14 Strategies of the No-Diet Diet that Might Change Your Life

After the most recent Season of Excess (Halloween through Christmas and New Year's to Valentine's Day), some of us swear that we will (really, honest) lose weight.

But long-term calorie restriction is extremely hard to maintain, and also slows your metabolism because your body finds ways to store energy (read: fat) more efficiently to stave off the famine-like conditions you're simulating.  Likewise, removing whole food groups from your diet, such as with low-carb regimens, can be difficult to stick with long-term.

(On a personal note, I have several times succeeded at losing more than 10% of my body weight with low-carb diets, but got very tired of going without fruit, oatmeal, and even beans.)

oatmeal with fruit

A minimalist option

I've been looking into a concept I call a No-Diet diet, which may be the best way to lose weight and keep it off.

It's not a typical diet, because you're not counting calories and you're not removing certain food groups from your plate.  It's simpler than that, which definitely appeals to the minimalist in me.

According to B. J. Fogg, founder of Stanford University's Behavior Design Lab, and author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything,* if you identify your current eating habits and merely give them a tiny tweak to move you in the right direction, you can see immediate improvement and then stick with it long enough to renovate your old behaviors.

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

I love Dr. Fogg's key maxim – Simplicity changes behavior.  Not willpower, not determination, not cold turkey boot camp rules and regulations.  Simplicity.

Because the behavior is so small, risk is reduced.  The change doesn't take much time, and you don't need to make a big deal about it.  There's no real failure with such tiny habits (or the No-Diet diet).  There are little stumbles, like a toddler learning to walk, but as long as you get up again, it's not failure – it's a new habit in the making.

Simplicity changes behavior.

This sounds like my writing habit, which I shared in a blog post a few years ago.  After I make my bed (which happens after I get dressed), I write one sentence for this blog.  My habit is one sentence, but I often write 1000 or more words.  That's "extra credit" behavior, though.  My habit is so tiny, I can't fail to do it every single day.  As Fogg said in an interview with NPR,

It's so simple that it's almost like you have no excuse not to do it.  So even when you're in a rush or you're sick or you're distracted, it's so tiny that you can still do it.

By slightly changing some of the things you do routinely without much thought or effort, you avoid having to make huge, all-or-nothing changes, which are so often doomed to failure.

So before you start a complicated, restrictive diet plan or sign a contract with an expensive personal trainer, make sure you take advantage of some of these simple No-Diet diet tips.

Bonus:  They start with coffee and end with chocolate!

14 No-Diet habits

1.  Drink black coffee.

morning coffee
The caffeine in coffee may increase metabolism and reduce body fat.  But adding sugar, agave syrup, artificial sweeteners, flavored creamers, syrups, sweetened condensed milk, or a ton of half and half really defeats the purpose!  Coffee is usually an acquired taste anyway, so learning to drink it black or with a little milk is a change I've been able to make.

2.  Eat red fruits.

They're the best for weight loss because they contain more flavonoids, which help reduce fat storage.  So when you crave a sweet snack, eat an apple, a small bunch of red grapes, a handful of cherries, a cup of raspberries or sliced strawberries, or a bowl of diced watermelon.

3.  Stop eating cereal.

I can scarf down a big bowl of packaged cereal on a busy morning and have another bowl for an evening snack.  But substituting slow-cooking rolled oats is better for cholesterol levels, gut health, blood sugar, and even mood.  And it helps you feel fuller, longer.

Overnight oats even eliminates morning cooking.  (Heat them in the microwave for a minute if you want a hot breakfast.)  Simply mix ½ cup rolled oats with ½ cup dairy or nut milk in a microwaveable container that has a lid.  Make sure the oats are completely submerged in the liquid, then mix in one or more of the following:

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • several dashes ground cinnamon

Cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 to 5 hours).  In the morning you can add more protein with a tablespoon of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or any chopped nuts.  Top with ½ cup raspberries, blueberries, sliced strawberries, diced apple, sliced banana or peach or whatever you have.  I dare you to feel hungry before lunch!

4.  Start with a broth-based soup.

Numerous studies show that eating a cup of broth-based soup as a first course at dinner fills you up enough to reduce total calorie intake for the rest of the meal (some studies show a reduction of 20%).  Since salads always include dressings, a broth-based soup can be a better way to get a serving of vegetables with much less fat.  My favorites include chicken tortilla and vegetable-rich Italian lentil soups.

5.  Go breadless.

Here's a quick lunch.  Lay a slice of cheddar or Swiss cheese on a plate.  Top with two or three slices of deli turkey or Black Forest ham.  Drizzle on some Dijon mustard and add a couple of slices of avocado.  Wrap like a jelly roll and eat.

6.  Choose potatoes instead of other starchy foods.

Baked potatoes will not make you fat.  In fact, white potatoes are full of fiber, potassium, folate, B vitamins, and vitamin C.  Sweet potatoes and yams are additionally high in vitamin A.  They're filling and delicious.

But stay away from the loads of butter, sour cream, bacon, and cheese that most people pile on their potatoes.  Instead, choose:

  • low fat cottage cheese and a sprinkle of toasted nuts or seeds
  • a scoop of spicy black beans (garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano) and some fresh salsa
  • a poached egg with a dash of Tabasco sauce
  • salt, pepper, and some fresh parsley, rosemary, and chives

7.  Add water.

Wash your hands before you eat and let that be your cue to drink a big glass of water.  As with the broth-based soup (#4), the water helps fill you up.  And often when we think we're hungry we're actually thirsty, so remaining hydrated can lessen hunger pangs.

8.  Don't follow the foodie.

broth-based soup
You know that walking down the cereal aisle in the grocery store makes your child want all the most sugar- and artificial color-filled brands.  Watching commercials can make you crave the pizza, soda, or other junk food being advertised.

Well, cooking shows and your favorite food blogger's Instagram posts have been linked with weight gain as well.  Our bodies are conditioned to increase the hunger hormone ghrelin when we see decadent food.  So banish the Food Network and unfollow foodies on social media.

9.  Sleep.

Plenty of research shows that people who sleep less are more likely to be overweight.  Recent studies have found that even short-term sleep deprivation is connected to a preference for high-calorie, high-carb foods and bigger portions.  

Develop better-sleep habits like closing your eyes and taking three slow deep breaths, turning off the computer and phone an hour before bed, or freeing your mind by making a list of tomorrow's priorities.

10.  Dump soda, including diet versions.

This one might be hard!  Although it's marketed as a smart choice, many studies have shown that diet soda causes weight gain.  Substitute a variety of unsweetened iced teas – I like Earl Grey, but my favorite is Good Earth Sweet & Spicy herbal and black tea blend.

11.  Ask for half to go.

Since the average restaurant meal contains 1,500 or more calories, you'll easily reduce that number by asking your server to box up half the meal before it even reaches the table.  Alternatively, share an entrĂ©e with your dining partner, and start with a broth-based soup (#4).

12.  Don't eat distracted.

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people eat at their desks or in front of the TV, they consume an average of 288 calories more than they would otherwise.  Over the course of a week that's more than 2,000 calories – an extra day's-worth of food!  Keeping your mind busy while you eat can prevent your brain getting the cue that you've had enough.  So even my habit of doing the crossword while I eat could be a problem!

13.  Go dry.

Alcohol contains calories, mostly from carbohydrates.  If you stop drinking, and don't replace alcohol with other sources of empty calories, you should start to lose weight without much effort.  There are tons of other well-documented benefits of giving up alcohol – it might be the best choice you ever make.

14.  Add dark chocolate.

dark chocolate
Instead of munching down some empty-calorie cookies, donuts, or a low-quality candy bar, savor a piece of dark chocolate.

70% dark chocolate contains pure cocoa butter, a digestion-slowing, healthy fat that can help you eat less.  Additionally, the flavanols in dark chocolate work with the caffeine in cocoa solids to boost blood flow to the brain, which improves cognitive function.  If it replaces all the junk, dark chocolate can even improve your heart health.  And we all know that chocolate is a remedy for so much – it definitely belongs in a healthy diet!

Ready to begin?

Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) is next week.  Forget long-term calorie restriction or banishing entire food groups.  Choose a simpler route to healthy weight loss today.  It only takes a few tiny habit changes.

Do you enjoy my work and find it useful?  Why not buy me a coffee?  Thanks!


  1. Many excellent points here! But I'd like to reframe #8 -- watch foodies who inspire you to cook and eat more healthily. I have learned so much from, for example, Nisha of Rainblow Plant Life -- her videos and blog posts are educational AND inspirational.

    1. Haven't heard of Nisha, but if she's inspiring you to eat healthier then she's the exception. Sound like you've found a winner.

  2. An excellent article. My husband and I (both in our mid sixties) started a “not diet” diet on January 3rd of this year. I had gained 22 pounds over and above my ideal body weight while my husband had packed on 35 pounds over and above his. We incorporated many of the tips you’ve listed. Junk food was shown the door as was heavily processed food. I bought the hubs a soda stream so he could make fizzy water as he prefers that to plain water (I can’t stand fizzy water myself). It was worth the money as his water intake increased dramatically. We did cut out bread, rice, potatoes and other carb heavy foods as the hubs was, for lack of a better term, addicted to carbs. Neither of us find that we miss them that much. We’ve increased our vegetable intake pretty significantly and the hubs is rediscovering the joys of eating fresh fruits. Red fruits are indeed the best! I won’t say we’ve completely cut out alcohol but it’s been reduced to an occasional thing. We both enjoy one small piece of chocolate after dinner and it satisfies. We also eat a good bit of broth based soups on a weekly basis and find them to be filling and satisfying. The best thing about our “not diet” diet is that we both feel that it will be indefinitely sustainable.


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