Calories are important but focus on more.
We have all focused on calories too much. If you think about calories that are 100 calories or less, you will quickly see my points. A medium apple has about 75-95 calories. It is a great snack that will keep you full longer. A single Oreo has 50-70 calories. Triskets have about 140 calories for 5-6 crackers. A slice of cheese has about 100-120 calories on the average. These all have varying ability to keep you full, so they are not all the same when it comes to nutrition or satiety. I am not saying that calories are not important or that you should not focus on how many calories you eat. In my pre-med training and some of the medical school, I took several classes in nutrition. The professors focused on calorie counts and exercise as the key to weight loss in almost all of the classes. Like many of us, I reverted back to my training when I tried to lose weight and ultimately failed to lose and maintain weight loss. Although the math might make sense, it does not lead to lasting weight loss if you focus on calories alone. Last weight loss requires reduced calories with adequate protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
After medical school, I gained weight and tried to lose it to maintain a level of fitness required by the military. The more I counted my calories, the more frustrated I became when the weight did not come off. I tried high protein diets, exercise, calories counts, and just about any diet you can imagine, and each failed. About two years ago, I made a conscious decision to change and become more healthy. Instead of trying to make a quick fix weight loss, I research the science behind dieting. What I found was a group of articles that suggested a multitude of food that will help with weight loss. I decided to read more on fiber. I have tried higher protein and calorie restrictions, and both worked but failed to keep the weight off. The funny thing I have found is that as I added fiber to my diet, I found that weight loss was nearly effortless. The fiber kept me full longer. Honestly, it is really hard to eat too many calories when you eat at least 40 grams of fiber per day.
I really wish it was as simple as eating calories. I like simplicity, and there is nothing quite as simple as counting calories. If it were, it would be a simple battle between the calculator and my stomach, but unfortunately, you need to be a little more focused on the totality of your diet and not just calories. When I focus solely on calories in the past, I failed miserably at losing weight no matter how successful I was at counting the calories because I felt deprived and I am sure I was not getting enough fiber and vitamins and minerals. I was in a sense malnourished on a micro-nutrient level.
The bottom line: Not all calories are created equal, and some foods are more filling than others. Choose your food wisely and stay full longer. People that focus solely on calories might be depriving themselves of the fiber to keep themselves full and vitamins and minerals. Instead, focus on healthy, higher nutrient foods that are naturally low in calories and rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.