Meticulously counting every calorie you eat is tedious and unsustainable—especially if you like to dine out, cook, or eat unpackaged foods. But new research recently published in the journal Nutrition proves you can lose weight without the hassle.
For the study, researchers randomly assigned 50 overweight and obese adults to follow one of five different diets for two months: vegan (no animal products), vegetarian (no meat, fish, or poultry, but eggs and dairy are fair game), pesco-vegetarian (no meat or poultry, but everything else is OK), semi-vegetarian (limit red meat to once per week and poultry to five times per week), or omnivorous (eat whatever food groups you want).
Researchers taught everyone about their diets and told them to choose foods low in fat (like fruits and veggies) and ones that have a low-glycemic index (like whole grains, which take longer to digest than refined ones). But no one told the dieters when, how often, or how much to eat—or when to stop. There was no calorie counting (none!), no food logging (zero!), and no exercise requirements whatsoever. Everyone took B-12 vitamins, which vegans are supposed to take to get the essential nutrients found in animal products (they don't make you lose weight or anything).
To see which diet worked best, researchers weighed everyone after the two-month intervention and again four months later. At the end of it all, the participants on all different diets lost weight—probably because being part of a weight loss study and among other dieters inspired them to eat healthy quantities.
Although everyone ended up burning about the same number of calories through everyday physical activities, vegans lost an average of 7.5 pounds, which is more than twice as many as people on other diets. It's not ~*mAgIc*~ though.
People who eat plant-based diets end up consuming more fiber and less fat, which fills you up to prevent overeating and naturally contains fewer calories, says lead study author and registered dietitian Brie Turner-McGrievy, M.S., an assistant professor at University of South Carolina. So vegan dieters probably ate fewer calories over all.
The bottom line is that people on low-calorie diets inevitably end up getting hungry, so their diets are unsustainable. If you ditch the math, fill up on healthy stuff when you're hungry, and stop when you're full, you'll end up making smarter decisions at your next meal and stick to your diet long-term. In other words, your body will regulate itself so you don't have to count your life away.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.