The Art of Losing Weight without Exercise

The last 6 weeks of my life looked something like this:

  • Wake up and immediately begin working from bed on my phone.
  • Shower? What’s that?
  • Eat breakfast (that my husband graciously cooked for me) in front of my computer.
  • Sit on my couch next to my dog with my laptop for the next 10-14 hours.
  • Occasionally go to the bathroom.
  • Eat the quickest Paleo meals I could possibly create throughout the day (mostly leftovers from my husband’s well-planned meals for himself, or a combination of coconut milk and applesauce).
  • Work out? Ha ha! Yeah, right.
  • Occasionally watch TV at night (with my laptop obscuring my view of the TV).
  • Go to bed super late, still working on my phone until I pass out.

Here’s what that looked like…

Me on the couch

It was awesome!! No, it was not. This is the lifestyle antithesis of what Mark Sisson and every other primal beacon preaches. The reason for all this nonsense was that I put together the Primal Life Kit sale in those 6 weeks, and it was a LOT of work on top of my normal responsibilities at Paleo Plan. I worked about 80 to 90 hours every week. The sale was a huge success, in that it brought the Paleo community closer together, it provided an amazing product for about 9,500 people, and it made a lot of very hard-working, passionate Paleo people a lot of money.

So it was worth it for sure. However, my body took a beating.

My neck flared up again, I’m weak as hell, and my nervous system is on high alert all the time. This weekend I tried taking some time off finally (after the sale was over) and I literally couldn’t relax. I’m fortunate that I’m not one of the many people out there who work this much all the time. My hat’s off to you guys – I don’t know how you do it.

So what does this have to do with losing weight?

Well, I get a lot of emails from people saying something along the lines of, “My main goal is to lose weight, but I don’t have time to exercise, so I’m not even sure this whole Paleo diet thing is worth doing. Is it? Is it humanly possible to lose weight without exercising every day?” Well, yes. Of course it is. I personally think too many people exercise too much, but that’s for a different blog post.

I’m not saying it’s healthy to not exercise, but diet is the most important aspect of weight loss, and I just want to confirm that you can lose weight or maintain your weight whilst sitting upon your ass all day every day and eating Paleo. I did.

I’m not claiming it was healthy weight loss. In fact, I’m pretty sure every muscle I previously owned is gone and I gained a little fat – but I definitely did not gain weight and I definitely lost a few pounds. I want to make this really clear: I do not recommend sitting on your ass all day if you can avoid it. But you can do that without gaining a ton of weight, as so many people do.

The key here is listening to your body’s hunger cues when you don’t have time to exercise.

It happens to all of us – it’s totally acceptable to go for a while without working out much at all. We have to live our crazy lives. But I think exercise is mistakenly considered crucial to weight loss and weight maintenance because people make one big blunder when they’re NOT exercising: they eat too much. They eat as much food as they would if they were exercising because they stick to their eating routine. We all get into habits with what we eat, but it’s important to remember to change things up, depending on what your body is telling you and how much you’re doing.

Basically, remember these two things when you’re not able to exercise much.

1. Listen to your body’s cues. If you’re eating your usual breakfast and you start to get full sooner than you normally do, stop eating. If it’s 3pm and you usually have a snack at that time, but you’re not hungry, don’t eat. If you usually have dessert, but you actually just aren’t hungry for it, don’t have it.

That’s what happened to me. I usually have a big bowl of soup for breakfast – bone broth, veggies, eggs and pastured pork sausage – but I found that I couldn’t finish half of it some days. My lunch changed, too. Normally I’d have meat and veggies and fruit for lunch, but I stopped craving meat (in fact, it made me nauseous at lunchtime), so I’d just have some applesauce and coconut milk mixed together with some other fruit. That would keep me satisfied for hours, and then I’d usually have my normal dinner: some sort of meat or fish with veggies and lots of fat.

We get attached to our meals and snacks, and a lot of it is just emotional eating – filling voids with snacks. Just remember you have a choice about what you eat, and your body will help guide your choices if you listen to it.

2. Drink enough water. A lot of people don’t drink enough water, and thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger. Not only that, but water is actually really good for you :) Make sure you always have water beside you so when you get the urge to take a sip it’s available to you.

Anyone else have any experience with this?


  1. I am newer to Paleo (Last Thanksgiving was about the beginning). I will be 70 next month, and am 90# overweight.
    For me getting out of bed is exercise (HA). I can do some walking, but squats, heavy lifting, burpees….no way I can do those. What can you suggest for the old granny? Love the food plan–sleeping so much better, have lost 12 #, but want to lose a bunch more.

    HELP please!!


    1. Linda – I guess read the blog post over, and if walking is all you can do, just do that! As the weight comes off, I have a feeling you’ll be able to do a lot more :)

  2. Hey Linda!

    You’re awesome for changing you life! It’s great.

    Many of the movements that we prescribe over at the PaleoFit part can be scaled way back for those of us that are über-beginners, or may not be 19 anymore. ;)

    Things like using a box for burpees (so you don’t have to go all the way down for the push-ups), or squatting to a chair or stool can help you stay strong into your “granny” years.

    If you want to know more, give us a shout, and we’ll try to fill your plate with ideas :)

  3. Neely,
    What you described as your day during that time is how I work every single day. I am a remote IT support person and I literally get up from bed, brush my teeth and sit down at the computer for the next 12 hours except to go to the bathroom. My husband usually brings me breakfast, I skip lunch and finally take a break for supper. I’m going to try this Paleo Eating Plan, (I do not like the word diet) and see if it helps as you’ve inspired me!

  4. Neely, thanks for the post! It’s pretty inspiring since I JUST signed up for Paleo today. While I’d like to lose 30 pounds, I’m also a mother of 4 and trying for one more (and certainly our last!) My fave part of the post was where you mentioned listening to your body’s cues – this is probably the one thing I struggle with the most. Also, I love to exercise…..when I can find the motivation. However, I am generally active so I’m excited for the health aspects of paleo, and the general sense of feeling better.

  5. Have been gradually transitioning to Paleo since late fall of last year. Just discovered this website and am in my first week of the meal plan. Am so excited, this feels like the key to my success!! Awesome recipes and its all thought out. Love it.

  6. Great post Neely! Btw, I think we may have the same red sofa! ;-)

    I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight with Paleo—two years ago, I lost 30lbs. It was key eliminating all WHEAT from the diet. I then started juicing alot (fructose) :-( and eating rice, then eventually other sugars and some of the weight crept back. But these past few months (since last summer) I am down nearly 50lbs. Being LOW CARB Paleo is key! Be careful not to do a high carb paleo diet if you want optimum health and/or to lose weight.

    I also did it with almost no exercise!

  7. Thanks for blogging this! It’s a subject close to my heart, as I have Chromic Fatigue Syndrome/ME and can’t move about much like I used to. It concerns me that I’ve put on weight as my illness has worsened (probably a side effect of medication as well as inactivity) so earlier this year I started eating a low-carb Paleo diet, with modifications to address Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Essentially, my diet is a Paleo/Fodmaps/low-carb mix, and I like it :) Changing the way I eat has been tricky, though, with the challenges I get from the people close to me. Defending my choices can be difficult, but I’m pushing through that. It’s like a science experiment, to see what effect the change in diet will have on my health.

  8. Hey Neely

    After having 2 hip operations and the last one being a partial hip replacement at 38, I was in the same place as you, albeit no lap top in front of me. Couch bound and frustrated with my lack of immobility after being a complete gym addict. I was now bound to my crutches and I only had a few rehab exercises to follow daily while I was out of gym action for an 8 week period. This meant a complete tone down on my exercise regime…It was at this point that I decided to listen to my body’s cues and feed it accordingly. Eat when I was hungry and stop just before I felt too full and just do the down time and allow the hip prosthesis to heal. People often commented and said how did I remain in such good shape after the surgery and it IS really as simple as eating primally and understanding one’s calorie needs on a daily basis. Thanks for the great post and hopefully you are making a move off the couch now.


  9. super post!
    yes you can lose weight without exercise but what I wish people knew that even just going out for 45 minutes for a walk with your spouse can do a great deal for your wellbeing.
    Ofcourse ideally you’d want to throw in sprints once a week or some lifting. but people discount the fact that moving and being active counts towards exercise.
    You had to probably do this for a short time and thats fine but for those who do this all the time, you really need a lifestyle change, maybe a standing or treadmill work station?

  10. This was exactly what I needed this morning. After 9 eye surgeries over an 18 month period, enforced immobility because of the surgeries, and then new pain because of the immobility the development of Fibromyalgia due to two years of antibiotics and steriods and the past two years of trying to figure out how to get well. I am at my wits end. Ive tried Atkins and Ideal health but didn’t like it because of all the processed foods. I did lose weight. I have been doing Paleolithic or I guess Primal because I do some dairy, cream in my coffee, maybe 2cups of milk and about an oz of cheese over that time. Ten days on this I’ve gained weight! I just turned 59 and am so frustrated I am on the point of giving up and drinking and eating jelly beans until I die!! I wonder about all the nuts and nut flours I can’t believe Paleolithic man had ready access to so many nuts. Maybe God made them difficult yo get into for a reason. Please advise.

  11. Hey Elizabeth,

    I feel your pain. I tried a LOT of dieting, to no avail… and only to find out that I was allergic to dairy, eggs, and wheat. You might even have a nut allergy! As soon as I went pure Paleo (meat and veggie) and cut out all sugar (including fruit) it took seven days to get on the right track and I’ve already lost 3 pounds. I recommend doing nothing but meat and vegetables. Use grease, coconut, and olive oil for cooking. It’s extremely hard, but extremely effective! Also, use coconut cream in your coffee – it’s amazing! I hope this helps. :)

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