Losing Weight Without Exercise
Many of us aim to lose some weight, more precisely to lose some body fat. And it is not just a cosmetic problem, we all have heard of all the dangers associated with being overweight or obese: decreased mobility, poorer emotional health, low self-esteem, increased risk of heart disease, strokes, cancers; decreased sexual and reproductive health and many others.
And we all know what it will take to lose weight: increase our daily activity, rest better and eat healthier meals. But we seem to have a tough time actually getting all of those things done, or we just don’t simply know where to start.
Take exercise and being more active for example. What if we just don’t like training or can’t find enough time for daily workouts or long training routines? Or maybe it is just too hard for us to start training or to gather the strength and willpower to face all those buffed bodies at the gym?.
Well, the good news is that maybe structured exercise is not strictly necessary to reach our weight and health goals. Let's take a look into what is really necessary to ensure fat loss and if it is possible to do it without regular exercise.
We are talking here about the daily balance of energy between the one that comes in in the form of food and the energy that goes out, that we expend with movement or just by being alive every day. This relationship that works according to general physical laws of thermodynamics is what will ultimately determine if we lose weight, maintain our weight, or gain weight.
We can help our bodies then achieve our desired weight loss by manipulating either side of the equation, be it eating in a controlled manner to reduce caloric intake or incrementing our calorie expenditure by exercising or moving more all in favor of achieving a negative caloric balance that will promote weight and fat loss.
However our bodies are extremely capable of self-regulating and preserving the systems that will keep them alive, so at some point moving more and more will not lead to increased energy expenditure and will not be sustainable, the same thing goes for eating less and less. Both mechanisms will be self-regulated and limited by manipulating our hormones, energy levels, fat storage, and other mechanisms.
So in the end a balanced and progressive approach is what will lead to healthy and sustainable results. And given that nutrition is improved we can always find ways to increase energy expenditure through movement that is adjusted to our capacities, time demands, and preferences. Exercise is a great way to achieve this, but it is definitely not the only way.
CREATING A NEGATIVE BALANCE IN CALORIES
As mentioned before creating a negative caloric balance that promotes fat loss can be done by manipulating a bunch of factors on the input or output of energy. For example:
Building more muscle mass: just having a more muscular body can burn more calories by being more metabolically active
Increase protein intake: for the satiating effect and the thermic effect of digesting proteins.
Boost non-exercise physical activity: also called Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT. can be your secret tool to fat loss, since it can burn an extra 200-300 kcal and on works or labors that are quite physical can add go as high as 2000 kcal.
Eat more vegetables throughout the day: for the added nutrients and satiating effect with low caloric content.
Sleep 7-9 hours each night: having a consistent sleeping pattern and enough rest can help reduce snacking and overall food consumption during the day, regulate appetite, and balance hormone production.
Having a sustainable diet with mostly whole unprocessed foods.
No need to count calories or overstress about food choices: in fact most methods of counting calories, determining caloric content in foods, or the expended calories with activity are flawed and highly inaccurate.
We’ll look now into those that can help you lose weight and improve your health without the need for regular exercise.
Including more protein in your diet can help with fat loss for a few reasons:
When eating protein you feel fuller for longer: this is called the satiating effect of protein that allows your body to regulate the hunger hormones and help you feel satisfied for a longer period of time, leading to a reduction in overall caloric consumption every day.
Protein takes more energy to be digested: this is called the thermic effect of food. Since protein is a bit more complicated than carbs or fat to digest it literally takes more energy and burns more calories to be digested. And also more time which again explains you feeling fuller for longer.
Protein helps maintain muscle mass while trying to lose weight. The increased intake of protein will help your body hold on to the muscle tissue when on a caloric negative balance. And as mentioned above having more muscle mass helps burn more fat as well.
Cut Out Liquid Calories
A common pitfall for many is not knowing how many calories we get in daily without even noticing.
The most common beverages like soda, alcohol, coffee, fruit juice, rehydrating drinks, etc are all loaded with sugar and other high caloric compounds, as much as 25-30 grams per glass (7 spoons of sugar) which without us noticing can really add up our daily calories and lead to fat gain, against all of our efforts. And you would be surprised to know that a lot of the commercial beverages have a deviation of sugar content from that announced on the label of up to 30%
A good first step would be gradually transitioning to sugarless or diet soda, and then eventually switch to beverages we make ourselves without sugar like tea, black coffee, or plain water, which in addition can boost your weight loss efforts, so try gradually drinking more water throughout the day. The keyword here is gradual, so it can be sustainable.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, describes the calories burned every day by all our activities and all the movement we accumulate during the day that does not relate to structured exercise or sports. This can include activities like cooking, cleaning our houses, grocery shopping, walking to places, working, and even small movements such as fidgeting or playing a musical instrument.
While we might not notice it to be a lot, all of these activities add up and can have quite a substantial impact on our metabolic rate and calorie expenditures and can burn an extra 200-300 calories in most cases and in some extreme cases of really active people or workers with high physical jobs can be as high as 2000 calories per day.
Besides the weight loss component, there are other great benefits of just being more physically active throughout the day like less risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular events, and general causes of death.
If looking for inspiration and a few ways to increase your daily NEAT:
Get a desk at work or at home.
Use a stability ball instead of a chair.
Use a Pomodoro timer to remember to stand up and walk.
Walk to places instead of driving or taking public transport.
Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
If you are going food shopping, carry a basket instead of using a cart.
Walk your pets or play with them more often
Spend more time outdoors with your friends and family.
Keep in mind there are a lot of great benefits from regular exercise to your overall health other than just weight loss. However, if your schedule, current level of physical activity, or some other factor doesn’t allow you to have a structured exercise regime, or you don’t feel confident enough to start one yet, losing weight without joining a gym or going for a run every other day is definitely possible. Here are our main takeaways:
Weight loss ultimately comes to energy in vs energy out, however, this should always be approached in a sustainable and moderate manner to ensure ongoing results and avoid fallbacks or damage to our health.
There is plenty that you can do to reduce your overall energy intake like going for more satiating food, like proteins and veggies, or reducing high caloric foods and beverages.
Speaking of beverages, if you’re fond of soda, juices, or other beverages that might be high in sugar and calories, gradually and slowly move to sugar-free and diet versions, and then try making your own sugarless tea, coffee, lemon water ultimately striving to get only water, and then drink lots of it.
NEAT is a great way to increase your energy expenditure every day without exercising. Try some of the tips provided and come up with your own to stay active during the whole day, every day. It will have a ton of extra benefits on top of reducing your belly.