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How to lose weight without dieting - my journey so far

Updated: Jul 8

It feels like I have tried almost every diet that ever existed. In just the last few years I have done everything from; low carb, high carb, vegan, fast 800, 5:2, calorie counting, juice cleanses, intermittent fasting and even a 7 day stint where I consumed nothing but water! I lost weight on all of these in the short term, but inevitably put the weight back on, and some. However, I'm thrilled to say that I have now found a way that works for me to lose weight without dieting.

My story

Young me with food in my mouth
A very young me - with food in my mouth as per usual!

My story, which I'm sure is similar to many others, sadly starts at a young age. I was a somewhat chubby kid, but nothing out of control at that stage. But when I was about 10 years old I remember being told to suck in my gut for a family photo on the beach. I also remember being called fat and skinny, with my very lean friend, where I was obviously the fat one. There were lots of other moments that I can remember, but generally I was always on the bigger side as a kid.

I definitely had a sweet tooth growing up, and still do. The first thing I ever made myself for lunch was chocolate self saucing pudding, because it was the only thing that I knew how to make - knowing how to make that even before knowing how to make a sandwich! Plus I remember always trying to keep up with my older brother and cousins when it came to eating food. I wanted to be one of the big kids, and eating as much as them felt like I was one of them.

Trying to keep up with the big kids combined with my sweet tooth was a dangerous combination that didn't help with my weight. However, as much as I had periods of being a little plump, I was fortunate to never really become obese, at least in my childhood.

Then I grew up, started dieting...and initially lost weight

My first diet wasn't until I was about 18 or 19, thankfully. Up until then I had played so much sport that my weight sorted itself out well enough, even considering my sweet tooth and desire to keep up with the older kids. However, once I started university, I stopped playing so much sport, instead finding my way to the university canteens and bar! To try and alleviate this, I remember one of my brothers friends saying that he had stopped eating carbs in accordance with something called the Atkins diet. At this stage I had never heard of Atkins, nor known much about dieting. I decided to give it a go. It was the start of a tumultuous and often torturous relationship with food.

Initially, in my earlier dieting years, I mostly stayed at an ok weight, with some relatively minor ups and downs. The diets stuck for longer and there wasn't as much of a rebound. I also did a university exchange in France in 2006 and learned their art of eating tiny portions to maintain a trim figure. This approach mostly worked for a number of years, as you can see in the photo below I was fairly trim still in 2015, though I remember often being very hungry. However, things started to change and change quickly around the beginning of 2018.

Lean version of me in 2015 vs 2022 heavier version
Me - 2015 vs 2023

Then I gained a lot of weight

At the start of 2018 I had just moved back to my home town to sell my house. I didn't realise it then, but in hindsight I was inadvertently removing a financial safety barrier. I thought I was getting a chunk of financial freedom, and I was fortunate enough to make some money from the deal. However, what I lost was stability and security. It caused a lot of stress in my life, which is another story in itself. But trust me when I say it created a lot of stress for the years to come. I then started eating a lot, even bingeing at times on loads of junk foods. In hindsight, my body was in scarcity mode, interpreting the lack of home as a scarcity of security, so my reptilian brain told me to eat as much as possible to store up supplies for the perceived impending famine.

To add to this stress, I then started dieting to try and lose the extra weight that I had put on. What really happened though was it added to my reptilian brain thinking that we were in famine, so it got even more desperate for food. I now know that with diets your body will naturally fight by making you more tired, more hungry and lower your metabolism. These three combined make you want to eat more and your body to burn less calories, both of the things you are trying to avoid with a diet! For me, it eventuated in a lot of weight being put on. I fought against it for the better part of 2018, but by 2019 and beyond, I was well and truly overweight and eventually became obese. This wasn't helped by the various diets that I started, where I either cut out foods or restricted calories, losing weight in the short term, only to eventually crack then put the weight I lost back on, plus more.

Enter binge eating

To add to the pain of dieting, I was often completely cutting out certain foods. This simply put those foods on a pedestal and made me want them even more. Whilst I could resist for a while, eventually and inevitably I would succumb to just one small square of chocolate or similar, which would turn into a block of chocolate, as well as a large pizza, bag of crisps, ice-cream and whatever else I had been forbidding myself from having.

Using mindful eating to lose weight without dieting

Something that has stood out through that time is that my wife's weight has mostly not fluctuated. Notably she is a vegetarian, with vegetarians often having a lower BMI than omnivores. However, there have been lots of occasions where we eat the same types of food, but she remains slim whilst I continued to put on more and more weight.

Finally, recently one afternoon when we were talking again about what I could change to lose weight, we started chatting about how I could eat more like her. It wasn't the first time we had talked about this, but something new sprang to mind. I had been starting to practice more mindfulness generally to lower my stress. We then pondered whether it was something I could do with my eating, in particular to slow down and savour my food more.

My wife has always been a slower eater than me. When we used to eat pizza before, I would often be reaching for my fourth piece when she was finishing her first! So the idea formed to slow myself down. I have to also give credit to Darya Rose here who suggested mindful eating in her book and blog. I know many others are proponents of mindful eating. However, looking into it I felt that there was a lot of wishy washy information. The only clear instructions I could find were to put your fork down between mouthfuls. Otherwise generally the information suggested to really be present with your food and savour the flavour. Great in principle, difficult in practice.

The rule of 25

Again some credit needs to be given here to Darya Rose, where in her book Foodist (not an affiliate link) she briefly mentions how counting 25 chews helps with eating mindfully. This little snippet of wisdom has been an absolute game changer for me, and I truly believe it will be helpful for many others. Again whilst it is great in theory to eat mindfully, I have previously found it difficult to maintain the practice. Counting 25 chews of each mouthful is creating a new habit. The simpler the habit, the more easily it sticks and I have found this habit to be simple enough to incorporate for the most part. Over the course of just a few weeks, it is almost becoming automatic for me to mentally count my chews, even when eating in the company of friends. I do still have to intentionally remember to do the habit, as well as removing distractions such as not having the TV on or my phone nearby, but it is becoming more and more cemented as a habit for me.

Whilst chatting with my wife another thought occurred to me that whenever I eat food with wine I am always a lot slower. I realised that I really enjoy savouring the flavour of wine. I like to look at the colour, smell the aromas from the glass and analyse the flavour in my mouth. Taking my time to savour the wine then naturally slowed down the process of eating my dinner. I would change from the fastest eater when sober to the slowest eater when my food was paired with a nice glass of wine.

The thought occurred that I could savour the food in the same way as the wine even when there was no glass of wine. It has led to a completely different eating experience, where I feel like I am starting to become a foodie, analysing the flavours of each mouthful. Another great effect is that I'm wanting to only eat higher quality food, plus finding it easier to know when to stop. I feel like I can incorporate this practice more easily once I start counting my chews, as that gets me into the present moment. But then really analysing and indulging in the flavours and textures of the food is an incredibly powerful method for eating mindfully.

No restrictions

Importantly, whilst mindful eating is making me generally want to eat better quality food, I have not cut out any foods nor restricted my quantities in any way. By maintaining more of an awareness of whether I truly want any more food, it is helping me to be aware of my natural hunger/full signals. This is still very much a work in progress for me, particularly as I have spent so many years either stopping eating when I am still hungry or completely overly full. But eating slowly is helping for my hunger cues to catch up and often, even if not always, let me know when I have had enough.

I am also not making any rules or restrictions when it comes to any particular foods, including snacks and desserts. If I have the treat, I really embrace the process, focusing on the food and flavour in my mouth. Often I am done after a few mindful mouthfuls, though not by any stretch always. If I do have more than I want or need, I don't beat myself up in any way. I know that all I need to change next time is to count 25 chews and focus on being more present and mindful, concentrating on the flavours and listening to my body.

Results so far

Me - April 2024, 8kg weight lost so far
Me - April 2024

As of today (April 2024), I am down roughly 8kg. I don't know exactly how much I have lost nor how long it has taken as I hadn't weighed myself in over 6 months.

What I am most excited about, aside from the weight loss, is that my clothes are starting to fit so much more easily again. My waist measurement is down about 5 cm and I'm also starting to be able to wear some of my clothes that I haven't worn in a while. As importantly, my stress levels are down and general happiness is up. Being mindful is helping with my head and my gut.

I'm incredibly excited to keep going with this journey. I still have a bit to go, around 15kg, though I don't have an exact figure in mind. It isn't always easy, but I know I'm on the right path now. Plus whenever I feel like I'm wobbling a bit, I just remember to pull myself back to the present by putting my fork/food down between mouthfuls and chewing at least 25 times.

Watch this space for future updates and to follow my journey. I can't wait to update this post when I am able to fit into all of my old clothes again soon!

If you want to find out more feel free to get in contact for a free virtual meal with me!. I'm happy to hear about where you are at with your diet and weight struggles, then we will have a meal together where I will teach you the exact tricks I use to slow down my eating and stop overeating by tapping into my hunger and satiation cues!

7 May 2024 update - I am now down 11kg! Weight is steadily coming off every week and my waist is shrinking :)

Weight loss without dieting

4 June 2024 update - now down 13kg! Although the weight loss has slowed, it's feeling incredibly sustainable, particularly as I'm having dessert after every lunch and dinner! And no not just fruit, though I do have that sometimes. Mostly cookies or biscuits after lunch, then a bit of chocolate and cheese after dinner. Feels amazing to be able to eat anything I want and be losing weight! :)

2 July 2024 update - now down over 15kg! I'm still losing weight even with travel, drinking alcohol and eating snacks and desserts!


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