Exercise. You know that common notion that “you have to work out to lose weight?” Turns out, you don’t have to break a sweat at the gym to shed pounds. (1) Discover how to lose weight without exercise with our step-to-step guide below. You can thank us later.
Now, let me preface this with the notion that adding exercise to a weight loss diet and routine will certainly help you lose some extra pounds, and it will certainly make you more muscular. So, for most people, adding in some exercise makes sense. But if you’re not able to exercise, or tend to avoid the gym like Monday mornings, you don’t have to lose hope. In fact, you can even get six pack abs without ever touching a weight!
What’s the secret, you may be asking? In one word: food. Or, to be more specific — good food. We all have many different choices when it comes to eating, and choosing the best foods will help lead us to better health and more weight loss, whereas choosing poor food to eat can cause health problems, or even lead to us gaining weight. What you do (or don’t) put in your mouth is truly the best indicator of what your future body will look and feel like.
One additional note is that exercising will definitely help you lose weight faster and will also give you added neuronal and cardiovascular benefits. (2) I would advise anyone who physically is capable of exercise, to at least put some walking into your daily schedule. Standing desks are another great way to get a little more movement in your day. This all being said, you absolutely do not need to exercise to lose weight. You may just need to change the food on your plate.
Step 1: Determine How Many Calories You Need To Eat
While calories are not the be-all and end-all of nutrition or health, you need to have a baseline knowledge of what exactly you should be eating in order to determine how much you need to eat to lose weight. This is sort of like figuring out the “miles per gallon” on your car. One of the simplest ways to determine this (though no method is precise) is the Harris Benedict Equation. (3)
This formula factors in your age, gender and — perhaps most importantly — activity level. By multiplying your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by your activity level, you arrive at something very close to what your metabolism might be. And since your BMR is what you would burn by just sitting on the couch all day, you can use the low end of this equation to arrive at your ideal intake of calories.
To simplify: If I determine that my BMR is 1745, and I don’t plan on exercising at all, I would simply multiply 1745 by 1.2, and arrive at just over 2000 calories per day. This is roughly the amount of calories needed to maintain my weight. To lose weight, we take that number, and subtract anywhere from 200-500 calories. I recommend that most clients start slow, and go with a 200 calorie deficit. That way, you do not lose too much weight too quickly, which can cause cravings and potentially screw up your metabolism. This is also the reason why most crash diets end up with the dieter being heavier when all is said and done. (4)
Step 2: Plan Meals
Once you have this magic number, it’s very easy to start planning 3 meals per day around the appropriate caloric amount needed to lose weight. If you are just starting out, I recommend MyFitnessPal, as it is an easy way to keep you honest. It will also track other things that are good to keep an eye on, like protein, carbs, fats, etc. Also, I always recommend clients to make a simple spreadsheet, and plan out a week or two of meals. It’s much easier to lose weight and stay on a healthy path when you have a plan. The brain likes a plan, after all.
Step 3: Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is vastly underrated when it comes to weight loss, and a lack of it may even be helping to make us fat, over time. (5) Sleep loss is cumulative, and your brain actually changes how it behaves when you are sleep deprived. (6) What does this mean in layman’s terms? Basically, you are much more likely to make poor dietary choices if you are not getting enough sleep. This is due to a variety of reasons, but hormones are one of the biggest culprits.
Ghrelin and leptin are two of the biggest offenders when it comes to hormonal issues and food. You can simply think of ghrelin as your “hunger” hormone, while leptin can be simply thought of as your “satiety” hormone. As many studies point out, these two hormones are exerting much more of an effect on your waistline than you likely realize. (7)
Sleep (or more precisely, a lack of sleep) can cause these two hormones to become a huge issue. Even a single night of sleep deprivation has been shown to increase ghrelin levels. (8) What does this mean for you? It means you will be hungrier and much more likely to overeat, as a result. Other scientific studies have shown that sleep loss results in reduced leptin — meaning that when you do eat, you won’t feel as full. (9) Being hungrier and not feeling full when you do consume food is not a good long-term scenario for staying lean.
One simple factor that is often overlooked when talking about sleep loss is that you will be awake more hours, leading to increased exposure time for you to make bad food choices! This means that by simply being asleep at midnight, rather than staring at the TV, you avoid those late-night snack temptations and desserts. This is a very simple step that can drastically change your bad habits — and quickly help you to lose weight.
Step 4: Drink Water
Drinking water is another great way to help you stay on the weight loss course, and a simple idea is to grab a 64 oz. reusable container. Not only is this great for the environment, but it will help you to drink more water throughout the day – especially if you have to carry it around. Carrying around a heavy, annoying water bottle will provide you with great motivation to make it lighter!
I know this may sound overly simplistic, but I’ve seen it work countless times with clients, and I even use this trick myself. Often times we eat when we are just thirsty — don’t make this classic mistake.
Step 5: Track Your Progress
If you are not exercising while trying to lose weight, it’s a very good idea to track your progress. Because you don’t have quite as much leeway as you would when exercising, you want to make sure you are staying in a caloric deficit — especially if you hope to keep losing pounds over time.
As mentioned above, MyFitnessPal is a great solution here, as are most calorie-tracking apps. If you are looking to lose weight during the holidays, tracking your long-term progress is especially critical. Sometimes, we can get thrown totally off course by one bad decision at dinner time, or one dessert choice. But by calmly looking at our long-term progress, we stay on course and see that we have indeed come a long way! This is true even if you have lost weight successfully in the past. Stay honest!
Bonus Tip: Reduce The Size Of Your Plate
If you are having trouble losing weight, even after following all of the above steps, you can try this extra bonus tip. Quite simply — get smaller plates! Most plates purchased in North America are 11 to 12 inches wide. By purchasing plates 1-2 inches smaller, you may be able to knock off a substantial amount of calories without even noticing it! Win-win.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, exercising is a good idea if you can do it. But the key to losing weight is eating high-quality food, and the steps above will give you a pretty perfect guide on just how to do it. Make sure you check out the 21-Day Paleo Meal Plan and the Ultimate Paleo Diet Shopping List, if you need expert tips on putting together a healthy weight loss plan!