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How to lose weight without counting calories: Is it possible?

Tracking calorie intake is the right long-term strategy for everyone.

How to Lose Weight Without Counting Calories | Juniper

Food is one of the greatest joys of life. Whether it's a celebratory meal with friends, or trying new delicacies when you travel, it has the power to bring people together and make those special moments even better.

However, if you're on a weight loss journey, you may feel like it takes some of the fun out of food. This is especially true if you've decided to count calories as a way to reach your goals.

For some, calorie counting is an effective way to stay on track of their daily food intake — almost like a budget, but for food. For others, it's a nightmare on par with having to do algebra at school. The good news is that counting calories isn't necessarily required to lose weight.

Read on to learn about different strategies you can use to lose weight without counting calories.

What is calorie counting?

While the concept of a calorie (defined as a kcal) dates back to the 1800s, counting calories only became popular as a weight loss method in the 1920s.

Back then, people would manually add up the amount of calories in each of the foods they ate, attempting to stay under a certain target.

Today, this is typically done using digital tracker apps such as MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, and FatSecret.

These apps prompt you to set a target for the amount of calories you'd like to consume each day, calculated based on your current weight, height and activity level, and the weight you'd like to achieve over a specific time period.

Then, each time you consume food (whether it's a specific ingredient in a home-cooked meal or an item from a takeaway menu), you'll search for it in the database of your diet tracker app.

With some products, you can also just scan the barcode using your phone camera.

The app will automatically add up the calories in everything you've consumed and give you alerts when you're approaching your limit.

If you've worked out and have your fitness tracker connected to your calorie tracking app, you can also 'earn' back extra calories to count towards your target.

Why calorie counting isn't for everyone

As tedious as it might be, there are some merits to the concept of keeping track of your food if you're attempting to lose weight.

The reality is, many of us actually have very little idea what we're eating (and how much).

Research shows that most people underestimate how many calories they're eating by 20-50% [1]. We tend to forget about that handful of popcorn and mid-afternoon cookie when we're envisioning how much food we eat, but those small things can add up.

When you're first starting to become more intentional about your food intake, it can be useful to have some awareness of the amount of calories you're consuming.

That said, this doesn't mean that tracking calorie intake is the right long-term strategy for everyone.

Firstly, it requires bucketloads of organisation.

If you're cooking a lot of meals at home (which is generally best for weight loss), you'll need to manually weigh every ingredient to make sure you're accurately capturing the calorie content of your meal.

It also typically means you'll need to do food preparation and planning in advance — otherwise, you run the risk of getting to dinner time and realising you only have 100 calories left in your budget to work with.

For many people, this can add mental load and stress on top of an already busy schedule.

It can also lead to food obsession, as it requires you to be acutely aware of every morsel you put in your mouth.

For those with a history of disordered eating, this can not only be unhelpful, but also dangerous. If you have previously experienced challenges around food and body image, it's a good idea to speak to a doctor or mental health professional first before embarking on a weight loss journey.

Counting calories can lead to feeling deprived, especially if you've chosen a food target that is too low for you.

It's the classic scenario of "tell someone not to eat that extra slice of pizza and all they're going to be able to think about is that slice of pizza." Being too restrictive with your food consumption can cause your body to rebel and crave unhealthy foods. This ultimately leads to overeating, which is obviously quite counterproductive.

Can you enter a calorie deficit without tracking calories?

In order to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn — specifically, a calorie deficit of around 7700 calories over the course of a week to lose one kilogram [2].

This is an undeniable fact. However, does that mean you have to become a full-time calorie tracker in order to achieve weight loss? Absolutely not.

Whether it's through reducing your portion sizes or increasing your total daily energy expenditure by moving more, you can still enter a calorie deficit without entering it into a food tracking app.

Perhaps you've actually experienced this in your own life — you go on a holiday and because you're walking so much and stressing less, you actually find you lose weight despite all the delicate treats you've been consuming.

With a small few tweaks, you can achieve the same in your everyday life.

How to lose weight without counting calories

Decided that the only thing you want to count is the amount of weight dropping on the scales? Here are some ways you can lose body fat without tracking a thing.

Turn up the volume

You've likely heard that a calorie is a calorie, no matter where it comes from.

While there's some truth to this, certain foods do give you more bang for your buck when it comes to nourishing your body and keeping you full.

For example, a plate of baby carrots with hummus might contain a similar amount of calories as a cookie, but one is going to do your body a lot more good than the other.

This is where the concept of volume eating comes in — strategically eating nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods to ensure you feel satiated without consuming excess calories.

By filling up on nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, and soups, you'll likely find that you naturally end up consuming fewer calories without even trying.

Another great strategy is to focus on getting plenty of lean protein and fibre, rather than fretting about how many calories you are consuming.

These macronutrients are crucial for keeping you full and satisfied, as well as having plenty of other wonderful benefits (protein helps to build muscle mass, while fibre keeps the digestive tract healthy).

Ditch the empty calories

One often overlooked diet saboteur is what we're drinking (which is just as important as what we're eating).

During a busy and stressful day, it's all too easy to reach for a sugary latte to get us going in the morning, an OJ while eating lunch, and a glass of wine (or two) to help us wind down at night.

This can easily add up to hundreds of empty calories over the day — meaning, they offer very little nutritional value and don't keep us full for long.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional hot chocolate on a chilly day or a beer at the pub with a friend.

But, pouring these liquid calories down the (metaphorical) drain can be one of the simplest yet most effective ways to reduce your calorie intake.

The same goes for fruit juices, soft drinks, and other calorie-laden beverages — which can easily be swapped for lightly flavoured mineral water. Or, to increase your protein intake, consider Juniper's low-calorie, nutrient-dense Nourish Shakes. Chances are, you won't even miss your old favourites!

Try mindful eating

Mindful eating is essentially the opposite of counting calories because it involves intuitively consuming food rather than letting the numbers dictate your diet.

While this may feel like dangerous territory — especially if you feel like your cravings have led you astray before — research shows that mindful eating can help combat emotional and binge eating [3].

Plus, studies show it can achieve greater psychological well-being, increased pleasure when eating, and body satisfaction [4]. What's not to like?

Many of us turn to food not because we are actually hungry, but because we're bored, sad, lonely, or experiencing an array of other emotions.

By learning to tune in to your body's natural hunger signals, you'll likely find that you can tune out the other 'food noise' and reduce your food consumption without even trying.

Get a good night's sleep

When it comes to losing weight, it can pay to count zzz's, not calories.

Short sleep duration has been linked to an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and a decrease in leptin, which regulates appetite [5]. So, it's hardly surprising that sleep-deprived people tend to gain weight due to an increased calorie intake.

Ironically, research shows that severe calorie restriction can interfere with sleep [6].

This means that in the process of trying to count and restrict calories, you might get a poor night's slumber — leading you to consume more calories the next day.

So, if you've been trying to do all the right things to lose weight, simply increasing your sleep time to 8-9 hours (or, implementing better sleep hygiene practices for a higher-quality snooze) may be the missing piece of the puzzle.

Consider a holistic approach

If losing weight was simply a matter of just counting calories for a few weeks or months with guaranteed results, everyone would do it.

The reality is more complex, coming down to an interplay of factors including metabolic health, blood sugar levels, healthy habits, and more.

The good news is, by addressing these factors, achieving a healthy body weight is well within reach. Juniper's Weight Reset Programme combines proven medication with health coaching to tackle weight loss from the inside out.

Ready to lose weight with no calorie counting? Start your journey with Juniper by checking your eligibility.

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