Calorie counting CAN be effective for weight loss, but it also isn’t for everyone as it can…
Cause you to develop a negative relationship with food
Make you less in tune with your body & its needs
Create an obsessive habit that doesn’t allow for food freedom
Cause stress & be unsustainable for long-term weight loss
Luckily, there are simple effective diet & lifestyle habits that can support weight loss without focusing on calories or creating additional stress!
Here are 7 simple strategies you can use to help you optimize body composition without the stress:
1. Use your hands to measure portions:
Hands can be a great tool for measuring portions for your body and needs because hand size is typically proportionate to body size (i.e. someone who is 5’2” will have smaller hands than someone 6’0”, meaning they need less food than the 6’0” person!). Hands are portable and convenient without the added stress that goes along with using a food scale, counting calories, etc. Depending on goals and needs, the number of portions needed per meal will vary. Having one of each of the below portions per meal is a great place to start! Here are guidelines to help you determine portion sizes when creating a balanced meal:
1 palm = portion of protein
1 cupped hand = portion of carbs/starch
1 fist = portion of veggies
1 thumb = portion of fat
2. Eat more protein and veggies:
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient which helps reduce frequent hunger, eliminates cravings, boosts metabolism, helps build lean muscle and promotes fat loss. You can see then why high protein diets are commonly key to sustainable weight loss! Veggies are low in calories, yet high in nutrients, which means you can eat as many as you'd like without facing consequences of excess calories! They're also high fiber which means they will help improve gut health and regulate bowel movements which ultimately supports healthy weight management.
3. Increase NEAT:
Also known as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). This is the energy expended during everything we do besides sleeping, eating, and intentional exercise. This is crucial for sustainable weight loss because the more we move, the more calories we burn; and burning more calories than we take in is what helps shed unwanted weight. Of course, since you're not tracking calories, it's helpful to simply remember to move your body as often as possible! Easy ways to increase NEAT include: pacing while talking on the phone or texting, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking the long way to the bathroom or using a bathroom on a different floor if possible, parking your car further from the destination, standing instead of sitting at work, and getting up more frequently to get water or take a break.
4. Slow down & eat mindfully:
One of the simplest tricks for weight loss! Those who eat slower are actually more likely to eat significantly less than those who eat fast! That’s because when you slow down and chew each bite thoroughly, you give the food a chance to actually reach your stomach. It takes about 20 minutes for fullness to set it so it's important to give your body a chance before saying "I'm still hungry." Slowing down allows you to be more mindful and really tune in to your body which is important for listening to hunger and fullness cues. The best way to eat mindfully is to eliminate distractions and focus on savoring every bite! This helps you to actually be aware of how much you're really eating. I also recommend chewing each bite of food ~20-30 times before swallowing and put the fork down between bites as a reminder to finish the food in your mouth before taking another! Another simple trick to check in with yourself halfway through your meal to see where you are on the fullness scale. Once you're at about a 7 out of 10 in terms of fullness, it's good to stop eating to avoid overeating and getting excessively full.
5. Heal your gut:
The gut is also known as your "2nd brain" because it's connected to nearly every organ system in the body just as the brain is. This causes the gut to have a huge impact on your overall health. And because the gut allows digestion, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of waste to take place, it really does play a big part in body composition. If the digestive system isn't functioning optimally, these processes won't carry out as well as they should. You can think of it as many of the nutrients we get from food feed different organs and support them to function optimally. If you can't absorb those nutrients and eliminate waste properly, the organs can't function optimally which messes with metabolism, contributing to weight issues. By optimizing digestion and improving gut health, you are providing your body with the ability to function at its best leading to healthy weight management long-term.
6. Manage stress:
Cortisol is a stress hormone which can affect healthy weight management. If you are chronically stressed and don't do anything to manage it, it can really take a toll on your body with negative side effects being weight gain and trouble losing weight. Chronic stress can leave your nervous system stuck in a sympathetic state, also known as fight-or-flight. When in fight-or-flight, your body cannot heal or even carry out many of its regular processes (ex: digestion) which really deters your health. Also, under chronic stress, your adrenal glands will continuously pump out cortisol leading to a rise in glucose levels. Glucose and insulin levels coincide with one another, and so if glucose rises, so does insulin; and insulin is what leads to fat storage. So you can see just how the negative cascade of hormones, which affect weight, all stem from stress! This is why managing stress is crucial for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Some of the best ways to manage stress are: daily meditation, journaling, spending time in nature, self-care practices, and exercise. The more frequently you work to manage stress, the better your stress response becomes and consequently, the less affected your body is by stressors.
7. Drink 64oz+ of water daily:
Water is the most important nutrient to the body. The body is made up of ~60% water and is important to various processes in the body including, elimination of waste. Yet, water is one of the biggest nutrient deficiencies in America! When you don't drink enough water throughout the day, your intestines can't contract properly, preventing you from eliminating waste optimally. When waste builds up, it can lead to a variety of health issues including, estrogen dominance, toxic overload, and more, all of which can contribute to weight issues. In order to support healthy elimination, it's important to drink at minimum 64 ounces of filtered water daily. To stay hydrated, for every 8-ounce diuretic beverage you drink (coffee, caffeinated tea, alcohol, fruit juice), drink an additional 12-16 ounces. It's also crucial to drink additional water before, during, and after exercise or when exposed to warmer temperatures as water is lost through sweating. If you find you're peeing too often, try adding a powder or liquid electrolyte solution or simply a pinch of Himalayan or Celtic sea salt to every 8 ounces of water for better absorption!
Bottom line is that there are plenty of ways to live a healthy sustainable lifestyle that don't involve counting calories or feeling stressed around food. In order to live a healthy sustainable lifestyle it's important to find a balance between eating well and enjoying yourself! Without balance, a healthy lifestyle becomes no longer sustainable as it becomes unenjoyable. If your goal is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight without counting calories, try working towards these habits! Remember, change takes time and consistency, so implement slowly and don't give up if you don't see results right away!
Jenn Horowitz, FNTP, CPT, CES is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified Personal Trainer, and Corrective Exercise Specialist who works to address the root cause of illness. Jenn is the founder of JTH Wellness, a holistic nutrition and wellness practice, specializing in helping people with stomach issues, disordered eating, and weight management problems, take back control of their health through 1:1 nutrition and lifestyle counseling. Jenn works to teach others how to live a balanced lifestyle that allows them to achieve their goals while enjoying life. Learn more about Jenn’s nutrition counseling services and schedule a free 15-minute discovery session by visiting her website, http://www.JTHwellness.com.