Can you lose weight without trying?

Judith Wills / 02 May 2019

Our diet expert scrutinises the concept of effortless weight loss.



There have been a few times during my life when I lost weight without even thinking about it and/or almost inadvertently. Certainly no ‘trying’ involved.

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One was when I first moved to London, lived in a bedsit on my own, earned £3 a week and couldn’t afford to eat much. Another was when I first experienced the misery of a break-up at the age of 21 and lost my appetite as well as the boyfriend.

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I’ve always been prone too, to finding it hard to eat when I’m under a lot of stress or have some terrifying event (giving a talk to masses of people is one that springs to mind) ahead.

And at all these times, I’ve seen the pounds drop off – annoyingly, when I least needed for that to happen. I was a skinny youngster! In more recent and less emotionally-charged/poverty-stricken years, to keep my weight under control has been a kind of elongated, low-level but always present battle of wits between my sensible self, my indulgent self, my appetite and my propensity to be borderline physically lazy given half a chance.

All that adds up to never losing weight without trying, these days. And my headline asks the question because by chance I saw a banner headline in the media the other day proclaiming ‘yes – you CAN lose weight without trying!’ (Lots more exclamation marks followed !!!!!!!) Having not much else to do I read the feature and found out that if I eat more chromium and add cinnamon to my food I will indeed be able to lose weight without lifting a finger - which, incidentally, burns approx. 0.0003 calories per lift - or pressing my motivation button. Exciting, eh? More of that later.

But trying isn’t always a bad thing, even when it comes to your weight. Trying means you care; trying means you can replace apathy with the will for self-improvement.

You just do need to differentiate between good trying and bad trying. Bad trying involves making life a misery for yourself, and possibly those around you. It involves bringing an element of negativity into your daily life (say, by replacing ‘normal’ meals with something you don’t even like, such as shake replacements, or by replacing individual items with others that make you depressed, such as serving up cauliflower rice instead of proper rice with your chicken tandoori).

It means heading off on a ten-mile hike up the hills when you’ve taken hardly any exercise for months, then spending the week in bed on your back because you’re in so much pain.

Good trying is basically making sensible rational decisions when it won’t really pain you to do so – one slice of bread rather than two; soft butter spread, rather than block butter straight from the fridge that has to be put on your toast in thick wodges resembling hard cheese… walking to the shop rather than taking the car. Things that are ‘trying to lose weight’ – but not in a bad, or rash or nonsensical way and should also give you added benefits, such as an improved sense of wellbeing and feeling good about yourself.

These won’t occur if you believe all you read about miracle supplement pills and amazing diet tricks that, my friends, just don’t work or at best, have no more than a milligram of truth in them. All they will do is increase your disappointment and maybe produce a wish to rap yourself metaphorically on the knuckles, for having been so easily taken in.

And regarding the chromium and the cinnamon… a large 2018 review of all the studies on chromium found taking additional chromium offered ‘no significant benefits’ for weight loss. And while ground cinnamon may help to control blood sugar levels in some people with diabetes and can also be used to help ‘sweeten’ tart fruits instead of sugar, there is very little scientific research on humans to show it is of much use in weight loss.

If I could have one wish within the spectrum of weight control – it is that greedy people online, and in the media, wouldn’t keep trying to get rich on other people’s wish for quick/easy fixes. Sadly, I doubt that’s ever going to change – so meanwhile, keep thinking ‘try’ – but add ‘sensibly’ on to it, please!





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