The No-Diet Guide to Losing Weight
The No-Diet Guide to Losing Weight

Another New Year and another strict diet, right? Actually wrong! Losing weight is often as simple as breaking a few bad habits and replacing them with healthier ones. Here, WLR’s Dietitian Juliette Kellow reveals her guide to losing weight!

The No-Diet Guide to Losing Weight

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

We are into another New Year and for many of us this spells a strict diet and weeks of starvation and deprivation. But in reality, this isn’t the healthiest or happiest way to lose weight and doesn’t offer a long-term solution to keeping those pounds off.

After just a few weeks of extreme dieting, we start to miss a varied diet that includes our favourite foods, and so more often than not, quickly give up and pile those painfully lost pounds back on.

It’s good news then that we don’t have to survive on an A-list style diet consisting of little but steamed fish, edamame beans and gogi berry juice to get in shape. Ultimately, most nutrition experts believe it’s the little changes we can make to our diet and lifestyle that will reap the biggest benefits to our waistline over time. And more often than not we can achieve this simply by replacing a few bad habits with healthier ones.

Start by keeping a food diary. Write down every single mouthful of food and drink that pass your lips for a week, together with when and why you consumed it and any other feelings you had. Then use the information you’ve collated to identify any unhealthy eating habits or patterns – chances are you’ll quickly see some that you think you could change. Once you’re armed with a clear account of potential pitfalls that are stopping your from shifting those pounds, you’ll find it easier to work out strategies for beating them.

In the meantime, to get you started, we’ve picked out 10 of the most common habits that leave us struggling to lose those excess pounds – and provide solutions that will quickly leave you looking slimmer without ever having to diet…

Pound Pitfall 1: Evening Nibbling

Even though you’ve eaten dinner, you still nibble all evening while watching TV and can easily munch your way through half a packet of biscuits with numerous cups of tea.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
Most biccies are loaded with calories, fat and sugar, but little else.

Waistline Whittler!
If you’ve had a good dinner, it’s not hunger – but probably boredom – that’s making you munch, so turn off the TV and take up a new hobby such as joining a book club or dance class. Ironically, you could even save money as ditching half a pack of biccies every night for a month could leave you with £15 in your wallet.

If it’s stress or tiredness leaves you dipping into the biscuit tin, relax with a bath and an early night.

You could simply stop keeping biscuits in the house. Your children and partner may initially make a fuss but their waistlines will equally benefit from living in a cookie-free zone.

Opt for plainer varieties – the less tasty biscuits are, the fewer you’re likely to eat.

Never eat straight from the packet or biscuit tin either as you’ll quickly lose track of just how many you’ve eaten. Instead, put a couple on a plate or buy biscuits that come in individually wrapped portion sizes.

Try changing your drinking habits, too. Swapping tea or coffee for a mug of low-cal soup will almost certainly cure you of your biscuit habit – custard creams taste nasty with chicken soup!

Avoid watching cookery programmes and channel hop when food adverts come on the TV – the less food you see, the less you’ll think about it.

And if all else fails, keep your hands occupied with crosswords, sudoko or knitting.

Weight To Go
Ditch six chocolate digestives a night and you’ll save at least 500 calories – that’s enough to lose 1lb a week or a staggering 52lb (just under 4 stone!) in a year.

Pound Pitfall 2: After-Work Fridge Raid

As soon as you enter the house after a hard day’s work, you head straight for the fridge – and devour anything you can get your hands on.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
It’s easy to munch your way through more calories than is provided by your evening meal by scoffing last night’s leftovers, pieces of cheese, slices of ham and dips.

Waistline Whittler!
It’s probably a combo of hunger, stress, tiredness and habit that leaves you charging for the fridge. Start by having a healthy afternoon snack to take the edge off your hunger so that you’re not starving when you get home.

When you get in, ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of one to 10, where one is starving and 10 is stuffed. If you’re around five or six then move away from the fridge and get stuck into the fruit bowl – that should tide you over for half an hour or so while you cook dinner.

Think ahead, too. If you plan your evening meal the night before, you can make sure you have all the ingredients to hand and so can start cooking as soon as you get in.

If you have to wait longer for dinner, keep your fridge stacked with healthy snacks to dip into – chop up veg the night before and have them with tzatziki, nibble on cherry tomatoes, top oatcakes with low-fat soft cheese, or have a wholemeal pitta with salsa.

Finally, it’s an old trick but many successful slimmers say that sticking a photo of themselves looking great in a bikini on the fridge door helps them stay away!

Weight To Go!
A pre-dinner munch consisting of 2 leftover sausages, a chunk of Cheddar and 2 slices of ham provides around 450 calories. Swap this for a 50-calorie piece of fruit on Monday to Friday and you could lose nearly 2 stones in a working year!

Pound Pitfall 3: Skipping Breakfast

You never have time for breakfast at home so end up grabbing a chocolate bar and can of cola from the vending machine at work.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
A healthy breakfast consisting of wholegrain cereal, semi-skimmed milk and fruit contains around 250 calories and plenty of filling fibre and essential nutrients. A can of cola and bar of chocolate provides around 400 calories – and is low in vitamins, minerals and the filling factor!

Waistline Whittler!
Skipping breakfast means your blood sugar levels will hit rock bottom mid morning leaving you starving, irritable and lacking in energy. The result: you need a quick boost and that usually comes in the form of easy-to-get-hold-of sugary carbs like fizzy drinks and chocolate.

Making time for breakfast is really as easy as getting up 10 minutes earlier. Ironically, eating this meal should give you more energy during the day so that you sleep better at night and wake up feeling less tired.

If you can’t do without those extra minutes in bed, eat breakfast at work, make a peanut butter or egg sandwich or a fruit salad the night before and take it with a yogurt to work.

Stock up, too, on foods like fruit, yogurt and smoothies that are quick to grab on your way out of the door. Or, keep wholegrain cereal and a bowl and spoon in your desk drawer and pick up some milk on the way to work.

If you’re skipping brekkie because you don’t feel hungry when you wake up, then try having a smaller dinner, earlier in the evening.

Weight To Go!
Swapping that Monday to Friday chocolate bar and cola for cereal with milk and fruit will save you 150 calories a day or 750 calories in a working week. That’s enough to lose a massive 10lb in a working year!

Pound Pitfall 4: The Caffeine Kick

You can’t get through your morning without starting the day with a caffeine fix in the form of a large latte from your favourite coffee shop.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
A large full-fat latte contains 225 calories. Switching to the skinny version helps a little, but even then, you’ll still be getting 130 calories.

Waistline Whittler!
With endless cups of coffee, it’s the milk and sugar, which add up the calories. Large amounts of caffeine during the day may mean you find it difficult to go to sleep resulting in you staying up later with more opportunity to snack on high-calorie foods. Or you end up feeling permanently tired so that you’re constantly turning to high-calorie energy boosters to pick you up.

If you drink large amounts of coffee, cut down gradually – going cold turkey may mean you end up with withdrawal symptoms. You could try decaff coffee as an alternative but opt for a splash of semi-skimmed milk and a sweetener to keep calories low.

Alternatively, swap your morning latte for a calorie-free fruit or herbal tea.

Weight To Go!
Save 225 calories a day by having a peppermint tea instead of a large full-fat latte and you could lose a massive stone and a half in a year.

Pound Pitfall 5: Wine with Dinner

Every night you open a bottle of wine and share it with your partner over dinner.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
Just half a bottle of wine contains around 250 calories.

Waistline Whittler!
Most alcoholic drinks are packed with calories but no nutrients – and wine is no exception.

Magazines and newspapers often tell us that red wine is good for the heart. But in reality, only small amounts – that’s one to two units of any alcoholic drink – have been found to have any heart health benefits and then only in men over the age of 40 and postmenopausal women.

In terms of keeping our heart healthy, most experts agree it’s probably better to focus on achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, which in turn will help to keep your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels within healthy limits.

Having a drink every night with dinner is usually a habit – and once a bottle is open, we tend to polish it off simply because it’s there. But it’s not just an excess of calories that you’ll get with half a bottle of plonk every night. You’ll also get five units of alcohol – that’s more than the recommended maximum of two to three units a day for women and three to four units a day for men.

The easiest way to ditch the habit is to save wine for special occasions and swap your evening drink for a sparkling water with lemon and ice. It might seem strange at first, but as time goes by you’ll find that it seems more unusual to drink wine with dinner when you’re at home.

Weight To Go!
Switching those 250 calories of wine a night for calorie-free water will help you lose a huge 26lb in a year!

Pound Pitfall 6: No Time to Cook

You often don’t have time to cook healthy meals and so frequently get a takeaway.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
Most takeaways are loaded with calories, fat and salt.

Waistline Whittler!
It’s time to be honest with yourself. Claiming you have no time to cook is a poor excuse for not eating well.

You don’t need to turn into Nigella or Jamie to create healthy, tasty meals. Veggie omelettes, microwaved jacket spuds, chicken fajitas, beef stir fries, even beans on wholemeal toast take less than 15 minutes from kitchen to table!

Plan your meals for the week ahead and stock up on key ingredients that can be turned into meals in minutes such as frozen veg, wholewheat pasta, microwaveable brown rice, canned tuna in water, eggs, low-fat tomato sauce, diced chicken, lean minced beef, mixed salad leaves and cherry tomatoes.

Shopping online will give you an extra hour each week, too, so use this time to cook a large stew, pasta sauce or cottage pie and freeze individual portions so you can go to the freezer rather than the takeaway when you need a speedy meal.

Don’t be afraid to stock up on ready meals from healthy eating ranges – just serve them with lots of steamed veg or salad.

Weight To Go!
Most takeaways easily contain 1,000 calories each, so swap three a week for a home-cooked but speedy 500-calorie dinner and you could save 1,500 calories – enough to lose 22lb in a year.

Pound Pitfall 7: Never Manage 5-a-Day

You struggle to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day and it’s not because you never have enough in the house – you still throw some out each week.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
Most fruit and veg are low in calories and fat but high in fibre. This means they add bulk to your diet, which can help to fill you up for few calories.

Waistline Whittler!
Work out why you find it so hard to eat 5-a-day then plan ahead – if necessary create a weekly plan outlining the five daily portions you plan to eat.

If you’re throwing out produce because you’re bored with the same old ingredients, start experimenting.

Buy one new fruit or veg every week – try okra, pak choi, alfalfa sprouts, artichokes, celeriac, Sharon fruit, figs, papaya, starfruit or pomegranate. Or order an organic box every week. You’ll probably end up with some produce you wouldn’t think of buying.

Add variety to meals by cooking veg differently, too – for example, mash spuds with sweet potato, stir-fry cabbage rather than boiling it, or roast peppers and courgettes. And find ways to sneak extra fruit and veg into dishes.

For example, add extra mushrooms to stews, pineapple to curries, grated carrot to ready-made coleslaw or chopped fresh tomatoes to pasta sauces.

Start your dinner with a bowl of salad or homemade vegetable soup, varying the ingredients you use.

And stock up on canned or frozen fruit and veg – they still count towards your 5-a-day.

Weight To Go!
Having 50 calories worth of fruit or veg means you’ll probably feel fuller for longer and so be less likely to indulge in a 250-calorie snack between meals. This daily saving of 200 calories will help you lose 21lb in a year.

Pound Pitfall 8: Comfort Eating

Whenever you’re stressed, miserable or fed up you reach for chocolate.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
Most of us don’t turn to fruit when we’re fed up. Instead, it’s processed carbs, with calorie-laden chocolate at the top of the list.

Waistline Whittler!
Many of us deal with our feelings by stuffing them down with food – and usually we choose processed carbs, which instantly boost our blood sugar to give us a ‘high’.

Unfortunately, this effect is only temporary – our blood sugar levels drop just as quickly, leaving us with the same old emotions that made us feel unhappy in the first place. Added to this, we then feel guilty about filling up on ‘junk’ food.

Ultimately, comfort eating won’t make you feel better in the long term, so it’s vital to learn to deal with your emotions and start talking about them, rather than burying them with food.

If you find it difficult talking about how you feel, counselling may help. To find a qualified counsellor in your area, visit

Weight To Go!
Ditch your daily crux of a 250-calorie chocolate bar by working through your emotions and you could lose 26lb in a year.

Pound Pitfall 9: Weekend Blowouts

You eat really well during the week but it all goes to pot at the weekend when you drink a lot more and eat out a couple of times.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
Eating healthily can easily help you cut your intake by 500 calories every day without trying too hard – enough to lose 1lb a week. If you replenish your Monday to Thursday saving of 2,000 calories over the weekend, you’re back to square one the following Monday!

Waistline Whittler!
If you know you usually eat and drink more at the weekends, work out where you can cut back even more during the week (without reducing your food intake to the point where you’re starving or feel deprived).

Opt for healthier dishes when you eat out, too – a lean steak with new potatoes and veggies will be lower in calories than steak and kidney pie with chips, for example – and skip the extras like bread and butter, side orders, cream with desserts and after-dinner chocolates.

Build more activity into your weekends to help burn off excess calories.

For example, instead of meeting friends for lunch, suggest going for a swim and sauna; or rather than drinking in a pub on Saturday night, go clubbing instead – and make sure you spend most of the evening on the dance floor rather than at the bar!

Weight To Go!
Cut back on 2,000 calories over the weekend through a combo of compensating during the week, being more health conscious when you eat out and boosting your activity at the weekend and you could lose a huge 30lb in a year.

Pound Pitfall 10: Exercise Makes You Eat More

Exercise always makes you really hungry so on nights when you’ve been to a class or gone for a run, you eat loads more than usual.

Why it’s Hard to Lose Weight!
Sadly, it’s easy to replace the 300 calories you’ve just spent an hour burning off at the gym in just a few mouthfuls.

Waistline Whittler!
A hard workout can result in low blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling extremely hungry. As a result, once you have access to food, you end up eating large amounts really quickly. However, it takes the brain 15 to 20 minutes to register feelings of fullness so no matter how much you eat in this time, you won’t feel fuller any earlier.

The key to avoiding overeating, especially when you’re really hungry, is to eat slowly. One solution is to start your meal with a low-calorie bowl of soup – research shows this really does help to fill you up so you eat less in your main course.

You could also try having a light snack an hour or so before you exercise, such as a small bowl of wholegrain cereal or a slice of wholemeal toast. If you’re already hungry when you start exercising, you’re guaranteed to be starving at the end of your workout.

In contrast, if you start out with slightly bigger stores of energy when you begin your workout, you may have a little left when you’ve finished so you don’t feel quite as famished and ready to devour everything in sight.

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