Ever see those people who eat pizza, sweets, cereal, and whatever-the-heck-else-they-want, and still have abs and maintain their fit physique? Unfair right? Well, it is possible to eat those types of foods (processed, high-calorie, high sugar, etc.) and lose weight or have abs. If you are in a caloric deficit, you will lose body fat. Your body continuously burns energy, and if you eat fewer calories (energy) than you expend, you will lose weight. If you work out and have muscle, you will appear leaner as you continue to eat fewer calories than you expel. So, in the large scheme of things, YES, you can eat pizza, sweets, and sugary cereals, drink Kool-Aid, and have donuts before bed and STILL have abs if at the end of the day you are burning more energy than you are consuming.
Here is where the fine print comes in though. So let’s say you are eating a meal of 60 grams of carbs. Maybe white pasta is one of your favorite foods, so you would like to have it occasionally. Or maybe you have a big sweet tooth and feel like a toaster strudel every once in a while. You can eat either of those foods in the correct portion size to meet your 60g carbohydrate budget for that meal. Although it is unhealthy (mentally) to restrict oneself from certain foods or ban favorite foods from your diet, you will be missing out on many important nutrients if you ate like this all the time.
Nutritious foods do not have to be boring though! Instead of white pasta loaded with cheese, maybe choose whole wheat pasta with olive oil, pine nuts, sautéed spinach, tomatoes, and spices. Craving something sweet? Rather than a processed white flour pop tart with hardened sugary icing, you can make a piece of whole grain toast with nut butter, sliced banana, and a little fresh fruit jam. The point is, there are many ways to eat foods that still taste delicious while meeting calorie and macronutrient needs in order to help you continue reaching your goals. If you choose to reach your aesthetic goals with processed, high sugar, refined, vitamin and mineral lacking foods, you may miss out on many beneficial nutrients! For example, omega 3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and may even help prevent disease. Other poly and monounsaturated fatty acids are very beneficial to the body and considered heart-healthy fats. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytonutrients with many health benefits. Fiber, well we all know what fiber does, but it also may help lower cholesterol and helps to control blood sugar levels. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat or fat free dairy, and lean protein are all nutritious foods that provide a variety of different vitamins and minerals.
So to conclude, calories (which come from the macronutrients carbohydrates, fat, and protein (and ethanol)) are important for body weight, body composition, and total energy. If overweight, then becoming a healthy weight for your height will improve your health, as being overweight is a risk factor for many diseases. However, you can also get the most bang-for-your-buck in regards to calories by choosing nutritious foods to fit your energy needs. Choose foods with vitamins, minerals, heart healthy fats, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients to help optimize your nutrition.