7 Ways to Lose Weight Without Cardio

May 16, 2024
weight loss

There is no topic like weight loss that can turn even the most self-assured, well-adjusted person from feeling like they have their world under control to feeling like a failure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more Americans than ever before are on a diet.

Wouldn’t you expect this to lead to a decline in overweight and obesity?

Unfortunately, the obesity rate in the United States continues to climb. According to a CDC survey conducted in 2017-2018, 17% of Americans were on a diet, while obesity rates had risen to 34%. Why is it so difficult to lose weight?

The CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Women spend an average of 21 minutes per day engaging in moderate-intensity exercise, and men spend about 35 minutes per day. More than three-quarters of this time is spent in one-minute bursts. After age 50, researchers found that activity levels fell in all groups.

Is it possible to lose weight without cardio?

Here are seven scientifically validated methods to lose weight without doing cardio.

1.   Recognize Hunger And Choose A Healthy Diet

Have you ever “just wanted something to eat,” but you weren’t actually hungry? You may be experiencing mouth hunger. This is the desire to put something in your mouth. It’s not your body calling for calories. Next time you feel like eating but are not hungry, try a glass of water infused with lemon or lime to see if it satisfies your cravings without eating.

When you are hungry, choose a healthy diet. A poor diet causes more health problems than physical inactivity, smoking, and alcohol use combined.

So, what constitutes a healthy diet? When researchers analyzed 66 population-based studies and 162 study groups, they found that the most effective diet for weight loss is a low-calorie, high-protein, and low-carbohydrate diet.

2.   Drink Plenty Of Water

Water helps your body maintain a normal temperature, protects organs, lubricates and cushions joints, and aids in eliminating chemical wastes. Maintaining water balance in the body is important enough that several hormones and organs work together to regulate it.

Your body burns calories to warm water to body temperature. In one small study, participants drank 500 ml of water at 71°F and burned 100 calories of energy. Since all metabolic processes in the body take place in a watery environment, drink plenty of water to keep your metabolism running smoothly.

You can also save calories every time you choose water over a sugary, high-calorie beverage. The calories saved can quickly add up! As just one example, overweight women shed an average of five pounds when they increased their water intake and swapped high-calorie beverages for water. Drinking a liter of water every day for a year can burn enough calories to metabolize 4.4 pounds of fat.

Drink Plenty of Water

Still not convinced? In another study, water drinkers consumed 194 fewer calories per day than non-water drinkers. Consuming 16 ounces of water before each meal helped middle-aged and older adults lose around four pounds more over 12 weeks when compared to those eating the same healthy diet without an increase in water consumption.

Ways to increase water in your diet:

  • Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning and before you go to bed
  • Drink a full glass of water before eating each meal and snack
  • Choose fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as lettuce, celery, zucchini, and cucumber
  • Use a reusable water bottle and set goals for how often you will refill it
  • Opt for water with meals instead of sugary drinks
  • Set a reminder on your smartphone to take a water break
  • Use a smartphone app to track your water intake
  • Set water drinking goals for yourself and track how often you meet them.

If you continue to consume the same number of calories, drinking water all day will not help you lose weight. People will frequently stop consuming sugary drinks and replace those calories with a dessert or snack. Drink a glass of water before eating to ensure that you are hungry and not thirsty.

3.   Fill Up On Fiber

Soluble and insoluble fiber are both healthy additions to your meal plan. Insoluble fiber is not absorbed, and as it travels through the gastrointestinal tract, it pulls water into the gut. Insoluble fiber prevents constipation and improves overall gut health.

Soluble fiber blocks the absorption of cholesterol. This improves overall blood sugar control and blood pressure.

Foods that are high in fiber include:

FoodFiber per serving
Read-to-eat, high fiber cereal14grams fiber/ ½ cup
Popcorn5.8 grams fiber/ 3 cups
Artichokes9.6 grams fiber/1 cup
Black beans   7.5 grams fiber/ ½ cup
Navy beans9.6 grams fiber/½ cup
Pumpkin seeds5.2 grams of fiber/1 ounce
Raspberries8.0 grams fiber/ 1 cup
Chia seeds4.1 grams fiber/ 1 Tbsp

4.   Watch Your Sugar

One reason overweight and obesity are problems is the push to remove fat from our diets. Fat has a bad reputation. Sometimes, it is justified. Trans fats are harmful to your health and should always be avoided. Another dietary fat problem is excess saturated fats found in animal products.

When manufacturers responded to consumer and government demand for lower fats in our foods, they replaced them with sugars. Unlike fats, which keep you satiated for longer periods, sugars cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash—leaving you even hungrier an hour or two later.

Americans consume more than 300% of the daily recommended amount of added sugar. Each year, this equates to sixty pounds of added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that adults limit their sugar consumption to 25 g/day for women and 36 g/day for men.

Population-wide, every 150 calorie/person/day increase in sugar intake (about one can of soda) increases the prevalence of diabetes in the population by 1.1%. Increasing evidence supports that sugar, especially in a beverage, can bypass the satiety control mechanism in the body. Sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger. Protein calories, on the other hand, induce satiety.

How to reduce sugar in your diet:

  • Watch for hidden sugars in processed foods and choose whole foods whenever possible
  • Avoid sugary beverages such as soft drinks and fruit juices
  • Don’t add sugar and creamer to coffee and tea
  • Avoid sports and energy drinks
  • Look at the sugar content in breakfast cereals, energy bars, flavored yogurts, and smoothies
  • Avoid using jams, jellies, and condiments
  • Avoid sweet rolls, white bread, cakes, cookies, donuts, pastries, and pies

5.   Eat More Protein

Like fat, protein promotes satiety by boosting the levels of appetite-reducing hormones such as GLP-1 and cholecystokinin while reducing the hunger-inducing hormone ghrelin. If you can increase protein in your diet to provide 15% to 30% of your calories while keeping your carbohydrate intake the same, you can cut 441 calories off your daily intake, which equals an average weight loss of 11 pounds over 12 weeks! Increasing your protein makes you feel fuller, which leads to a reduction in your overall calorie intake.

Besides curbing hunger, protein takes more energy to metabolize.

  • Protein takes 20% to 30% of its usable energy to metabolize
  • Carbohydrates take 5% to 10% of their usable energy to metabolize
  • Dietary fats take between 0% and 3% of their usable energy to metabolize

Don’t overdo it, though. Your body can only metabolize 25–30 grams of protein in an hour. Anything above this amount is burned for energy or converted to glycogen or fat. Bump your protein intake up to 1.2–1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Foods that are high in protein in grams per serving include:

FoodGrams of protein per serving
Beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and lamb7 grams of protein per ounce
High-protein cereal7–15 grams of protein per 3/4—1 1/3 cup
Tofu3 grams of protein per ounce
Lentils 9 grams of protein per half-cup
Beans8 grams of protein per half-cup
Nuts   4-6 grams of protein per ounce
Soy milk 7 grams of protein per 8 ounces
Milk8 grams of protein per 8 ounces
Yogurt5 grams of protein per 6 ounces
Cheese7 grams of protein per ounce

6.   Eat Mindfully

When’s the last time you sat down to eat a meal without distraction? Test yourself.

  • Can you remember exactly what you ate at your most recent meal?
  • What types of food did you eat?
  • What was the serving size of each food type?
  • How was the food placed on your plate?
  • What did you drink?
  • Did you feel hungry before you sat down to eat, or did you rely on the clock or your schedule to tell you when to eat?
  • How about after your meal? Were you full, overfull, or still hungry?

Most people cannot answer these questions. Americans tend to eat meals while doing other activities and are completely unaware of how much they are eating and whether or not it satisfies their hunger.

People who eat mindfully, tasting, smelling, and looking at their food without distraction consume fewer calories at that meal and later in the day. People who eat in a rush and, while distracted, typically can’t remember exactly how much food they have already consumed that day.

Learning to eat mindfully can lead to weight loss.

Strategies to practice mindful eating:

  • Keep distractions to a minimum when you are eating
  • Take the time to appreciate your foods by sensing, tasting, and savoring it
  • Before eating, verify that you are really hungry and not thirsty, bored, stressed, or tired
  • Learn to recognize when you feel hungry and when you feel full
  • Pay attention to what you eat and how much you eat. Look at your portion sizes
  • Manage stress to reduce the likelihood of stress eating
  • Consider taking pictures to track your portion sizes, keeping a food diary, or using a smartphone app
  • Make eating an event; set aside time for your meals so you can enjoy them
  • Allow hunger, not convenience or a schedule, to dictate when you are going to eat

7.   Watch Portion Size

Did you know that the average American consumes 500 calories more per day than they did in the 1970s? Portion sizes are increasing, and they are deceiving. More people than ever before are eating outside of the home. Most restaurant portions are way outside the recommended daily allowances for all nutrients and calories.

When researchers sampled foods sold at takeout restaurants, fast-food outlets, and family-style restaurants, every sample (except white bread) exceeded, sometimes by a lot, the FDA and USDA recommended portion sizes. French fries, hamburgers, and soda are all two to five times their original size!

Watch Portion Size

Here are some of their results:

  • Cookies:                                            700% of the USDA standard
  • Pasta:                                                480% of the USDA standard
  • Muffins:                                            333% of the USDA standard
  • Steaks:                                              224% of the USDA standard
  • Bagels:                                              195% of the USDA standard

People judge how much they are eating by looking at the size of the serving plate or bowl and by comparing how much they are eating with other people at the table

Here are some strategies to help you be mindful of your portion size:

  • Serve food on a smaller plate or in a smaller bowl
  • Dish out a serving; avoid eating directly from a serving container
  • Check the serving size and the calories per serving and measure an accurate serving size to get a better idea of what a portion is supposed to look like
  • Order before everyone else at a restaurant, so you aren’t tempted by their selections
  • Have your server box up half your meal before you start eating
  • Try eating what feels like half a portion, wait 30 minutes, and then eat the other half of the portion if you are still hungry

It is possible to lose weight without engaging in cardio. Many experts say that if you only did one—watch your diet or exercise—watching your diet could lead to greater weight loss. This is not to discount aerobic exercise. It has numerous health benefits, including enhancing mood, increasing cardiovascular fitness, lowering the risk of overweight or obesity, reducing pain, and decreasing stress on your joints, just to name a few!

Start a weight management treatment plan today!

Author: Leann Poston, M.D.
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