How to Burn Fat Without Exercise

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While it’s nice to think about getting the body of your dreams without breaking a sweat, exercise can help you lose weight faster. That doesn’t mean you can’t burn fat without exercise, though -- simply adjusting your diet and lifestyle can help you lose weight, even if you never set foot in the gym. You can also up your calorie burn and get more activity without formal exercise by just making a few adjustments to your daily routine.

Write it Down: Keep a Food Diary to Burn Fat

Just having to write down what you eat might be enough to help you slim down.
Just having to write down what you eat might be enough to help you slim down. (Image: lolostock/iStock/Getty Images)

Drop the fork and pick up a pen! Burning fat without exercise means recording everything you eat and drink in a food diary, since you’ll need to cut calories to shed pounds. In some cases, you’ll see fat burning results from writing down what you eat, even if you don’t make conscious changes to your diet -- just holding yourself accountable for what you eat significantly boosts weight loss.

Keeping a food diary doesn’t have to be boring. Treat yourself to a nice notebook and pen you’ll genuinely enjoy using and use your food diary as a chance for self-reflection by recording your emotions, thoughts and worries. It’s also a great way to communicate your feelings – even if it’s only to yourself – so it can naturally relieve stress (which, by the way, helps with weight loss too!).

Use your food diary to record how many calories you eat each day, so you can make sure you’re hitting your weight loss targets. How many calories you’ll eat depends on a few factors -- an online calculator can estimate how many calories you’re burning, and you should subtract 500 to 1,000 from that number to get your new calorie target.

Tip

  • Don't feel discouraged if it takes some trial and error to find the right calorie target. Your genetics influence how many calories you burn, so you might need a little more or less than your calculated estimate to lose weight. If you're not getting the results you want, adjust your intake up or down by 50 to 100 calories per day until you're hitting your goals.

Focus on Fat-Burning Nutrients

Foods high in protein, like eggs and nonfat dairy, boost your metabolism to help you burn fat.
Foods high in protein, like eggs and nonfat dairy, boost your metabolism to help you burn fat. (Image: Julia Mueller)

When you’re losing weight primarily through diet, every food counts. By choosing nutritious, metabolism-boosting foods, you’ll burn more fat 24/7. Focus on these nutrients:

Protein

The gold standard for weight loss, protein takes lots of calories to digest, so every protein-rich food you eat up your fat-burning potential. Include nuts, Greek yogurt, milk, eggs, poultry, fish and pulses in your diet.

Fiber

This special carb helps stabilize your blood sugar. Translation: it’ll fend off those pesky cravings caused by low blood sugar. Find fiber in pulses, fruit, veggies and whole grains.

Iron

You’ll need foods rich in iron, even if you’re not working out. Iron helps carry oxygen to your tissues, which is key to keep your cellular metabolism revving. Get iron from lean red meats, spinach, lentils and beans.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These healthy fats lower inflammation – a huge bonus when you’re trying to avoid weight-related illnesses. And, because low omega-3 levels can trigger depression, getting enough omega-3s could keep you feeling motivated and happy while you lose fat. Eat fatty fish, like haddock or salmon, and add chia, walnuts and flaxseeds to your diet for omega-3s.

The healthy fats in chia and walnuts help keep you happy and fit.
The healthy fats in chia and walnuts help keep you happy and fit. (Image: morisfoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Get More Active During the Day

Getting active doesn’t just mean sweating it out at the gym -- you might be surprised how many calories you can burn just working through your day-to-day routine! If you weigh 150 pounds, for example, you’ll burn 170 calories’ worth of fat by spending 30 minutes gardening, and 150 calories in a half-hour playing with your kids -- or even more calories, if you weigh more than 150 pounds!

A 30-minute snow shoveling session burns about 225 calories, and even sleeping and watching TV burns about 25 calories per half hour. A day of housework on the weekend could burn several hundred extra calories, which will do more for fat loss than 30 minutes on the treadmill.

Gardening and playing with your kids both help you burn more calories and fat.
Gardening and playing with your kids both help you burn more calories and fat. (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)

Boost your calorie burn by adding small bursts of activity during the day. Take the farthest parking spot – or better yet, walk or bicycle to run errands – and opt for the stairs over the elevator.

Consider taking up a yin yoga class (it’s not a sweat session, just a series of relaxing stretches) or a guided meditation course. While these activities don’t directly burn calories, they relieve stress. That’ll not only help you avoid stress-related fat gain, it’ll make you feel calmer, more level-headed and happier.

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