When it comes to losing weight, calorie tracking is often considered the gold standard. And for good reason: research has shown that those who track their intake are more likely to be successful in reaching their weight loss goals. But what if you're not interested in using a calorie tracker? Is it still possible to lose weight without one?
Before discussing alternative weight loss techniques to tracking it's important to understand how weight loss actually works. We are often sold miracle diets, pills and exercise programmes but, seldom, are we trusted with the actual truth behind weight loss...
How weight loss works
Weight change or maintenance is determined by energy balance.
Our weight will change if this balance is tilted in either way. If we have more energy than we need to maintain then we will gain weight. If we have less energy than we need to maintain then we will lose weight.
In food terms, we need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight.
An important caveat here is that not all weight loss is fat loss (and vice versa with weight gain) which is why we'll be talking about fat loss. Importantly, a calorie deficit is still required for most to achieve fat loss (although there are some instances whereby this may not be necessarily the case).
Our bodyweight and when it changes is more than just changes in fat mass. Most misinterpret weight loss for fat loss.
Much of the initial weight change associated with a new diet or change in diet is typically down to;
Changes in body water
Changes in stored carbohydrate
Changes in food travelling through the gastrointestinal tract
Additionally, fad diets (often promoting extreme restriction) can lead to muscle wastage and loss of bone mass which would lead to weight loss and be misinterpreted as dieting "success".
Fat loss is not always represented in weight change; measurements and photographic evidence may be better indicators. Fat loss is a complex process of having your hormones, metabolism, nutrient partitioning and nutrient timing working on your side. Here are some tips to help achieve life long fat loss and improved body comp. without tracking...
5 Calorie Tracking Free Weight Loss Tips
While tracking our calorie intake can help better monitor just how much food we are eating (an important consideration when the goal is achieving a calorie deficit), it's certainly not for everyone and can be quite a triggering / obsessive behaviour to engage in depending on your history / personality / circumstance / experience with dieting in the past.
We need to realize that calorie tracking is just one tool in our weight loss toolbox. It may be the right tool for some, but it won't be the right tool for all. Here are some other important tools that you can use, with a greater emphasis on fat loss, improved health and an overall improved sense of wellbeing.
1. Resistance Training
Resistance training (RT) is criminally underated for all aspects of health. From body comp. to mental health and even reducing cancer risk; RT is amazing.
When it comes to body comp., RT elevates our metabolism with more lean mass, expends more energy than cardio, leads to a more athletic "look" and influences your body to use fat stores for energy.
Try incorporate several sessions in a week that are designed around compound movements (movements which use larger muscle groups / multiple muscle groups e.g. squatting, leg press, deadlifts, bench press etc.) and focus on slowly and safely increasing weight and intensity over time.
Don't forget to take rest days to allow yourself to recover and incorporate our next tip to help provide your body with the right nutrients to allow for that full and proper recovery...
2. Having More Protein
Protein is the best dietary tool for improving body composition.
It helps to manage hunger, regulate blood sugar and can even be overeaten without being stored as fat.
Protein is also the most thermogenic of the three macronutrients and increases energy expenditure.
It also helps develop lean muscle mass (with RT), which furter elevates energy expenditure. It's advised to have a source of protein (like milk, protein powder, yoghurt, lean meat, tofu etc.) after exercise, especially resistance training, to fuel recovery and improved body composition.
3. Develop A Sleep Routine
It may surprise you to know but sleep is critically important for fat loss.
Poor sleep leads to our hunger hormones going all whacky and we start to experience increases in urges / cravings in tandem with poorer decision making (from the lack of sleep).
Poorer sleep can also lead to more fat deposition around the waist and poorer blood sugar regulation.
4. Caffeine Around Exercise
Having a source of caffeine before you train can increase the amount of calories you burn and increase the amount of body fat you use for energy during a session.
Try a black coffee or green tea before you train next time for this benefit. Avoid stimulants like caffeine later in the day (within 6 hours of sleep) as they make it more diffiuclt to get to sleep.
5. Dietary Fat Matters
Some interesting research suggests that the quality of your dietary fats may influence your body composition. It may be better to include more "healthy" fats from plants and oily fish over "unhealthy" fats from animal fats and ultra processed foods as the healthy fats have been shown to lead to reduced abdominal body fat stores.
You may also want to time your simple carbs (like starchy “beige” carbs and sugars) for around training for better performance and recovery but also plan to incorporate some of the foods which are good for your “soul” during the day too. It's important that you continue to cultivate a healthy and inclusive relationship with food even when you are dieting
If you're looking for weight loss tips that don't involve calorie tracking, give some of these a try. They may be just what you need to help jumpstart your weight loss journey. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, and you won't lose all the weight you want overnight either. Be patient and consistent with these tips, and you'll start seeing results before you know it.
Balance is Northern Ireland's leading nutritionist and dietician coaching team. We work with everyone from Olympians to office workers to help them achieve their nutrition and diet related goals.
Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you;
- Beat binge eating
- Lose weight and keep it off
- Take your sports performance to the next level and reach your full potential