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Weight-loss Without Exercise.

by Peter Brand

Weight loss is not rocket science. Simply put; if you have stores of unburned energy in your body (fat) there is only one way to get rid of it – you have to burn it off by converting it back to energy and using it.

You can do that in two ways; 1) by exercise or 2) by eating less than what the body needs for its daily upkeep. Since exercise takes so much time, and discipline, I'm going to talk about weight-loss without exercise. Of course exercise has its health benefits, keep on with what you do, I'm just not going to talk about it as a strategy to lose weight.

The good news is you don't need lists of things you can't or must eat, no regime of rigorous exercise, no magical pills or teas to burn the fat, no calorie counting, none of that. The solution is built-in to your body at birth. This is not a “diet”, which is a short-term eating plan to lose weight. This is a life-style strategy to lose and control your weight permanently.

What eating habits are our bodies built for?

For millions of years humans and their ancestors lived by opportunist eating – they were hunter-gathers, eating what they could, when they could. Windfall food; a big hunt or seasonal fruit, would be gorged on and stored as fat, and used up during those long winter months or the dry season. As long as you ate enough to run faster than the sabre-tooth tiger, and not too much that it could catch you, you were doing okay. Nobody had to worry about getting too fat because there was never that much food around anyway. You took as much food as what you could carry, and maybe stashed some in a secure place for the next time you passed by that spot.

That life-style is what your body is built for. The lean and fat times.

Our life-style however changed dramatically once we invented agriculture, but our bodies remained the same. Now we lead sedentary lives with easy access to huge supplies of food. We have tons of sugar, wheat, corn and domestic animals to eat; foods that were rare are now common, and plentiful.

Modern eating habits

Think about our usual eating habits. We get up in the morning and have a hearty breakfast because we heard it was the “most important meal of the day”. Why, we are not too sure. We eat lunch and dinner not because we are hungry, but because that's the time of day we do. Appetite comes with eating. Someone prepares the food in large quantity and presents each one with a plate of food that they think is how much that person should eat.

Your folks probably taught you to eat everything on your plate because you shouldn't waste food even if it ends up as wasted weight around your waist. There are millions of starving kids in the world you know, and somehow we can't get the food to them, even though they are welcome to it, especially the Brussels sprouts ... and the peas.

You have to have that sugary dessert because it took hours to make and it was so much trouble, you'll hurt their feelings if you don't gobble it up. When you feel bloated and guilty, you make a mental promise to spend extra time in the gym. Yes, you have a membership, but never seem to have enough hours in the day to get there.

Sound crazy? It is!

The Fat-Burning Machine

Luckily for us, those millions of years of evolution have made our bodies into fat-burning machines. Burn fat, that's what they do, comes with the package, built-in from day 1. It just needs to be given a chance to do its job.

In order to use and operate the machine, you have to know its signals. Thirst is the signal for water intake, tiredness the signal for sleep; we learn the meaning of those easy-to-interpret signals and the right way to react as part of growing up. How you interpret the Hunger signal is the key to weight-control.

Hunger – your signal for weight control

Hunger is the built-in meter that tells you, “okay, readily-available energy has been used up, we are burning fat now”. That's it.

Your body will use whatever energy you have circulating in the digestive system and bloodstream, as that stuff is readily-available in a usable form. Converting fat into energy takes energy itself, so it makes no sense to do that if there is readily-available energy. Only when that runs out does it start to break down stored fats and let you know by sending out the hunger signal.

Reacting to hunger by eating food only serves to shut down the fat-burning process which is not what you want if you are trying to lose weight.

Now here's the key to weight loss; you have to learn to tolerate that hunger, embrace it even, let it be your friend. Instead of thinking “I'm hungry, I need to eat”, you simply turn it into “I'm hungry, ah, my body is burning fat”. If you are wanting to lose fat, then this is a welcome sign, right?

“Are you hungry?”
“Yes, I'm fat-burning. Great, isn't it??”

If it sounds too hard to go hungry for extended periods; if you are convinced you could never do that, then stop reading, this plan will not work for you.

Okay, you are still reading, so you either agree you can, or you are thinking “maybe”.

The other signal the body gives is the bloated feeling you get when your stomach has filled to capacity. Avoid it like the plague. When it arrives, it is too late. Stop eating before you get to that. Unfortunately there is no signal that tells whether you have enough or too much fat. You have to use your brain to figure out how to react to hunger.

Getting the Fat-burning Circuits Running

Since most of us hardly ever experienced hunger for any length of time, it takes some getting used to. Hunger is something you have to get your mind used to. The body on the other hand will kick in immediately and do its own thing with no assistance required. You will start losing weight from day one, but will take a few days, weeks whatever to get your head around living with hunger. Once you get to goal-weight of course, hunger becomes less of an issue.

How long do you have to go hungry? For as long as you can without stretching yourself too much. How much is 'too much'? Your body will let you know, listen to it. Try a 24 hour fast, to start with, then extend to 36 hours or more.

You don't have to hit yourself over the head with a hammer, it is not a race or a competition. Sure, drink tea and coffee, have a handful of nuts, chew on a carrot, whatever staves off the worst of the hunger pangs. Start at a reasonable pace and you will soon be in the swing of it. You will find a forty-hour fast, something that is unthinkable for most people, is not that hard once you get used to going hungry. You can become a Fast-master®! Mix it up, don't live from meal to meal, hold out for as long as you can and watch the scale.

You can douse the flames but keep the fires burning by drinking a glass of water. It distracts the stomach, yet keeps the fat-burning going.

Eat smaller meals

When you do decide to eat, have something you would think of as a small meal or snack, not a full “meal” like you are used to. Full meals are the things that got you into trouble in the first place. You'll be surprised at how little you have to eat to keep yourself going. This will be a critical factor in keeping the weight off once you get to goal-weight.

You need to think not only about what you have been eating, but also how much of the stuff you have been shovelling-in in the past. Change your ideas about what makes a good meal and what “enough to eat” means if you want this to be a permanent weight-adjustment.

If you do happen to overindulge, don't stress, just balance it out by eating less the next day to get back on track.

What to eat

I would say eat what you find satisfying to stave off the hunger but keep the fat fires burning. Sure have a chocolate, but keep in mind that will probably mean you will have to go longer before the hunger machine kicks in.

One thing I do think messes us up badly is sugar. We have not evolved to eat that stuff in the quantities we do. It messes up our insulin levels which causes a whole host of other problems including diabetes. Trouble is that sugar is so energy-laden that our bodies are tuned to crave more of it when we find it, which wasn't a problem back in the day when it wasn't so plentiful and freely available. Now it is a killer. Have a look at the label of products at the grams per 100 grams of sugar. Do we really need tomato sauce made up of 20% sugar? Breakfast cereals, even the “healthy muesli” variety, weigh in at a massive 15% sugar. Imagine piling that much sugar on your breakfast plate every morning. Can't be good for you.

The other thing I find slows down my fat-burning is bread, especially white-bread. I haven't outlawed it completely, I just know that I should go easy on it when my fat-burning is lagging.

So it's up to you. You are wise enough to figure what and how much to eat. I would encourage a fresh outlook though. Look at that jam scone and see it for what it is, sweet but deadly poison.

Calorie counting I find tedious, and you will find only a rough guide on how many calories you need anyway. Also you want to judge how much food intake is enough automatically, without thinking or measuring things. Count the calories if you must and you find it helpful, but don't become dependant on it. Read the product labels for comparison and to get to know how loaded it is with calories, or sugar; that should be enough without being obsessive.

Control: don't let someone else decide your portions, and don't decide for them either. Rather serve the food in containers that people can help themselves to the things they want in the ratios and proportions that they want. Meals in kit-form is the way to go.

Spice it up

Whatever you decide to eat, instead of spending hours in preparation, take a bit of thinking to improve presentation. Carrot sticks are boring but great to stave off the hunger; try eating them with a blob of cream or cottage cheese, sprinkled with a bit of pumpkin seed, and drizzled with a bit of roasted sesame oil, maybe some herbs. Looks like a feast, and you have textures and colours to please your appetite. Make it appeal to your mind and not your stomach to satisfy your hunger.

Substitute. Drop the sugar from your coffee, but to distract from the change in taste, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top.

Weight-loss tracking

The thing you do want to track is your weight. Of course, right? Weigh yourself once a day when losing weight driving towards a goal, otherwise once a week or so.

Invest in an accurate scale (preferably digital) and weigh yourself every morning first thing on waking after your visit to the loo, preferably naked. Clothes can vary in weight as much as 300 grams, so to keep things simple, weigh naked or wear exactly the same type of pyjamas / undies or whatever.

Record your daily weight in the spreadsheet you can download, or on paper / whiteboard / whatever. Doing that is essential to tell you what is going on with your body, what foods and how much you can eat, and your progress towards your target. It will keep you motivated too; no long-wait for the end of the week to see how successful you have been. It will also allow you to react immediately and take corrective action if things start heading in the wrong direction.

I use a Salter digital scale that measures weight, and percentage fat, bone, water, and muscle. Highly recommended.

The Body's Daily Energy Requirement

You need energy to pump blood, breathe, digest food, etc. Even thinking requires energy. In fact the two biggest burners of energy are your liver and your brain. Other animals haven't evolved brains as large as humans because they are expensive in terms of energy. Let's put our brains to good use then.

How much energy you burn up by these daily basic body activities is called your Basal Metabolic Rate – the rate you burn energy at rest. Note the “at rest”, not while you are exercising. We are all slightly different in our Metabolic Rate depending on our physical make up.

The last thing you want is to boost your metabolic rate. If you ingest supplements that boost your metabolism, it means it is increasing your heart beat, blood-pressure, nervous muscle movement or whatever. Not healthy is it? So forget about that. There are no healthy pills you can pop to make you burn the fat.

Daily variations

Your weight fluctuates throughout the day by as much as a kilo. Drinking a cup of tea will add about 200 grams (water weighs 1kg per 1litre). Having a bowel movement will lighten you by 300 grams or so.

Bear in mind what you eat now takes about 24 hours to digest. So while the indigestible part is making its way through your body it is going to weigh you down.

So in your daily weighing, don't worry too much if you are not losing a steady 200 grams per day or whatever you have set as target. Expect a variation. As long as your weight is heading in the right direction averaged over three days or so.

Side effects

Everything you do or don't do has side-effects. An exercise regime will strain your joints, give you muscle pain, tire you out, cost you a fortune in running shoes etc. Some of those effects can be permanent. Luckily the effects of hunger are neither permanent nor severe.

Yes, you might get a little woozy when standing up – the “head rush”. Have a snack. Yes, your urine may have a stronger odour – that's ketones a by-product of fat-burning being expelled – a good sign. Yes, you might need a little more water than normal, that's because the body needs water to turn the fat into energy which is part of the Kreb's cycle (warning: geek article alert), but don't over-do it, drink when you are thirsty.

No, you will not be releasing “toxins” stored in the fat. The body has no reason to store toxins, never has, never will. De-toxing is a non-scientific practise that has no grounding in reality.

No, you will not die from lack of nutrients. People who go on hunger-strikes last for 4 months before they die, and they usually resort to eating nothing, drinking only water. We are doing nothing like that. Evolution has equipped us with the ability to shore-up in a cave, snowed-in for the winter with nothing to eat but the remains of a dinosaur to gnaw on. We are much tougher than people make out.

On the other hand, what are the side-effects of not loosing the weight? Plenty. We know that. By comparison, hunger is a small price to pay.


It is a myth that some people get fat because they "have more fat cells". It is the other way round. When all the fat cells are filled, the body will make more. When you loose the weight, it won't be long and the body will break the fat cells down for reuse as something else. It is a matter of demand and supply.


Hunger burns fat, let your body do that. It doesn't take huge discipline to keep going and costs you nothing, in fact saves you money; you'll save on your food bill.

Do it at a pace you can manage that will keep you inspired to get to your goal weight.

Remember the TV show “Survivor”? Those people got pretty lean pretty quickly from just eating rice and lazing around with occasional activity. They put the weight back on after the show because they went back to their old way of eating. Nevertheless there's a lesson there, hunger makes you lose weight no matter who you are.

Good luck with your weight-loss and weight-control.