Are all calories created equal? We know that weight loss is a matter of calories in vs. calories out. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight. The problem is...it's just not that simple. The QUALITY of the calories makes a big difference. For example, are the 350 calories from a spinach salad the same as the 300 calories from a McDonald's cheeseburger? Of course not. The most obvious difference is the AMOUNT of food you are getting! When I say cheeseburger, I mean ONE of those nasty little things that you get 2 of when you order the "meal deal" that only have ketchup, onions and 1 measly slice of pickle on it. I don't know about you, but one of those would not be the end of my meal. The salad on the other hand could be quite large. I usually use 2 big handfuls of spinach, 1/2 an avocado, a serving of dressing and end with a sprinkle of Craisins (so delicious, btw - also yummy with about a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese…) Now that is a meal I can be satisfied with!
Beyond the portion size caloric difference, there is the matter of how your body processes those calories. While it is true that it takes the same amount of energy to burn 1 calorie of fried chicken as it does 1 calorie of celery, your body then processes the nutrients differently. Protein is used to rebuild muscle. Unsaturated fats help our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Fiber (fresh fruits and veggies) doesn't digest completely which means that some of its calories aren't even absorbed in the body and it aids in digestion and helps you feel fuller, longer. In contrast, saturated fats can lead to high cholesterol levels (this is somewhat controversial) and processed sugars and grains cause a spike in insulin levels that can leave you hungry sooner and craving more processed carbohydrates (this equates to you eating extra calories).
In my personal opinion, there is a HUGE difference in how I FEEL when I am fueling my body with fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats that are full of fiber and proper nutrients as opposed to fast foods, processed snacks and candy (I do have to exclude LemonHeads from this though...I SWEAR those things have a medicinal effect on me). When I'm eating smarter, I'm less bloated and gassy (TMI?). I have more energy and WAY more patience. I feel more motivated and can work harder and longer in my workouts. So, while I do believe that in order to lose weight, you have to create a negative caloric imbalance by focusing on the AMOUNT of calories you eat, I think it is just as important to focus on the QUALITY of those calories.
Don't forget, you are what you eat...do you really want to be fast, cheap and easy?