The Foods You Eat Still Matter
Based on every piece of legitimate information I've read, weight loss or gain comes down to energy balance. If you want to lose weight, you'll need to burn more calories than you ingest and if you want to gain weight, you need to consume more energy than you expend. It's an extremely simple explanation of a very complex topic, but for the most part it makes sense. The body requires energy to function. If you restrict the energy you consume, it forces the body to use stored energy (fat and muscle) to compensate.
The issue with this idea on the food side of the equation is that the foods you eat obviously have a caloric value, which helps to fulfill the energy requirements that your body has. For instance, if your body requires 1800 calories per day to function you could eat 1800 calories of pure carbohydrate and expect to neither gain, nor lose much weight (apart from water, since carbs help retain water).
Now, for the most part, there's not much wrong with this if we assume that energy balance is king. But in the real world, you need to consider if you're eating enough of the other macronutrients (protein & fat), enough micronutrients (accomplished via food diversity), and of course the right types of foods to help you feel fuller for longer.
While in terms of what is actually required to lose weight in a vacuum, calories rule everything. But in the real world, the foods you eat, very much matter if you want to have quality weight loss (losing fat while retaining muscle) and if you want to do it without hating your life.
Calorie Dense Foods Make Weight Loss More Difficult
While calories rule, the types of foods you eat can significantly influence your success and happiness. Calorie dense foods are arguably the most apparent foods that you should at least consider limiting or specifically tracking if you do decide to consume them. The reasons for this include that calorie dense foods are exactly how they sound. They have a small volume, but pack a large calorie punch.
Further, most of these foods are high in calories from 1 specific source; usually fat. Peanut butter is the poster child for calorie dense foods. Just two tablespoons have upwards of 150 calories and 16 grams of fat. Despite this fact, many market peanut butter to be high in protein, which blinds people from the truth.
While peanut butter does have protein, the protein found in peanut butter is incomplete, meaning it doesn't provide all of the necessary amino acids to build muscle. While this isn't a huge deal over the course of the day, it's important to know that peanut butter is far from being a great muscle builder.
Some of the most common offenders include:
The issue with eating these types of foods is that they significantly contribute to calories, but have little impact on the other factors of weight loss, such as helping you to stay full or helping you feel full in the first place. These factors should be the primary outcome that you're looking for when making your food decisions.
Keep in mind that many of these foods are often staples in diets. I'm not saying you can't eat these foods, you just need to understand that just because a food is labeled "healthy" (see: nuts) doesn't mean that it can't negatively affect your weight loss if not controlled.
Limit Or Specifically Track These Foods
Now that you understand why I recommend limiting these types of foods, you should consider how you'll incorporate them into your routine. I mean, to say you'll never eat pizza again is ludicris, so mapping out how you'll consume these foods is a must.
If you happen to track your food intake, being able to incorporate foods like peanut butter, ice cream or even avocados isn't too difficult, since you can just subtract the calories from your daily allowance. If you aren't tracking though, I suggest restricting how often you eat these foods or at least premeditating on when you'll consume these types of foods, such as once a week or even once per day.
Taking these steps are especially important if you're not tracking calories, since it can be quite easy to accidentally over consume. For example, the difference between 1/4 cup of walnuts and 1/2 cup of walnuts is 200 calories! For reference, 1/4 cup of walnuts is almost the exact same amount of calories as a bratwurst!
When you get to see how impactful these foods are, even foods we often associate with health, you can begin to understand how different foods can impact your health in positive and negative ways.
Both Calories And Food Matters
At the end of the day, the total amount of calories that you consume matters above all else, but you have to remember that the foods you eat are what contributes those calories. But even more, the food you eat has a significant impact on the quality of your weight loss (losing fat over muscle) and how easy it is. Focusing on foods that are satiating, while avoiding calorie-dense foods is a recipe for success, since you'll have better control over your calorie intake.
If you do decide to continue consuming these foods, I encourage you to set forth guidelines for yourself or at least consider specifically tracking these foods, to ensure that you don't have a walnut fiasco on your hands.