Woman going on regular morning jog to lose weight without dieting

How to lose weight without dieting: what you need to know

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.

Table of contents

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. [1]

That said, many factors can contribute to being overweight or obese, including your environment, genetics, mental health, sleep schedule, and health status. [2] Accordingly, dieting isn’t the only way to lose weight. There are several other methods you can implement to achieve a healthy weight.

1. Eat mindfully long-term

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:

  • Sugar
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Processed foods
  • Alcohol

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. [3]

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. [4]

But that’s not the only downside of dieting. Oftentimes, food restriction can lead to physical effects, as well, such as: [5]

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Disordered eating habits
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Poor bone health
  • Infertility

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. [6]

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: [6]

  • Acknowledging where the food came from and how it was prepared
  • Eating slowly and savoring each bite
  • Avoiding distractions, such as screens or reading materials during meals
  • Listening to the hunger signals of your body
  • Being aware of any emotions or stressors that may be influencing your eating habits
  • Paying attention to how your body feels after eating your meal
  • Expressing gratitude for the food before, during, and after you’ve eaten it

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. [1] 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. [7]

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. [8]

2. Prioritize your nutrition

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: [7]

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Lean proteins
  • Healthy fats

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: [10]

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Certain types of cancer

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.

3. Make time for movement

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. [12]

To understand your body’s caloric needs, some health experts recommend using the Mifflin-St Jeor formula, which factors in: [12]

  • Sex
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Age
  • Activity level

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: [13]

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: [13]

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: [8]

  • Improve your mood
  • Boost your energy levels
  • Increase your libido
  • Provide opportunities to socialize
  • Support your sleep schedule
  • Mitigate certain health conditions, such as stroke, high blood pressure, and arthritis

4. Establish a sleep routine

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: [15]

  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Cognition
  • Mood
  • Reproduction
  • Metabolism
  • Growth

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. [16] 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. [16]

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. [17]

Some strategies that can help improve sleep quality include:

  • Establishing a regular sleep schedule and sticking to it, even on weekends
  • Creating a relaxing sleep environment by keeping the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet
  • Avoiding screens, like watching TV or using electronic devices, before bedtime
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the hours leading up to bedtime
  • Exercising regularly, but avoiding vigorous activity close to bedtime

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.

Everlywell Weight Loss Support

5. Ask your healthcare provider about medical solutions

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. [18]

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: [19]

  • Those who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, which is classified as obesity
  • Those who have a BMI of 27 or higher, and a weight-related medical condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure

These medications are approved for long-term use and include: [19]

  • Bupropion-naltrexone (Contrave)
  • Liraglutide (Saxenda)
  • Orlistat (Xenical, Alli)
  • Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia)
  • Semaglutide (Wegovy)
  • Setmelanotide (Imcivree)

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. [20]

Manage your healthy weight with Everlywell

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.

How to start a weight loss journey: key steps

How much weight can you lose in 3 months?

Lifestyle changes to lose weight: what to know


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  2. What causes obesity & overweight? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  3. Fad Diets: Are They Sustainable? | Center for Women’s Health | OHSU. www.ohsu.edu. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  4. Vidianinggar M, Mahmudiono Trias, Atmaka D. Fad Diets, Body Image, Nutritional Status, and Nutritional Adequacy of Female Models in Malang City. Gumpricht E, ed. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2021;2021:1-5. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
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  6. Boston 677 HA, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Mindful Eating. The Nutrition Source. Published September 14, 2020. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  7. H S, F K. [Aging, Basal Metabolic Rate, and Nutrition]. Nihon Ronen Igakkai zasshi. Japanese journal of geriatrics. Published July 1, 1993. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  8. Mayo Clinic Staff. 7 Great Reasons Why Exercise Matters. Mayo Clinic. Published October 8, 2021. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  9. Whole Foods - NYC Health. www.nyc.gov. Accessed April 26, 2023. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  10. Weight management and its correlation to cancer, diabetes and heart disease. UCLA health. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  11. Physical activity for a healthy weight . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published October 28, 2020. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  12. What Is Calorie Deficit? Cleveland Clinic. Published December 21, 2022. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  13. Mifflin-St Jeor Equation. Medscape. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  14. Hicklin T. Molecular ties between lack of sleep and weight gain. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Published March 21, 2016. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  15. Lu HC, Mackie K. An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. Biological Psychiatry. 2016;79(7):516-525. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  16. Patel SR, Hu FB. Short Sleep Duration and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review. Obesity. 2008;16(3):643-653. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  17. CDC. CDC - How Much Sleep Do I Need? - Sleep and Sleep Disorders. CDC. Published 2017. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  18. Prader-Willi syndrome - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  19. Pros and cons of weight-loss drugs. Mayo Clinic. Published 2018 URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
  20. Wegovy: The key facts to know about the weight loss drug. Diabetes UK. Accessed April 26, 2023. URL. Accessed April 26, 2023.
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