• Counting calories isn’t the easiest way to lose weight. There are a few other options that don’t include any math.
  • Cook your own meals so you know exactly what goes in it.
  • Allow yourself to snack to hold you over. When you eat small quantities throughout the day, you’re less likely to be ravenous at traditional meal times.

News flash: Counting calories isn’t the best way to trim down. So how are you supposed to lose weight if not by obsessively tracking everything you eat? Here, 12 ways to slim down without having to do any calorie math. (Phew.)

1.    Cook Your Own Meals

Sure, it’s more time consuming, but making your own food instead going out to eat is a super-easy way to eat healthier—and save money. Restaurants load their dishes with sugar, salt and other unhealthy ingredients, and that’s not taking into account the typically massive portion sizes. Cooking at home ensures you know exactly what’s going into your meals and gives you a better handle on how much you’re eating.

2.    Eat Mindfully

Picture it: You’re sitting in front of the TV with a giant takeout dinner you meant to spread over two meals. You’re fully engrossed in whatever you’re watching and before you know it, you’ve mindlessly plowed through your entire order. To avoid unintentionally overeating, try practicing mindful eating, which basically means being in the moment while you calmly eat with intention. It also turns the act of eating into a really pleasant, not-stressful experience (more on that later).

3.    Fuel Up with Protein

The reason for this is three-fold: Loading up on protein reduces your appetite, increases fat-burning and helps you gain muscle. Basically the trifecta of health goals. Note that protein doesn’t have to been chicken or red meat—here are seven fabulous meatless sources.

4.    Allow Yourself to Snack

When you eat small quantities throughout the day, you’re less likely to be ravenous at traditional meal times. But when we say “snack,” we’re talking healthy options, people. Here are filling foods to munch all day that won’t wreck your diet but will still keep you firing on all cylinders.

5.    Stop Drinking Your Calories

When we imagine the things that are making us hold onto excess pounds, we typically imagine cake and chips and French fries. We often overlook the sheer amount of calories (and sugar) in the beverages we’re drinking. To drop pounds without counting cals, limit soda (regular and diet), fancy coffee drinks and alcohol.

6.    Use Smaller Plates

A little visual trickery never hurt anyone, right? By eating on smaller plates, you’re essentially fooling your brain into thinking you’re eating more. It sounds kind of outlandish, but in practice it works. (Seriously, this study out of Cornell University found just that.)

7.    Sip Water Throughout the Day

Consistently drinking water is one of the best things you can do for your health and also one of the easiest. In addition to keeping your skin clear and your energy up, staying hydrated boosts your metabolism, makes you feel full (per a 2015 study from the University of Oxford) and keeps you from drinking the not-so-great-for-you beverages we mentioned above.

8.    Be Patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and weight doesn’t fall off your body after you eat a single salad. If weight loss is your goal, it’s crucial to be patient with yourself and your body. You might be someone who loses weight at the drop of a hat, but you might not, and that’s OK. Cut yourself some slack and don’t quit when, after a week, you don’t look like Emma Stone.

9.    Don’t Demonize Food

Thinking of food as the enemy takes the pleasure out of an activity that should be very pleasurable. Instead of labeling foods as “good” or “off-limits,” let yourself eat what you want to eat, but do so in moderation. (Remember mindful eating?)

10. And Don’t Incentivize It

Instead of rewarding yourself for hitting the gym three days in a row with a personal pizza (which pretty much negates the work you put in on the treadmill), get a manicure or buy a new book you’ve been eyeing.

11. Get Enough Sleep

You, like us, are probably more miserable in general when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, but did you know that being tired can also wreak havoc on your weight loss goals? Studies—like this one published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship—have shown that a lack of sleep can increase hunger and cravings, as well as cause weight gain by messing with levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin.

12. Read Labels for Ingredients, Not Calories

Just because we’re recommending you stop counting calories doesn’t mean you should ignore nutritional information altogether. It’s more about knowing what to look for on a label. A product could have just 100 calories per serving and seem virtuous…until you look a little lower and see that it also contains a whopping 10 grams of sugar. Here’s a super-helpful primer on label reading we go back to again and again.

Published by Brian de Niro

Brian is an expert in carbohydrate-restricted diets for weight management. He enjoys a lifestyle that includes healthy foods and a combination of cardio and flexibility exercises to stay fit.

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