Without a doubt, the easiest, most effective and arguably most sustainable method to adjusting body weight and composition is to track calories, but doing so certainly isn’t a requirement.
The reason for this is quit simple in that a primary determinant of weight change is what is known as the theory of energy balance (1). We've covered this before in other articles, but essentially it postulates that in order to change weight, you'll need to eat more or fewer calories than you expend, depending on your goal of gaining weight or losing weight, respectively.
When you track calories using an application such as MyFitnessPal, doing so allows you to follow principles of Flexible Dieting in which you allow yourself the ability to eat the foods you desire, while ensuring you're consuming the correct amount of calories and eventually macronutrients as well.
Despite food tracking's effectiveness, it's often not attractive due to the relative amount of effort needed to accurately track. Weighing food and consistently tracking at every meal can sometimes be a daunting task that leads to abandoning the practice.
Even though tracking is the optimal route for body changes, it's not at all required, especially if tracking doesn't jive with your habits or preferences.
In this article, I'm going to discuss some of the best techniques for eating in a healthy and sustainable manner for body weight changes, without having to diligently track intake 24/7.
Foods which provide a large amount of volume with a relatively low amount of calories will be your best friend when dieting without tracking...you get to consume a large amount of food, yet have little impact on the amount of calories you're consuming.
Manipulate Energy Balance Through Food
Regardless of the method of dieting: Paleo, intermittent fasting, clean eating, flexible dieting, atkins, weight watchers, jenny craig and any other dieting style all work via reducing calories either directly or indirectly.
For example, "clean eating" is often effective, not solely due to the foods being consumed, but rather that traditional "clean foods" are often low in calories and nutrient dense, leading to a reduction of calories.
With this being the case, if you aren't willing to track intake, the first route you should take is to change the quality of the foods you're consuming. This means you need to begin consuming low-calorie dense foods.
Foods which provide a large amount of volume with a relatively low amount of calories will be your best friend when dieting without tracking. The reason for this is quite self explanatory: you get to consume a large amount of food, yet have little impact on the amount of calories you're consuming.
This may sound eerily similar to what would be considered "clean eating" and that's because it is.
Eating foods that are rich in nutrients, low in calories and high in volume make reducing calories much more likely without tracking intake than other forms of foods. Unfortunately, this style of eating may prove to be boring or difficult, yet quite necessary if you're hoping to change body weight, yet don't care to track calories.
Here is a list of some of the types of foods that you should consume primarily (not limited to this list):
Structure Meals According To Importance
One of my favorite techniques for managing food intake without tracking is to appropriately structure your meals to ensure you consume the foods you need, first and the foods you want, second.
It seems like a stupidly simply technique because it is. Fortunately, it also works.
Using this method is quite simple. When at a restaurant or at really any other meal, always start with either your protein or vegetable source, first and then move on to the other. After you've consumed both your protein and vegetable source, then allow yourself to consume the other foods you're interested in, such as a carb source.
By using this technique, you're ensuring that you consume your protein and fiber first, helping to curb your appetite when consuming the other high calorie foods, which we often enjoy most. By using this method, you'll likely inadvertently reduce the total amount of calories you're consuming, leading to weight loss.
In this image, we have a fairly typical meal that you might get at a restaurant (this is much more optimal for losing weight without tracking calories.)
To effectively structure your meal, you’d simply consume the chicken and broccoli source first (and second) and then finish with the rice. By consuming the chicken and broccoli source first, it’s likely you’ll consume less, later on in the meal.
Consider Meal Prepping Ahead Of Time
Meal prepping is commonplace in the fitness industry, and for good reason.
By meal prepping, you ensure that you have all of the necessary foods you need, ahead of time. Thus, minimizing the chances that you’ll consume more calories than you need.
Meal prepping certainly isn’t necessary but if you’re not interested in tracking calories, it’s a practice that is certainly advised.
I suggest starting by prepping for only a couple days in advance until you have a system of cooking down. Doing so will ensure that you don’t get too bored with the meals you’ve made, while giving you an idea of how the process actually works.
If you’re serious about changing your body composition but aren’t willing to track calories, meal prep is a necessity.
Swap For Low Calorie Versions Of Foods You Love
One of the first steps many people take when dieting is eliminating certain foods. Things like soda, dairy and even carbs are often the first foods to be eliminated, even thought hey don’t need to be.
Unless you’re an individual who thinks that artificial sweeteners and dairy are bad for health (I don’t believe they are), simply switching to lower calorie versions is a great method for easily reducing the calories you consume, without completely eliminating the foods you enjoy.
Here are a few examples of ways you can swap for lower calorie versions, allowing you to consume more of the foods you enjoy while continuing to lose weight:
Using this method is single handedly one of my favorite methods for moderating bodyweight with minimal sacrifice.
Keep in mind I understand that apart from the soda, these other two (milk and yogurt) probably have more sugar than their whole food counterparts. That's irrelevant for the purpose of this article. By switching to lower fat / calorie versions, you're consuming the same foods with less calories. A win-win for attempting to lose weight without tracking calories. If you increase your sugar intake but decrease overall calories, weight loss will be imminent.
If you're hoping to lose weight but don't care to track calories, you'll likely need to make some changes to your nutrition. Fortunately, most of the changes are actually simple and straightforward.
Click this link to be taken to Part 2/2! --> READ PART 2
About The Author