"Eat less, move more."
This is the message we receive from various health gurus and nutrition organizations.
They assume that the only reason people gain or lose weight is because of calories.
This is simply wrong, because our bodies are much more complicated than that.
Different foods affect hunger and hormones in different ways and all calories are NOT equal.
The truth is... there are many things you can do to lose weight, without ever counting a single calorie.
Here are 7 proven ways to put fat loss on "autopilot."
1. Replace Your Grain-Based Breakfast With Eggs
Losing weight can be as simple as changing your breakfast.
Two separate studies have shown that eating eggs in the morning (compared to a breakfast of bagels) can help you lose fat without trying.
In one of these studies, 30 overweight or obese women ate either bagels or eggs for breakfast ().
The egg group ended up eating fewer calories at lunch, the rest of the day and for the next 36 hours.
Put simply, the eggs were so fulfilling that the women automatically ate fewer calories at subsequent meals.
In another study, 152 overweight men and women were split into groups. One group ate eggs, the other ate bagels... both groups were on a weight loss diet ().
After 8 weeks, the egg group had lost significantly more weight than the bagel group:
- 65% more weight loss (2 lbs vs 1.3 lbs).
- 61% greater reduction in BMI.
- 34% greater reduction in waist circumference.
- 16% greater reduction in body fat percentage.
The difference in weight loss wasn't huge, but it clearly shows that simple things like changing one meal can have a small effect.
Another awesome benefit of eating eggs is that they are among the healthiest foods in the world. New studies show that they do NOT raise your bad cholesterol or give you heart disease, like previously believed (, , , ).
If you think you don't have time to cook a healthy breakfast, think again. Preparing a breakfast with some eggs and veggies doesn't have to take any longer than 5-10 minutes.
Just set your alarm clock a few minutes earlier... problem solved.
Bottom Line: Studies show that eating eggs for breakfast can help you automatically eat fewer calories, compared to a breakfast of bagels.
2. Using Smaller Plates Can Trick Your Brain Into Thinking That You're Actually Eating More
The human brain is the most complex object in the universe, gram for gram.
It tends to work in mysterious ways... and the control of eating behavior is incredibly complicated.
It is the brain that ultimately determines whether we should or should not eat.
Interestingly, there is one neat thing you can do to "trick" your brain into thinking that it has eaten more food.
This is using smaller plates.
The larger your plates or bowls, the less your brain thinks you have eaten. By using smaller plates, you trick your brain into feeling more satisfied with fewer calories.
It's weird... but psychologists have been studying this and it seems to work (, ).
Bottom Line: It is possible to "trick" the brain into thinking that it has eaten more food by using smaller plates.
3. Eating More Protein Can Reduce Appetite, Increase Fat Burning and Help You Gain Muscle
For some strange reason, protein has gotten a bad rap.
Many people think that it can "leech" calcium from the bones and cause kidney disease.
However... this is complete nonsense, which is not supported by science.
There is a lot of evidence that protein can increase fat burning and reduce hunger, leading to automatic weight loss.
In fact, studies show that protein boosts metabolism more than any other macronutrient (, ).
One of the reasons for that is that it takes the body more calories to digest and make use of protein, than it does fat and carbs.
Protein also increases satiety, leading to significantly reduced hunger ().
In one study, increasing protein to 30% of calories lead to an automatic decrease in calorie intake of 441 calories per day ().
Many studies show that increasing your protein intake can lead to automatic weight loss, even when eating until fullness (, , , ).
Protein can also help you gain more muscle, especially if you also lift weights. Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning that it burns a small amount of calories, even at rest (, , ).
The best way to get in more protein is to eat more animal foods like meat, fish and eggs... preferably at every meal.
Bottom Line: Increased protein in the diet can boost metabolism and reduce hunger. It can also increase muscle mass, helping you burn more calories around the clock.
4. Eating Foods With a Low Energy Density and Lots of Fiber Make You Feel More Full With Fewer Calories
Another way to feel more satisfied with fewer calories is to eat foods that have a .
This includes foods that have a high water content, such as vegetables and some fruits.
Studies consistently show that dieters who eat less energy dense foods lose more weight than those who eat foods with a high energy density (, , ).
In one study, women who ate soup (low energy density) lost 50% more weight than women who ate an energy dense snack ().
Vegetables are also rich in soluble fiber, which has been shown to cause weight loss in some studies (, , ).
Another benefit of soluble fiber is that it gets broken down by bacteria in the digestive tract to produce a fatty acid called butyrate, which is believed to have significant anti-obesity effects... at least in rats ().
Combining animals (high in protein) with a bunch of plants (low energy density) is a recipe for success.
Bottom Line: Choosing foods with a low energy density (like vegetables and some fruits) can help you feel more satisfied with fewer calories.
5. Cutting Carbs Can Make You Lose Weight Fast While Eating Until Fullness
Probably THE best way to start losing weight without calorie counting or portion control is to reduce your carbohydrate intake.
Studies consistently show that people who eat less carbohydrates, automatically start to eat less calories and lose weight without any major effort (, ).
In one study, 53 overweight/obese women were randomized to a low-carb group or a calorie restricted low-fat group, for 6 months (): Women in the low-carb group lost twice as much weight (8.5 kg - 18.7 lbs) while eating until fullness, compared to the low-fat group (3.9 kg - 8.6 lbs), which was calorie restricted.
Getting into the range of 100-150 gram carbs per day can be useful. If you want to lose weight fast, then going under 50 grams per day can be extremely effective.
Another great benefit of reducing carbs... it lowers your levels, which makes the kidneys start shedding excess sodium and water from the body, significantly reducing bloat and water weight (, ).
Bottom Line: Cutting carbohydrate intake can reduce appetite and cause automatic weight loss, without calorie counting or portion control. It also leads to significant reductions in water weight.
6. Making Time For Quality Sleep and Avoiding Stress Can Optimize The Function of Key Hormones
Two things that often get ignored when discussing health (and weight) are sleep and stress levels.
Both are incredibly important for the optimal function of your body and hormones.
Inadequate sleep is one of the strongest for obesity... short sleep duration raising the risk by 89% in children and 55% in adults ().
Poor sleep can increase hunger and cravings and cause a biochemical tendency for weight gain by disrupting hunger hormones like ghrelin and leptin (, ).
Excess stress can increase your levels of the hormone cortisol, which is known to increase belly fat accumulation and the risk of chronic, Western diseases (, , ).
For these reasons, it is very important to make time for , as well as avoiding unnecessary stressors in your life.
Bottom Line: Poor sleep and excess stress can mess up important metabolic hormones like ghrelin, leptin and cortisol. Getting these hormones under control should reduce appetite and unnatural cravings.
7. Replacing Your Cooking Fats With Coconut Oil Can Boost Metabolism and Reduce Appetite
Coconut oil has some unique properties that can help reduce appetite and increase fat burning.
It is loaded with fats called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs).
These fatty acids get metabolized differently compared to other fats... they go straight to the liver where they are either used for energy or turned into ketone bodies.
Two small studies show that eating these medium chain fats can make people eat fewer calories, one of them showing a reduction of 256 calories per day (, ).
These fats also appear to increase energy expenditure, one study showing an increase as high as 5% (, , ).
Consuming 30 mL (about 1 ounce) of coconut oil may cause significant reductions in BMI and waist circumference, a marker for abdominal fat (, ).
Now... I'm not suggesting that you gobble down massive amounts of coconut oil, but replacing your current cooking fats with it could have a noticeable effect (, ).
Take Home Message
By making a few simple changes that optimize hormones, reduce hunger and boost metabolism, you can lose a lot of weight without ever counting a single calorie.