Medically reviewed on April 26, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Barring medical conditions that cause weight gain, such as hypothyroidism, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Cushing syndrome, the most common cause of weight gain occurs when people eat more calories than they burn. 
That said, many factors can contribute to being overweight or obese, including your environment, genetics, mental health, sleep schedule, and health status.  Accordingly, dieting isn’t the only way to lose weight. There are several other methods you can implement to achieve a healthy weight.
Dieting typically refers to actions individuals take in the short-term to adjust their food intake in an attempt to shed extra pounds. Sometimes, this involves reducing the number of calories consumed each day. Other times, this involves eliminating certain types of food from each meal, which may include:
However, a fad diet is rarely sustainable and is unlikely to lead to long-term success.3 In fact, a “restriction mentality” can sometimes cause feelings of anxiety, guilt, and failure—particularly if the individual is unable to meet certain specifications set out by the diet. 
People who identify as women are particularly affected by fad diets and the culture surrounding them, and they often experience negative self-images as a result. 
But that’s not the only downside of dieting. Oftentimes, food restriction can lead to physical effects, as well, such as: 
As such, an alternative approach to dieting is mindful eating. It focuses more on paying attention to your body's hunger and fullness signals, as well as your emotional state and overall well-being while eating. 
Mindful eating emphasizes the importance of slowing down and savoring your food, as well as being aware of the taste, texture, and smell of what you're eating.
By practicing mindful eating, you can learn to distinguish between physical hunger and emotional cravings and can make more informed choices about what and how much you eat. Additionally, mindful eating can also help you develop a healthier relationship with food, reduce stress, while improving digestion at the same time.6
To begin practicing mindful eating, try: 
It's also important to monitor your portion sizes and practice moderation when it comes to indulgences, such as desserts, or other substances such as alcohol. Overall, you should aim to eat fewer calories than your body burns to lose weight.  To achieve this, you must factor in your age, activity level, eating habits, and unique body composition.
For example, as you age, your metabolism will typically begin to slow down and you may also become less tolerant to glucose, or sugar.7 As such, your body will require less energy, which it obtains from calories. Consequently, older individuals are more likely to accumulate body fat if they don’t adjust their food intake accordingly and/or increase their levels of physical activity. 
That said, every person must find a balance between their calorie intake and physical activity level in order to achieve and/or to maintain a healthy weight. This means that you may want to make changes to your diet, such as choosing foods that are lower in calories and higher in nutrients, and may want to limit your consumption of sugary and/or high-fat foods.
Furthermore, incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine can assist you in burning calories and building muscle mass, which can further support weight loss. 
A diet filled with nutrient-dense foods is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and overall well-being.9 Whole foods can provide you with a high amount of essential minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients while being relatively low calorie (depending on the portion consumed), such as: 
Aim to incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense foods into your diet, and aim to limit or avoid processed foods, added sugars, and unhealthy fats. This can help ensure that you're getting the nutrients your body needs to function at its best, while also supporting healthy weight loss and reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as: 
For example, you can begin the day with a bowl of oatmeal, topped with chia seeds and a moderate amount of medley of fruits. For lunch, you can dine on grilled chicken with a side of roasted potatoes or a leafy green salad. Then, finish your day with a lentil-vegetable chili, served with a crusty slice of whole grain bread.
Physical activity is critical to weight management.11 The more you move, the more calories your body burns. This helps create a “calorie deficit,” which means that you may be eating less calories than your body is burning. 
To understand your body’s caloric needs, some health experts recommend using the Mifflin-St Jeor formula, which factors in: 
These factors help determine your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which refers to the number of calories your body burns when at rest.13 If you live a sedentary, or low activity, lifestyle, you must eat fewer calories than your RMR to achieve a caloric deficit. However, the more active you are, the more calories your body will need.
This formula operates on a binary system and only factors in male and female individuals, so it may not be fully inclusive of trans or nonbinary people. That said, it’s measured in the following way: 
Females: (10weight [kg]) + (6.25height [cm]) – (5age [years]) – 161 __Males: __(10weight [kg]) + (6.25height [cm]) – (5age [years]) + 5
The results are then multiplied by a number (shown below), based on the individual’s activity level, to find the RMR: 
Sedentary: 1.2 Lightly active: 1.375 Moderately active: 1.55 Active: 1.725 Very active: 1.9
Once you’ve calculated your RMR, you’ll need to exercise accordingly to ensure you achieve a caloric deficit and facilitate weight loss. However, with all of that said, physical activity is essential to your overall health and quality of life—not just weight loss.
Regular exercise can: 
Sleep deprivation may be linked to weight gain.14 More specifically, some researchers found that disruptions in your sleep cycle can affect the body’s endocannabinoid system,14 a vast biological network of neurotransmitters and cell receptors that help regulate many of the body’s most essential functions, such as: 
When the endocannabinoid system is disrupted due to sleep deprivation, it can lead to an increase in hunger and cravings, especially for high-fat and high-carbohydrate foods. This can contribute to overeating and weight gain over time.  Furthermore, sleep deprivation can also affect hormones that regulate appetite, such as leptin and ghrelin, making it even more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. 
To remedy this, it's important to prioritize getting enough high-quality sleep each night. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but individual needs may vary. 
Some strategies that can help improve sleep quality include:
If you continue to struggle with sleep despite making these changes, it may be helpful to consult a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying sleep disorders or other health issues that could be contributing to your sleep troubles.
Sometimes, weight gain or obesity is a direct result of a medical condition or other obesity risk factor. For example, a genetic condition like Prader-Willi syndrome can facilitate constant food cravings, which can result in rapid weight gain. 
Other non-genetic conditions, such as Cushing syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome, and underactive thyroid may also contribute to weight gain.2 If this is the case, speak to your healthcare provider about what you can do to help with weight management.
That said, there are many FDA-approved weight loss medications available to two subsets of people: 
These medications are approved for long-term use and include: 
How do these work? Let’s look at semaglutide (Wegovy®) as an example.
Semaglutide is a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonist, which mimics the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 in the body. This hormone plays a role in curbing appetite and contributing to feelings of fullness. Semaglutide can replicate these effects to potentially support weight loss. 
Knowing how to lose weight without dieting and how to maintain weight loss consists of understanding your body and your unique health needs. Oftentimes a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and a consistent sleep schedule can help facilitate weight loss. However, those with obesity or other weight-related medical conditions can speak to their healthcare provider about supplementary medical solutions.
At Everlywell, we provide telehealth weight management services to help you navigate your weight loss journey. The program combines virtual visits, GLP-1 medication, and quarterly at-home lab tests to ensure consistent progress.