You probably know this already, but counting calories has never been my jam.
I find it unnecessarily restrictive, time consuming, and mentally stressful. I also find that when I focus on the numbers, I lose track of the most important aspect of a good diet: the quality of the food I am eating. As a Type A personality I know I could easily get obsessive over calorie counting. I could sit there all night calculating the perfect macros based on my BMR and daily energy expenditure. But this isn’t healthy, and it sure as hell isn’t much fun.
When you look at food as purely mathematics, I believe you’re taking away the pleasure and freedom that should come with eating good, wholesome, nourishing food.
The good news is, you don’t have to count calories to hit your health or fitness goals. You don’t have to count calories to burn fat, build muscle, and create the body of your dreams.
I strongly believe that 99% of people on the planet would be happier and healthier by paying less attention to calorie counting, and more attention to their own body and the quality of food they eat. Can you lose weight counting calories? Of course you can! But there is a much simpler, healthier, and more enjoyable way to do it.
8 tips for easy fat loss
1. Eat more fibre
This is one of my golden rules for easy fat loss without calorie counting. And the science is simple: fibre slows the digestive process and keeps you fuller for longer. Eating high fibre foods at meal times will help prevent snacking and mindless eating, whilst also keeping your portion sizes under control.
Example: compare eating two slices of white bread to eating a whole baked potato. Both contain roughly the same amounts of carbs and calories, but the baked potato is much more satisfying.
This is because the baked potato is a ‘whole food’ – meaning it contains all the natural fibre, water, amino acids, vitamins and minerals a potato SHOULD contain. Compare this to the wheat used to make the bread, which has been stripped of all it’s nutrients and fibre during processing. Fibre will also help to keep your blood sugar levels stable, making you much less likely to crave sweet and sugary snacks.
Before you go out and buy a fibre supplement, know that real food sources of fibre are what I’m talking about here. Think of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. Lentils, black beans and chick peas are some of my favourites, as they are also packed with protein. When increasing your fibre intake, it is important to start SLOWLY. Gradually increase your fibre intake over days and weeks, rather than overnight, to avoid musical side effects.
2. Slow down
Back when I was a scrawny 14 year old trying to gain weight at all costs, my friends and I would sit down at the lunch table at school and eat as FAST as we could. We did this because the faster we ate, the more food we could shovel into our faces before we felt full. We pounded as much food as we could as quickly as we could, before our stomachs could work out what was going on and tell us to stop!
This is not clever and is certainly not healthy; but 14-year-old me didn’t know any better. However, it does re-affirm my belief that slowing down at meal times is one of the best things you can do in order to improve satiety after eating.
This is because of the delayed reaction of messaging between your brain and stomach. It takes between 5 - 10 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you have had enough, which is the reason 14-year-old me would cram as many calories as he could in the first few glorious moments of meal times.
Slowing down at meal times will increase your awareness of when you are truly full, reducing the likelihood of overeating. It will also allow you to enjoy your food more, leading to greater satisfaction during your meals.
3. Build your meals around protein
Protein is the most satiating nutrient, helping to keep your appetite under control and your blood sugar levels stable. For easy fat loss, I recommending building each of your meals around a moderate portion of protein. 20 – 30g of protein 3 – 4 times per day is plenty.
An example of how this looks in practice is:
Breakfast: Porridge with flaxseed, banana and cashew butter = 22g protein
Lunch: Big salad with chick peas, avocado, pumpkin seeds, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, beetroot, apple cider vinegar etc = 24g protein
Post workout: PERFORM protein shake with banana, berries and almond milk = 26g protein
Dinner: Lentil dhal with sweet potato and spinach = 25g protein
This brings you to a total protein intake of 97g, which is plenty for most people. More protein doesn’t always mean better, but building each meal around a source of protein will help to keep your appetite under control and your cravings for sugary snacks at a minimum.
4. Take a probiotic
The more we learn about our gut bacteria (A.K.A probiotics), the more we realise just what a vital role they play in so many different aspects of our health. And yes, this includes our ability to burn fat.
Probiotics are beneficial for fat loss for a number of reasons. The first is that our gut bacteria is responsible for converting the food we eat into nutrients and energy. A poor composition of gut bacteria can make you less efficient at converting the food you eat into energy, and therefore, more efficient at storing it as fat.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that our gut bacteria can also influence our food cravings¹². This is no surprise, given the strong connection between our brain and the gut along the signalling pathway called the vagus nerve. Bad bacteria such as candida thrive on sugar, so signal to our brain to crave sugary snacks to allow them to multiply!
Thirdly, there is also evidence to suggest that probiotics may increase the release of a hormone called GLP-1, which has been shown to increase the rate at which we burn calories³.
If you struggle with sugar cravings or a voracious appetite for sweet things, your gut bacteria could be responsible. Taking a high-quality probiotic, or eating probiotic foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, are great ways of getting your gut bacteria back under control. Minimising stress and avoiding processed food is also essential.
5. Get more sleep
If you’re serious about fat loss, sleep is a non-negotiable.
Quality sleep is the key to a healthy hormonal balance, which sets the platform to allow your body to burn fat optimally. During sleep we see the biggest spike in growth hormone production, an anabolic hormone that burns through fat like a hot knife through butter.
On the opposite side of the coin, lack of sleep skyrockets cortisol production, the stress hormone that literally programmes our body to store the food we eat as fat! Lack of sleep also wreaks havoc with our production of ghrelin, which regulates our appetite and food cravings. Just one night of poor sleep is enough to seriously throw off your ghrelin production, causing your body to crave sugary and calorie dense foods the next day⁴!
Getting enough sleep isn't as sexy as diet books and beach body detoxes, but it is one of the most important things you can do to kickstart healthy fat loss. Get 7 – 8 hours of quality sleep each night and just watch how much easier everything else becomes.
6. Cook at home
If you want to take control of your own weight, why aren’t you prepared to take control of your own food?
I know it seems easier to grab a baguette from the local coffee shop at lunch, or a takeaway on the way home for dinner. But getting in the habit of prepping your own meals will make a significant difference to your waistline – and your wallet.
No matter how much they highlight the ‘healthy’ options on their menus, a restaurant’s number one priority is still to make their food taste as good as possible to ensure you come back. This doesn’t mean that they’ll deep fry everything and coat it in MSG, but it does mean that they’re probably going to be a little more liberal with the oils, flours and sugars than you would be if you were making it yourself. Over time, these additional calories really start to stack up.
Setting the time aside to prepare your own meals is one of the easiest changes you can make for easy fat loss. Prepping your own meals gives you FULL control over what goes in to your body. You can adjust the portion sizes, dressings, seasonings and cooking methods to suit your own specific goals and appetite.
This doesn’t mean you can never go out to eat! Just save it for a treat once or twice per week, rather than as a daily occurrence. And when you do go out, treat yourself to whatever you want on the menu and enjoy it without any guilt or regret.
To make meal prepping easier, I recommend batch cooking at weekends. You can also easily make double portions at dinner time and take them to work the next day for lunch. For inspiration, check out these 11 unusual and delicious recipes that are all high in protien and taste amazing!
7. Stop drinking your calories
You don’t have to count calories to know where they’re lurking. And I promise you that fat loss will be so much easier if you chew all of yours.
The reason drinking calories is so problematic is because they bypass our satiety mechanisms, adding what are essentially ‘empty calories’ to your diet without any nutrition or feeling of fullness. Alcohol, soft drinks, creamy coffees, and even fruit juice are all flooding your body with extra calories, often without you even realising.
For faster fat loss, stick to water or herbal tea wherever possible. Add some cucumber, a slice of lime or a squeeze of lemon to make them more enjoyable. And aim to drink 2 – 3 litres per day, minimum.
Smoothies are fine, but try to always add a source of protein (protein powder, chia seeds, nut butter etc) to them to make them more satisfying. Even better, make them so thick you have to eat them with a spoon and it feels like a proper meal. Oh, and cut down on alcohol as much as you can. At the very least, save it for special occasions. Even if you just followed this one tip, your fat loss will become significantly easier.
8. Screw the scale
Last but not least, stick two fingers up at the scales and throw them out of your house for good. Obsessively tracking the number on the scale never helped anyone lose weight any faster. Most of the time, the stress of doing so and getting bummed out when the scale isn’t budging just ends up making things a hell of a lot harder.
You can make incredible changes in your body composition without the scale moving at all. In fact, I know many people (both male and female) that have gained weight (thanks to an increase in muscle mass) and look 10,000 times better as a result.
The scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. Nothing more. It does not measure your health or happiness, and it most certainly does not define you as a person.
If you want to measure your progress, I recommend taking a ‘before’ photo. Lock it away for 90 days, then look back and see how far you’ve come. Be patient, be consistent, and be kind to yourself. One small slip up along the way does not make you a failure. It makes you a human.
Catch you soon,