It is undoubtedly true that a body that takes in fewer calories will eventually weigh less. Subsisting on an apple a day, while not at all sustainable, will make you lose weight. However, I can tell you that’s not a life anyone wants to live and it will make you the opposite of a healthy and enjoyable human being. I can also tell you that it IS possible to eat abundantly, not starve yourself and lose weight. Your body is a complex system and calories are one piece of a much larger puzzle. If we’re only looking at calories, we can then say that diet soda supports our goal of weight loss because it has zero calories. I certainly don’t know of any doctors or health professionals that prescribe diet soda as a key to weight loss.

Now here’s you might say to me, “But J, my neighbor counted calories and lost 20 lbs!” Here’s what I want you to know: your neighbor may have lost weight by obsessively following a 1200 calorie diet or Weight Watchers-ing, but I don’t want that life for you. It’s not fun, not sustainable, and not necessary unless your goal is to have a bikini competitor amount of body fat. Your neighbor may have also gotten there by eating fat free, sugar-laden, processed, edible crap in the form of protein bars that wrecked their long term health and metabolism. That is a short term band-aid solution to a long term problem that will have you obsessively eating 1200 calories for the rest of your life and still probably gaining the weight back due to metabolic compensation.

So how do we lose weight while eating abundantly, not starving ourselves and not counting calories?

The first place we look at when evaluating your goals is going to be what you are putting on your plate rather than how much. We need to stop treating our body like a calculator and leave the outdated notion of counting our calories to lose weight behind. The answer to actually eating food while losing weight lies in the quality of those calories rather than the quantity. Everything we put into our body has consequences to our hormones. Think of your food as information for the body. Healthy food sends the message of health to your body. Nutrients, or lack thereof, are sending information to your body on what to do with those calories it’s receiving.  Therefore it absolutely matters whether you are putting 1500 calories of apple pie into your body versus 1500 calories of vegetables. So the answer to eating abundantly, not starving ourselves and not rely on counting calories is so simple you’re going to be angry with me.

EAT. REAL. FOOD.

Just eat real food. If it’s processed, don’t eat it. If you had to unwrap your sugar fried calorie bomb from a package in order to consume it, it’s probably out. If it took 12 steps and 40 chemicals to make it – don’t eat it. If it goes by the name of Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, Diet Something or Other, you can bet your mother its probably not conducive to being healthy, lean, or diet friendly.

So this is what I want you to try for me: eat things that are as close to nature as possible – vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil, lean meats and proteins, limit grains to quinoa, oats and brown rice. Don’t count your calories. Don’t even think about them. When you put foods into your body that it recognizes as food (not high fructose corn syrup), it better understands the information you are sending to it. If you do this, you will see your body composition start to change and your body start to shift to your ideal weight.

This is your starting point. It’s important to note here that while I don’t want you to rely on counting calories, I do advocate logging your food intake in certain circumstances. This is the first step is to get rid of processed and sugary foods. From there you can tweak and make sure you’re getting an appropriate amount of calories for your body’s needs and balancing the diet. The bottom line is that I want to save you from Weight Watcher-ing and thinking about whether certain foods fit into your calorie allowance for the day.

About Jenn Haralson

Jenn is a design nerd and food enthusiast who is obsessed with ultimate health. She hates diet food and putting on pants. She lives just outside of Austin with her husband and two dogs, Cosmo and Dot.