How to Lose Weight Without Dieting or Counting Calories

There is a lot of confusion out there about how weight, food, and exercise all work and certainly a great deal of conflicting information.

The reason why there are so many theories is that there are so many bodies. It’s pretty challenging to create weight, food, and exercise theories when the inner working of a body is so incredibly unique.

The weight loss industry likes to highlight patterns but this truly does us all a disservice because it still creates an assumption that there is a blueprint to follow that will solve our problems and create the results we desire.

The only blueprint we really have is that we are all truly unique. Therefore, a weight loss approach will be unique to the person. However, humans are fairly predictable. And so, understanding how humans behave will pave the way to uncovering our unique weight loss blueprint. We just have to get out of the way to reveal it…. Ready to do that?

Most people believe that the way to weigh less is to eat less and move more. I don’t necessarily agree with that assumption whole-heartedly, but we are going to use it for the sake of today’s conversation.

So if that is true, the problem we need to solve is to get people to eat less food and exercise more consistently without dieting and calorie counting. There have been a million and one ways to accomplish weight loss from drugs to surgeries to diets to hypnosis. But none of those have collectively fixed the problem as we are doing all of those more than ever, and we are also heavier than ever. 

So we are left with some questions:

    • Why would a person eat more food than the body wants? 
    • What does the body do when it’s over-fed?
    • Does exercise “erase” the overconsumption of food?
    • What motivates a person to change their food and exercise habits?
    • What demotivates them?
    • Why wouldn’t someone who wants to be healthier just automatically engage in healthy habits?
    • Why does the body respond with weight gain even when someone is eating less and moving more?

Hopefully, I can answer all of these questions today and it all starts with our brain and human-ness. 

Why would a person eat more food than the body wants? 

Well, this is first assuming that the person is even aware of what the body wants which for some is the problem in itself.

What does your body want to eat? Not what do you think your body wants to eat… what does your body actually respond to positively? What does it respond to negatively?

Do you listen?

Why would we override what our body tells us?

Our assumptions: We like food too much, we are addicted, we are weak, we can’t waste, we need that much food, etc.

Well, guess what. No, no, no, no, no, no and no.

It actually has nothing to do with any of that.

It only has to do with one thing. Our brain.

Why would our brain tell us to keep eating when our body is telling us to stop?

Or why would our brain block the fullness cue entirely?

It’s deprived.

We are either looking for an excuse to keep eating (fullness cue suppressed) or we feel the fullness and validate why we can keep eating ( I just love this food, I can’t waste food, I will eat less later, etc.)

This is not your fault, it’s merely deprivation talking.

If you aren’t allowing yourself to eat that food (or any food for that matter) often, your brain will tell you to load up on as much as possible when you are finally consuming.

If you allow yourself to eat the food but you feel it’s bad, you shouldn’t be eating it, or it’s a special occasion, your brain will tell you to load up on as much as possible because it will be a while before you eat it again (either because of guilt or because you literally said we aren’t getting this for a while).

And finally, if you eat the food so quickly or mindlessly that the brain missed the eating experience entirely, it will tell you to keep eating the food until it soaks up enough of the experience of that food or until you feel physically ill. Whatever happens first.

If you chose foods you don’t really like but felt like you should eat, you will feel deprived and eat more food after the meal is done, hunger or not.

Think about it… your body tells your brain it’s hungry. You get excited about eating. The body prepares for digestion and the brain prepares for pleasure, fulfillment, satisfaction.

It’s finally time… the food is in front of you. The food is in your body… as soon as you start eating you shut off. You’re used to eating mindlessly. Or you’re afraid to allow yourself to experience the full pleasure because maybe you’ll never stop. Or you feel guilty or bad for eating it at all. 

So pretty soon your body tells the brain it’s full and the brain is still sitting there waiting to start eating. It missed the whole thing. It’s pissed. It’s deprived. It was waiting and excited… and it got nothing. So it’s on a vengeance. It’s HANGRY and very emotional.

What does the body do when it’s over-fed?

The general belief is that when the body receives more calories than it burns, it stores all those extra calories as fat. This causes people to stress out and obsess over every calorie they eat and burn. It also makes fun events like vacations or parties a source of fear for weight gain as it won’t be as controlled as one might be at home.

It’s caused restaurants to list calories on menus so people can easily find their exact calorie count at the end of the day.

And it would all work perfectly if it weren’t for 1 minor detail…

We’re humans, not robots.

Humans’ bodies are simply not predictable enough to plug in a simple equation and receive a simple output. There are too many variables we simply cannot account for or even understand which makes this theory completely useless.

So why do we even need to eat less food? Because when we consistently overfeed the body we are forcing it to work a lot harder than it needs to. It has to process all that extra food which means it is less efficient.

Also, our emotions around over-consuming cause the body to shift into fight or flight which isn’t an ideal environment for burning fat.We want our body to be relaxed and in a rest and digest phase after eating. And when we eat too much food, this is difficult to achieve.

Do you know who easily achieves this even when they eat a lot of food? People who don’t have fear, worry, or concern around food and weight. So, often, their body easily deals with excess food quite effortlessly. Especially if it’s a random occurrence as opposed to daily.

Does exercise “erase” the overconsumption of food?

Nope. It does not. Exercise is its own stand-alone entity. It has numerous benefits for the body and every body requires a certain amount of it. When we don’t meet our needs for movement or ignore a desire for more strength, endurance, or flexibility, the body isn’t exactly thrilled about it. This means when we start doing it, it responds enthusiastically. Assuming we are actually feeling good about it. But it is not designed to erase calories consumed. In fact, it doesn’t want any part of the weight loss/gain world. It prefers to stand over on its own island. 

The basic premise is, when it feels good to you and you enjoy it, your body gets immense benefits. 

When it feels punishing, forced, or bad to you, your body will potentially give a temporary result before it finds excuses to stop or merely stops responding to it.

What motivates a person to change their food and exercise habits?

It’s actually quite simple. When they, themselves, without any outside force or control, decide they want to do something purely for them.

And that’s it

This is why as a weight loss coach, my sole job is to help people get to the place where they do this. And until they do, I help them shift the fear around weight gain so they don’t gain weight in the process.

What demotivates them?

Pressure, force, coercion, scare tactics, depression, low energy, subtle comments, hyper-focus on their struggles, etc.

Why wouldn’t someone who wants to be healthier just automatically engage in healthy habits?

Because that’s assuming we as humans are always rational. When it comes to weight, food, and exercise, most people are completely irrational, which is 100% not their fault.

People who don’t struggle with weight are often quite judgmental over a person who does struggles and doesn’t easily engage in healthy habits. They (in their rational state of mind around weight, food, and exercise) can’t understand why they can’t just do what they need to do.

But every person on the planet has things they are irrational about. Whether it’s spending money, alcohol or drugs, family or friend relationships, romance, sex, etc. In other words, we all have things that cause us to make irrational decisions and later look at ourselves and say, “why the heck did I do that?!”. 

So, when my clients are perplexed as to why they can’t seem to just do “what’s right” I see them doing exactly what is expected of a person in that state of mind. The answer is not to force behavior change, it’s to build the bridge to rationality so they can easily implement healthy habits.

Why does the body respond with weight gain even when someone is eating less and moving more?

This is a far more complicated answer that could take up an entire day. The simplest answer is because even when someone is DOING all the right things and checking all the right boxes, our human-ness requires more.

Our motivations, emotions, past history, relationships, state of mind, stress levels, etc. all play a role in whether or not the body stores or burns fat. We will never be able to solve the weight-loss equation with simple science or even just the natural science world.

It will always be a blend of natural science and psychology. Because we are dealing with humans who have minds.

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About The Author

Michelle Hastie

Michelle Hastie Thompson is a recovered binge eater who turned her binge eating around and even got featured in Shape Magazine helping a woman lose weight in “My Weight Loss Diaries". She helps women end the battle of binge and overeating, fall in love with movement, and finally lose the weight permanently. A veteran weight loss coach for almost ten years, she is a Ph.D. student in Health Psychology and has three published books, the most recent titled, "Have Your Cake and Be Happy Too: A Joyful Approach to Weight Loss”.