How to lose weight without really trying

Like most people I put weight on at Christmas. It was nothing excessive; but we like to grab some winter sun while there is not much happening on the allotment; and that involves getting into a swimsuit. A few gentle hints and the odd outright insult were the impetus I needed to think about how to lose weight. The truth is I didn't think much about how I was going to lose weight at all but in the course of a few weeks I find I have lost a stone and a half without really trying. This is how I did it. Nothing spectacular just simple ways to lose weight.

1. Lose weight through portion control

Sometimes it's not what you are eating it is how much of it you eat. In my head I'm the 40 mile a week runner that I used to be but in reality I don't get enough exercise. I don't even have an office I can cycle to any more. It's a simple equation you have to burn more calories than you are taking in. My usual plan is to just burn the calories away but that gets harder as you get older. This time there was a new plan. Eat less!

Back in my running days I got the idea that muesli is a great way to start the day. 'Muesli keeps you moving' as they say. The trouble is you can have too much of a good thing and I did! Being a man I don't do things like read the label so when my wife measured out how much of the stuff I was supposed to be eating compared to what I actually was I was eating 3-4 times the recommended portion. I started weighing my morning muesli. I limit myself to 50 grammes now and that in itself has made a difference.

The other big reduction was in the amount of olive oil we use in cooking. There are lots of positive benefits to Olive Oil but there are 124 calories in one tablespoonful. Using it spareingly can make a big difference. Measure the amount you use and don't just glug it in.

There's something in my relationship with food that means I can't bear to see any left. If it's cooked I'll eat it. I pile as much on my plate as I can and always go back for seconds. Happily my more disciplined self has discovered a new concept; 'left overs'. I still can't bear to see food wasted but we put it in the freezer or dress it up as another meal. Lots of food tastes better the second time round and my wife is a left over queen! So two simple ways to lose weight are to eat less and save some for later.

2. Lose weight by eating consciously

The Paul McKenna book, 'I can make you thin' has three simple rules. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, eat consciously. They all make a great deal of sense but the third is the key to the other two. Be aware of what you are eating and why you are eating. Being home all day I often find myself  eating for something to do. The 'find yourself' phrase slipped out but it says it all! Know why you are eating and that it is actually because you are hungry. Try not to eat for comfort or out of boredom. There are other things you can do about those symptoms.

Try not to eat while you are doing other things. Eating while you watch TV or work at your PC are classic examples. You don't concentrate on what you are eating. 

Another good tip from Paul McKenna is it takes 20 mins from the time you eat to your brain getting the 'satisfied' signal from your stomach. Don't tell yourself you are still hungry until your food has had time to go down. So a simple way to lose weight is to eat consciously.

3. Lose weight by eating different things

Portion control is great but you have to think about what you are eating too. The obvious things to cut out are biscuits, sweets and cakes but sweet things aren't really my problem. I've had a biscuit problem in the past but if I don't see them I don't want them. They are not something I crave. If sugar is your problem you need to wean yourself of it. Try eating fruit instead. Bananas are a  good sugar hit although, as I have to be reminded occasionally, they are not calorie free.

Carbohydrates are the bigger problem for me.  Cutting down on potatoes, rice and pasta has made a big difference. We don't go hungry we just pile on extra vegetables. I'm not into fad diets but there is a lot to be said for the Paleo diet based on the food our paleolithic ancestors ate.  It is based on eating meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.

I won't stay off carbohydrates altogether; too many potatoes growing on the allotment for that but will cut down a lot on refined carbohydrates like pasta and white rice.

We are eating less bread too. I fill up at lunchtime on home made soup. We are working our way through the squash and winter pumpkins so have lots of ingredients to hand for nutritious filling meals. So another simple way to lose weight is to eat differently.

4 Lose weight by moving about more

I have become a fan of NEAT (Non-Exercise Active Thermogenisis) since it featured in the BBC Horizon programme. 'The truth about exercise'.[2728]The idea, put simply, is that most of your calorie consumption is down to day to day activity. If most of your time is spent sitting down spending 3-4 hours a week in the gym won't be enough to burn off the calories. You need to build exercise into your every day routine. Make sure you are up and about as much as possible. Use the stairs not the lift. Don't sit for more than an hour without getting up and moving about. Try to walk more instead of taking the car. Walking a little bit faster will burn more calories. Build exercise into the housework routine. Pace about while you are on the telephone. It's the little things that add up. A guinea pig on the Horizon programme burned an extra 500 calories a day just by getting up from his desk every hour and taking a short walk; another simple way to lose weight!

5 Lose weight by adding weights

We live in a three storey town house so deliberately forgetting things to create extra journeys up and down the stairs is not difficult and is something I was doing before I had a name to put to it. But to burn just a few more calories I have taken to strapping weights to my ankles. Adding ankle or wrist weights  is a good way to burn an extra few calories.

6 Exercise to lose weight if you can

If you follow the above strategy I'm convinced, depending on your starting point that you will lose weight. If it doesn't feel right and you think you should do some proper exercise think about the best kind of exercise to do and how it will fit into your lifestyle.

I was addicted to Long Slow Distance (or LSD as it is sometimes called!). I'd run six times a week often for 2 hours at time. The more you exercised the more you would lose weight we thought. Up to a point that is true and I was indeed very thin but all that exercise encourages you to eat more and there is a tendency to ease up between bouts of exercise causing your NEAT to fall.

Two lessons I have learned and applied here. First a little bit of weight training, which I have always dismissed as mind numbingly boring, adds lean muscle which helps to burn calories when you are at rest. But you also need to look at my  InfoBarrel article, 'How can I get fit in 3 mins per week' that looks at the benefits of high intensity training or HIT. 3 20 sec bursts of intense activity three times a week can fool your muscles into thinking they need more glycogen encouraging the body to burn more fat. It sounds incredible but there is scientific evidence to back it up. Check out my 'How can I get fit in 3 mins a week article'.

7 Finally - there are no miracles

There are no miracle routes to losing weight but I'm convinced these are simple ways to lose weight that can each in a small way make a difference. Try some of them out and add your comments re whether it works for you.