I used to be slim and athletic. Practicing sports daily— swimming, soccer, tennis — meant I could eat whatever I wanted and still get away with it.
Then I went to college. Slowly, but surely, everything changed.
Sports dialed back to a few times per week, if at all. Beer came into the picture. Dinner became microwave lasagna and soda. Sleeping patterns became irregular.
Slowly, but surely, muscle gave way to fat.
And it didn’t get better when I start working. Sitting became the new norm. Stress levels rose. I tried to fit everything into an already busy schedule. Exercising was still nowhere to be seen. More fat, more weight.
In ten short years, I gained over 30 pounds.
Until one day I decided it was enough. Even though I was not pleased with my looks, the trigger was my lack of energy throughout the day and always feeling tired. This was no way to live. Something had to change.
I read everything I could get my hands on about healthy eating habits and taking care of your body. I knew little changes in my diet would make me — slowly, but surely — lose weight naturally.
The first month I lost a little over 8 kilos (~20 Pounds) without exercising. Three months later I was down 10 kilos and clearing my mental barrier of the 70 kilos for the first time in a decade.
Below you’ll find the distilled learnings of my journey.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or health professional and this is not medical advice. If you have any health conditions, consult your physician. What worked for me might not for you.
#1 Weigh Yourself. Every. Single. Day
The first thing I do when I get out of bed is to weigh myself.
I write my number on a spreadsheet. You can copy it here. For easier solutions, use the notes app or write it down on a piece of paper.
But how exactly does weighing yourself every day help you lose weight naturally?
First, you know how well you’re doing and can celebrate small wins. These early wins will give you the motivation to keep going.
And because the number is always on your mind, you’ll be more careful with what you eat. Your brain will unconsciously do the work for you and stop you right before you have that chocolate bar.
It’s far easier to stick to your diet when your weight increases. Why? Because you are aware that you’re not losing weight compared to previous days. In weight loss, awareness is everything.
To make the habit of weighing yourself every morning stick, set up a reminder at the same time as your alarm clock and place the weighing scale next to your bed. Over time, the habit will become natural.
#2 Forget Daily Weight, Focus on the Trend
Tracking your weight is a great way to gamify weight loss. It’s like trying to beat your personal high score every single day.
The simples changes to your diet that you’ll find below will make you lose a lot of weight in the first two weeks.
But gradually, it will become harder and harder to continue to lose weight at that pace. Burning fat is a lot easier when you got a lot of it to burn. As you slow your weight loss rate, it’s easy to become frustrated. You want to keep the pace and get to your goal faster. We all do.
Instead of focusing on your daily weight and how it compares to previous days, trust the signal of the trendline.
What matters in losing weight naturally is the trend. Do your best to ignore both odd spikes and big short-term drops and focus on the core average direction.
As long as you’re losing weight — even if just a few grams per day — you’re on the right path. It might take a little bit longer to where you want to be but always trust the process.
Slow and steady wins the race.
#3 Keep a Food Journal
Humans are self-deceiving creatures. We say we want one thing but then our actions reveal the absolute opposite.
I explained my weight loss journey and diet to anyone who asked. Some “gave it a try” only to come back a few weeks later disappointed. I would ask what they ate in the last week.
“Only what you recommended. I was disciplined. It just didn’t work for me.”
So I kept asking questions and the inconsistencies were everywhere.
Yeah, I went to the movies and had popcorn.
Omg I drank so much on Friday I spent all Saturday in bed!
Oh but I always drink cappuccinos, I’m afraid that’s a no-go area.
A food journal is the best way to stay true to yourself. You simply write down everything you eat and drink throughout the day. I do it on the notes app.
It’s particularly handy when looking at your weight variance:
I asked myself: “Why did I gain weight?”
Then I would read my food journal for the last couple of days and understand where I went wrong.
A food journal is a constant reminder to “stay inside the lines”. It helps you consistently realign actions to goals.
Immediately I would correct course and strictly stick to my diet on the next few days. I would always lose a few pounds — indicated by the green lines — on the days following a spike.
That’s how powerful awareness can be.
#4 You Can’t Outrun Your Fork
One of the biggest myths of weight loss is that you need to get physical.
Exercise has tremendous benefits. More than helping you lose weight, it does wonders for stress management as well as improve mood and sleep.
But you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.
The single most important factor in long-term weight loss is improving your food choices.
A small bag of chips takes around one hour of moderate to high-intensity cardio and weights training to burn off. A can of Coke? You’re looking at one hour of walking.
In The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How To Make Yours Work, Dr. Freedhoff proves that food choices are 70 to 80 percent of weight outcome, with the remaining percentage attributed to exercise.
It’s a classic example of the 80/20 rule: fitness is 20% exercise and 80% nutrition.
Exercise does help you lose weight naturally. But what you put in your plate, bowl, and cup, has the greatest impact on your weight loss journey.
So don’t feel the need to start sweating it out. Simply focus on what you eat every day and your weight will naturally start to drop.
#5 Eat Like Your Grandma
Food has evolved a lot over the last couple of decades. Unfortunately, our body hasn’t progressed at the same speed. It still needs what you could find in the wild and cook easily much rather than Oreos or sodas.
In 100 Million Years of Food: What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today author Stephen Le recommends a simple prescription: eat according to your ancestral diet.
A quick scan to your pantry or fridge reveals that almost everything you’re consuming breaks this simple rule.
I would add to eat not only what you could cook hundreds of years ago but also find it in the closest way possible. For example: instead of eating just any kind of meat, try to get as close to naturally raised animal meat as possible.
As for drinks, you’re pretty much left with water, tea, coffee, and pressed juice from fresh fruit. Some wine and beer will also make the cut as long as they’re not overly processed, which is not that easy to find in supermarkets.
An easy heuristic to uncover healthy food is:
“Would my Grandma eat or drink this?”
More often than not the answer is a clear “no” and so you should stop consuming them altogether.
#6 Adopt the Slow-Carb Diet
By now you know that losing weight naturally is 80% based on your food choices. I adopted the Slow-Carb diet after reading Tim Ferriss’ “The 4 Hour Body”.
Here are the three main rules:
- Skip “white” carbohydrates: bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, and grains. Avoid eating anything white and you’re safe
- Eat the same few meals over and over again: mix and match but use only a few items (more below)
- Don’t drink calories: a glass or two of dry red wine per night is fine
- No fruit: avocado and tomatoes are exceptions (in moderation) but stay away from everything else
- Take one day/three meals off per week: I prefer three meals per week as it allows more flexibility
As for the actual foods, mix and match from the following list, constructing each meal with one pick from each of the three groups:
Proteins: egg whites with 1–2 whole eggs for ﬂavor, chicken breast or thigh, black beans, beef (preferably grass-fed), pork, fish
Legumes: lentils, pinto, read or soy beans
Vegetables: spinach, mixed veggies (such as broccoli, cauliﬂower, or any other cruciferous vegetables), sauerkraut, kimchee, asparagus, peas, green beans
You can eat as much as you like from that list.
Be careful when it comes to drinks. Sodas and juices contain a ridiculous amount of sugar and calories. A pint of beer will set you back at least 150 calories, if not more. Stop drinking calories is a simple yet very effective way to lose weight naturally.
I didn’t drink a lot of sodas — just the occasional Coke — but stop consuming altogether certainly made me lose weight a lot faster.
Stick with water, tea, and coffee (both without milk). A glass or two of dry red wine per night is also fine.
Changing your diet overnight can be overwhelming. Ferris’ encourages to take a “cheat day” or three “cheat meals” per week. You’ll naturally end up cheating so it’s better to plan ahead.
#7 Repetition is Key to Lose Weight Naturally
If you want to lose weight faster, aim to repeat the same meals over and over again. Simplify.
Mix and match but only use a few ingredients from the Slow-Carb Diet.
My meals consist of meat — grass-fed beef or chicken — with salad or spinach as a side. If I’m having fish, I normally eat with grilled mixed veggies.
That’s it. Simple to buy and prepare. I used just a small portion of the list. Less is more.
Repeating the same meals also has some extra benefits: you’ll save time by batch cooking multiple meals as well as money by buying in bulk.
#8 Your Diet Starts at the Supermarket
Eating out a lot is dangerous. Restaurants add a lot of salt and sugar to food to enhance flavor. Cooking at home gives you a lot more control over ingredients and preparation methods than eating out.
And that’s why your diet starts when you’re buying food. Making sure you shop the freshest ingredients from your list and nothing more goes a long way to avoid eating badly down the road.
Plan your meals in advance so you always know what to eat each day. Use Sundays to cook for the entire week and freeze excess food.
Be especially mindful of snacks as they constitute the biggest temptation. By preparing healthy snacks in advance you’re less likely to binge-eat unhealthy treats. My favorite are carrots chopped in sticks and nuts.
At the grocery store, buy items from the outer edges. Healthy, wholesome foods are on the perimeter. Junk and processed foods tend to live in the aisles.
If you’re eating out, always order water (bonus points: it’s cheaper!) and switch sides of fries or rice with mixed vegetables or salad.
Furthermore, waiters and what other people ordered can pressure you into eating more than you otherwise might, such as appetizers, drinks or dessert. Make your decision before the waiter comes and order before others. Or, even better, check the menu online and make your decision in advance.
#9 Moderation: Aim to Be 80% Full, Slowly
In our fast-paced world, food tends to be just another to-do on our list. We eat because we need it to survive. And so we stuff our face as fast as we can.
But it takes our brain about 20 minutes to send signals stating that you’re full. And so we end up eating more than we need.
What if you could enjoy our food at a decent pace, eat less than you think you need and still lose weight naturally in the process?
In The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, author Dan Buettner notes that slow eating was an essential trait in populations that lived to be at least a 100 years old.
Eat until you’re no longer hungry rather than until you’re full.
Aim to eat until you’re 80% full. If you’re having a hard time figuring out if you’re full, you still going too fast. Slow down and listen to your brain and stomach.
You can also trick your brain. Drinking a glass of water before meals will make you less hungry. And if want to trick yourself into eating less, use smaller plates and bowls.
But what if you’re eating out and can’t really change the size of the plates Well since portions in restaurants tend to be larger, order one main course and split or ask for a to-go box right away and stash a portion before you start.
#10 Design Your Environment to Fight Off Urges
We are all humans. As such, there will be times when your cravings are just too damn high.
Our environment plays a big role in decisions. If unhealthy food is within reach, you’ll eat it. I see a cookie and I’m having it. Happens to the best of us.
So how do you beat the temptation game?
The trick is to design the defaults of your environment. And it’s especially helpful when your cravings are high.
Start by removing unhealthy food from your house. This is ground zero to beat temptation. If there’s no chocolate at home, you probably won’t go out to get it. The more friction you add to a habit, the easier it is to quit it.
Same goes for drinks. Only have water at home and ban everything else, especially alcohol (the most tempting of all). To make sure you regularly drink water, place a bottle next to your bed and another at your desk.
Stock your fridge with vegetables, lean meat, and water.
And if you want to go one step further and automate healthier eating, buy a subscription of fresh, seasonal produce delivered to your door each week.
A Way of Eating, A Way of Life
The word “diet” is misused. It’s often related to nutrition specifically aimed at weight-loss. After explaining my new “diet” a few times, I dropped using the word altogether.
You see, the plan outlined above is not a “diet”. Because connotation implies that it’s something you follow for a few weeks or months to lose weight and then you’re free to go back to old ways and habits.
Losing weight naturally is not a “diet”. It’s a diet, no commas. It refers to the original meaning of the word, which Wikipedia describes as “the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism”.
It’s a plan for the rest of your life, a fundamentally different way to look at food and what you put into your body. At the risk of sounding like a bad commercial for a “diet”, it’s a new way of eating, a new way of life.
You won’t go back to old habits after this.
But the good news?
You won’t want to.