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If you think that a calorie is a calorie – and it doesn’t matter if it comes from kale or cookies, then it’s time to rethink what you think you know about calories. Contrary to what your Momma, track coach or even Doctor led you to believe, all calories are NOT created equal, and thinking you’ll lose weight simply by counting calories or cutting them will likely leave you hungry, irritable, malnourished and not much lighter than you were when you started. So instead of slashing and burning the caloric field, let’s level it with the following food for thought:

1. All Calories Are Not Created Equal

Thinking that all calories are the same is an antiquated notion. Granted, by definition calories represent units of energy provided by a particular food, but thinking they’re all alike is like saying a diamond and a rhinestone are the same because they both glitter. With calories, as with diamonds, it’s the quality that matters most and enhances their value.

2. Crap is Crap, No Matter How Many Calories are Involved

Calories from nutrient rich foods vs. nutritionally-bankrupt ones from processed or refined carbs will have different effects on the body.  Healthy, nutrient rich foods will keep hunger at bay, help maintain stable blood sugar levels, minimize cravings and enable your brain to signal your belly that it’s full. Nutrient poor foods will have the opposite effect, wreaking hormonal havoc, spiking insulin, setting off cravings, dulling satiety signals and encouraging overeating. In other words, nutrient dense foods help keep weight in check naturally, no calculator required. 

3. Think of Counting Calories as Nutritional Navel-gazing

Tracking every scrap that goes in your mouth may give you a feeling of control over your food but it doesn’t mean you’re getting enough of the nutrients your body needs. Take for example those who diet on processed, portion-controlled, “diet” microwaveable meals (you know who you are). Aside from being loaded with chemicals, GMOs, allergenic and inflammatory ingredients, these crappy excuses for food don’t deliver enough protein, fiber, good fats or even volume to make you feel full, much less healthy and vibrant. The result is that you’re hungry, mentally foggy, and malnourished, possibly setting the stage for a host of health problems down the line – but you do know how many calories you ate getting there. For what that’s worth.

4. But Jared Lost All That Weight Eating Subway Sandwiches!

No disrespect, but if you’ve seen the “before and after” photos, you have to ask, just what was Jared living on before he went on his infamous crash sandwich diet? Call it what you will, but all he did was classic caloric restriction, and yes, while it does work for a time, it’s not recommended. It’s hard to sustain in the long-term, and it won’t make you feel energetic or vibrant in the short-term, again because you’re not supporting your body with enough essential nutrients. Worse, these crash diets actually slow down metabolism, lowering your food burning furnace, an adjustment your body makes, to conserve energy and prevent starvation. So what’s the work-around? Trade hunger, calorie-counting and denial, for filling, nutrient-dense, organic or local produce, poultry, pasture-raised meats and wild fish. Eat them until you are full, not until you’ve hit some abstract, virtually meaningless magic number. By eating these kinds of foods, your body will tell you when you’ve had enough. Refined carbs like wheat, grains and sugar – the crystal meth of the supermarket aisle – never will.

5. Put Away the Abacus and Fill Up on the Right Stuff

To curb appetite, feed your body with foods that fill your belly, send the message of satiety to the brain and supply the body with health-enhancing nutrients. There is abundant evidence to show that low-carb diets generally satisfy far more effectively than high-carb ones. At the top of the satiety superstar list are the “good” fats like coconut oil, avocados, nuts, wild fish and grass fed, organic meats, which help balance hormonal and metabolic responses, in addition to being delicious additions to any plate. Next up: non starchy vegetables, which are nutrient dense, while adding belly-filling bulk. And last but not least, is protein, which is extremely helpful in creating feelings of satiety and takes more energy for the body to metabolize. Bottom line, all three will help reduce appetite with little effort, blood sugar spikes and no counting. All you need to do is enjoy them.

To whip your fridge into shape quickly, easily and healthfully, checkout the essentials of a fantastic diet here.

This post originally appears on DrFrankLipman.com.

Dr. Frank Lipman is an internationally recognized expert in the field of integrative and functional medicine. He is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City and the developer of a line of leading-edge supplements, Be Well by Dr Frank Lipman.

He is the author of “REVIVE: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again“; and “TOTAL RENEWAL; 7 key steps to Resilience, Vitality and Long-Term Health.” Visit his blog, follow him on Twitter or join his Facebook community today.

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