How to Lose Weight Without Dieting - Part 1
This week we want to talk about weight loss.
This is a sensitive subject and can be difficult to address. Many of us have a complex relationship with food. It is one of our basic needs, we cannot function without it, but it usually represents much more to us than just fuel.
First let us examine some key concepts regarding weight loss.
Whilst our relationship with food is complex, the basic equation of weight loss is simple:
Calories in < Calories out = weight loss
Calories in = Calories out = maintenance
Calories in > Calories out = weight gain.
Ideally our calorie intake should match our energy expenditure however often it does not, and we gain weight. When we then strive to lose that weight, we turn to ‘diets’ to help us to reduce our calorie intake, and to exercise to increase our energy expenditure.
Let us explore in more detail this equation of energy expenditure and calorie intake.
Our energy expenditure refers to the energy we burn in our daily activities. Often people think of this in terms of the calories burned when we exercise, but in fact, we are burning calories all the time, even when we are asleep. The rate at which we burn calories, in the background, is known as our basal metabolic rate (BMR;) the number of calories our body requires to function. In short, this is the number of calories we would burn if we lay in bed and did nothing all day.
Our BMR is dependent on our height, weight, age, and gender. When we perform activities of daily living, we will use up more calories and when we exercise, we will use up more still. Our calorie expenditure then, is made up of our basal requirements and the activity that we engage in.
There are some important things to know about BMR:
BMR accounts for about 70% of our overall energy expenditure (20% from our physical activity and 10% from thermogenesis – our digestion and heat production.)
Whilst cardiovascular exercise has a bigger effect on BMR, the impact of strength exercises last longer because bigger muscles use more calories.
Decreasing calorie intake will lower our BMR as our body works to bring us back to an equilibrium.
BMR can be affected by stress and illness.
These facts mean that looking at our BMR and maintaining this will have a significant effect on our energy expenditure and strength exercises should not be underestimated in keeping our BMR high.
Next let us consider our calorie intake. This of course refers to whatever we put in our mouths throughout the day, both food and drinks. As stated above when this is more than the calories we burn, the excess are stored as fat.
To achieve a calorie deficit and loose weight surely then we must change what we eat…. we must diet and there are so many diets out there, Atkins, low calorie, low carb, very low calorie, 5:2. The list goes on.
Do they work?
Yes of course they do. They all do. If we restrict our calorie intake below our energy expenditure, we lose weight.
They do not however change our relationship with food and so over time whatever intervention used – even bariatric surgery, weight climbs back to where it started. This is frustrating and enormously demotivating for us all.
If sustained weight loss is difficult with dieting, how then do we lose it without dieting?
What if instead of altering what we eat, we consider how we eat?
It encourages us to enjoy our food using all of our senses; the look, the feel, the sounds as well as the smell and taste. Compare this to cramming food in whilst ‘on the go’ barely tasting it. This is about making eating a conscious activity rather than an automatic one.
When we eat mindfully we ‘pay attention’ to the food we are eating. We give more thought to what we are choosing to eat and its impact on our body and the environment. This helps us to choose healthier, quality foods. We become better attuned to the sensations in our body and we are more responsive to our natural feedback mechanisms. We recognise when we are full and are more conscious of portion sizes
It takes 20 minutes for our stomach to tell our brain that we are full. When we eat quickly without paying attention, we consume many more calories in those 20minutes than if we took our time. The slowing of our eating that naturally occurs when we savour food allows us to register that we are full before we have overeaten.
Mindful eating has shown to improve weight loss measured by a validated scale.
So if we maintain our BMR, try some activities to increase our energy expenditure and practice mindful eating on a regular basis then we can lose weight without dieting.
The next time you eat, spend some time really experiencing the meal with all your senses.
Set aside time making it a dedicated part of your day, time for you to enjoy; a part of your selfcare routine.
Set the table and set the scene.
Let meals become healthy rituals that you can share with family and friends or savour on your own.
Rushing a meal standing at the kitchen counter or grabbing a sandwich as you drive is not mindful eating.
Prepare your food with care and make the effort to present it beautifully.
Honour what you eat.
Look at your food
Is it hot or cold?
Can you see steam?
Is the food solid or soft?
How would you describe it’s shape?
Does it ooze or crumble or melt?
What colours can you see?
Are they vibrant or muted, uniform or multiple?
How does this food feel?
Is it sticky or silky?
What different textures can you discern?
Smooth and velvety or rough to your fingertips and your tongue.
What sounds can you hear whilst this food is being prepared?
When you bite into it what noise does it make?
A crunch, a snap, a pop or no sound at all?
Notice the tantalising aroma of your food
Is it spicy, fruity, minty?
Inhale deeply experiencing these smells fully
Now try the food
Take your time
What succulent flavours can you taste?
Sweet, sour, savoury or salty.
Are there layers to the flavour?
What undertones can you detect?
Do you like this food?
Think about where the food came from and the connection it gives to the natural world
How does it make you feel?
What memories does it evoke?
Make at least one meal a day Mindful.
Really pay attention to how you eat.
Savour every mouthful and allow your body to tell you when you are full.
Enjoy food without any guilt or negative emotions.
Be grateful for it and the experience.
Next week in How to Lose Weight without Dieting – Part 2 we will explore the psychological aspects of dieting and examine why we overeat.
 Nelson JB. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectr. 2017;30(3):171-174.  Kabat‐Zinn, J. (2003), Mindfulness‐Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10: 144-156.  Lofgren IE. Mindful Eating: An Emerging Approach for Healthy Weight Management. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2015;9(3):212-216.  Monroe JT. Mindful Eating: Principles and Practice. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.  Carolyn Dunn, Olusola Olabode-Dada, Lauren Whetstone, Cathy Thomas, Surabhi Aggarwal, Kelly Nordby, Samuel Thompson, and Madison Johnson. ‘Mindful Eating and Weight Loss, Results from a Randomized Trial.’ Journal of Family Medicine & Community Health Published: 01 June 2018