Can You Lose Weight Without Dieting?

How to associate food freedom with weight loss.

Stack of pancakes - Unsplash: Sarah Gualtieri

“But what if I want to lose weight?”

That’s the question I hear most often when I say that I don’t believe in diets.

And I hope to make it very clear to you today.

The (Very Well) Known Way to Lose Weight

When we think about weight loss, it is normal to think that the most certain way to do it, is to go on a diet. Most of us learned this from an early age. Whether through magazines with restrictive weight loss programs or observing adults restricting their food intake in order to lose weight, we are conditioned to link the manipulation of our food to the manipulation of our weight.

“If you want to weigh less, just eat less”. Very simple, isn’t it?

We also learn which foods are “good or allowed” — those with few calories (and perhaps no flavor or fun) — and which foods are “bad or forbidden” — those with a lot of sugar and fat (and also delicious).

In any diet, the goal will always be to eat “good” foods and avoid eating “bad” foods as much as possible. In theory, you just have to do it long enough and your success is guaranteed — a sprint of sacrifice for a lifetime reward of wearing small-sized jeans.

It would be wonderful if in practice things weren’t a little different.

Why Diets Are A Bad Way After All

In real life, “bad” foods won’t go anywhere. You will have to say “no” to them, over and over. You will have to deal with people eating them by your side at the lunch table, while you eat the “good” foods.

As long as your willpower tank is full, you will be happy to do that. You may even feel it is easy. However, when there is an emotional challenge going on, some very stressful or difficult situation permeating your life, you will find it harder — perhaps impossible — to say no to food when you want to say yes. And this is where the “summer body project” goes down the drain.

An egg brunch with hash browns and orange juice for more individuals

Quickly, several compensation mechanisms are activated. Physically, your body is desperate for abundance and security. Mentally, you want to enjoy eating as much as you can before “getting back” on track. Emotionally, you want to feel rewarded for all the times that the pleasure, comfort, and warmth of food have denied you (by yourself).

And then you’re back to square one. And the cycle begins again.

The “roller coaster” of food promoted by diets and restrictions is precisely one of the reasons that make weight loss so suffering and difficult. There is no constancy and the overeating easily hinders the progress made.

It is this “failure combo” that paves the way for a new way of thinking about weight loss.

The Road to Food Freedom and How to Make it Work

When we talk about weight loss without diets, we are talking about ceasing overeating by minimizing eating without genuine hunger (either starting to eat without hunger or not stopping when comfortably full). These goals, associated with a mostly nutritious and healthy diet, make weight loss a much more natural process.

Eggs with vegetables and bacon

But, clearly, this path is not effortless. However, efforts are no longer counting grams of carbohydrates or saying no to food you want to eat. Without diets, weight loss efforts should happen in three ways.

  1. Reconnection with physical signs, especially hunger and satiety. It is normal and expected that so many years of rules have disconnected you from these signals. But I guarantee you will be amazed when you realize that your innate energy regulation system still works! Give your body a chance. It’s looking forward to communicating with you again. You will soon realize that it loves nutrients and rest too.
  2. Challenge the diet mindset and limiting beliefs about food and yourself. Dichotomous thoughts about food only make it difficult to honor your body’s signals and will keep you trapped in the willpower fallacy. In addition, it is very important to pay attention to the way you talk to yourself and how you judge your own behaviors. As long as you repeat to yourself that you are “a hopeless out of control person”, this is exactly what you will experience. Be kind to yourself, and talk positively to yourself.
  3. Explore (and solve) any emotional conflicts that make you seek food for comfort. As long as you don’t have better ways to deal with emotional hunger, food will always be the best medicine for your suffering. As long as you have no other forms of celebration, pleasure, reward, and relief, food will fill all those roles.

When these three pillars are aligned, overeating can then cease. With the compassionate respect of the body’s signals and the abandonment of the use of food as a crutch, the energy regulation happens naturally, then the weight gives in (if there is weight to lose!).

And I know it’s normal to be insecure or afraid of this new path. But reflect on how many diets have you started? How well do you know the traditional way? I know that new paths are scary. But I also know that you will never discover the lightness of freedom (and don’t even bother believing what I say) if you don’t risk it!

Be brave! You’ve got this!

I am a Brazilian girl (living in Sao Paulo with my fiancé — and other 20 million people). I love coffee, books, and good food. I also really enjoy studying and learning new things that allow me to further develop myself both professionally and personally. I have a degree in Food Science and hold a Ph.D. in Agri-food Marketing. In addition, I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and an enthusiastic Nutrition student.

After 15 years of living in war with my body and with food, I found freedom through mindfulness and intuitive eating, practices that allowed me to overcome yo-yo dieting and binge eating.

I’m passionate about helping women rewrite their food and body histories so they feel free and confident to live their lives to the fullest.

There is a power that comes alive when women free themselves from the food prison in which they have learned to live, when they realize that they are capable and deserving of feeling fantastic in their own bodies, and that confidence is a state of mind — not a body lotion which you get the right to use when you reach a weight-loss goal.

My work is dedicated to nurturing, celebrating and sharing this message.

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