methods like food deprivation, others rely on an odd assortment of sound, science-backed nutritional advice crossbred with strange mental tricks and old wives’ tales. So it can be difficult — especially if you’re under pressure to drop weight quickly — to know where to turn. The following tips should help cut through the claptrap.
1. Eat more protein
Research suggests that a higher-protein diet helps with weight loss, but Maguire warns against anyone rushing to the conclusion that a lot of protein + no carbs = skinny in two days. “A balanced ratio of 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent healthy fats is a great breakdown for macros to help you reach your weight-loss goals.”
2. Chew slower
If you take the time to look at your plate, you may end up eating less. “This can help by allowing people to realize how much they’re eating, but also to relax,” says Reyes. “Many times people eat in a hurry when they’re stressed. This only causes them to be more hungry and more stressed.
“If they slow down, hormonal regulation in the body will change, serotonin will be released, cortisol will drop, and guess what? This helps with a healthier metabolism.”
3. Eat more fiber-rich foods
Foods that are high in fiber tend to be relatively low in calories, a combination that makes them ideal for weight loss. “Fiber provides ‘bulk’ to help fill you up,” says Maguire. It also takes longer than simpler carbs to digest, so the food you eat not only occupies disproportionate space in your digestive tract (relative to calories), it does so for longer.
4. Drink a half-liter of water 30 minutes before a meal
This may sound like a load of bunk, but there was a study done in 2015 which showed that preloading with water before main meals led to moderate weight loss. As techniques go, there’s little downside to it. “Most people don’t drink enough water anyway, so this helps in multiple ways,” says Reyes.
5. Consume probiotics
Don’t overlook the “gut-brain axis,” the idea that your gut health has not only a strong effect on your physical health, but on your mental well-being too. Although the role of probiotics in weight loss is still debated, it may be worth eating certain foods like fermented foods rich in probiotics anyway. “There is some preliminary research suggesting that the balance of good bacteria in the gut can impact body weight and that certain probiotic strains can impact body composition.”
6. Learn to cook
Takeout joints and restaurants are concerned foremost with making their food taste good, plain and simple. So they freely load up on sugar, salt, and added fats. Taking the reins yourself allows you to make better choices. “If you learn to cook, you’re in control of what ingredients make up your meals,” says Maguire. “And you can always substitute healthful ingredients for less-healthy ones.”
7. Use small plates
Sounds almost comical, right? But it actually works. “Portions have reached crazy amounts, especially in restaurants,” says Maguire. “Smaller plates provide the appearance that you’re getting more bang for your buck.”
Reyes agrees, though points out an obvious loophole. “What’s going on the plate? Whole grains, chicken, avocado, and salad? Or cake and cookies?” So make sure you keep tips 1 and 3 in mind when building that plate.