When it’s time to get serious about dropping some pounds, it usually means figuring out how many calories you need, how many you burn (with and without exercise), then getting down to the nitty-gritty of documenting everything that goes into your body to create a deficit. Without that guidance, it’s easy to stray from your path and inadvertently eat an extra spoonful of peanut butter (or three), and blow your daily macros.

But what if you didn't have to worry about your calorie count?

New research, published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes, shows significant weight loss is possible without resorting to an obsessive calorie count and macro breakdown.

For the study, scientists took 33 people and allowed them to eat whatever amount of food they wanted as long as it fit into the low-fat, plant-based guidelines they set up, which included an emphasis on whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit. Starches like sweet potatoes, bread, and pasta were encouraged to help with satiation, but consumption of refined oils (olive oil, coconut oil), animal products (meat, fish, eggs, and dairy), high-fat foods (nuts, avocados), and highly-processed foods was discouraged. Participants were also asked to cut back on sugar, salt, and caffeinated drinks.

Cooking classes, lifestyle change education, and daily vitamin B supps were given to the participants for the 12-week intervention period, as well. They were all assessed at 6 months and 12 months. When the study was over, after a year, subjects ended up losing and keeping off an average of 25 pounds, and about 3.5 inches around their waistline.

“This research supports the whole food plant-based diet as safe and effective," said lead study author, Nicholas Wright, M.D. We had many significant findings, including weight loss, lowered cholesterol, less medication usage, decreased waist circumference, and increased quality of life, and this was without increased spending on food or changes to exercise levels. This dietary approach can enable people to feel empowered to improve their medical conditions, but can be used outside of this setting too.”