I'm tired of people saying "but smoothies have sooo many calories" while sipping on their Diet Coke as if the fewer calories in a sugary soda are better for them than a naturally sweet, nutritiously dense, albeit calorically dense, fruit smoothie.

So what if it takes some ranch or melted cheese to get you to eat your veggies? It's ridiculous to miss out on the nutrients in those leafy greens because our calorie-centered world has vilified salad dressing. It's also ridiculous to choke down the food you hate because you're too scared to add in "the extra calories" of that thing you actually like that will help make it taste better to you.

Not all calories are created equal.

And shouldn't we rather eat more of the good stuff than eat less, but less nutritious, calories? When digesting food, our body doesn't see calories, it sees nutrients. We should see the same because fewer calories do not always mean more health. More calories are worth it if it means more nutrients.

However, we also shouldn't vilify "bad" calories, like those in soda and dessert and junk food. Just because you eat a "healthy" diet does not mean you have to avoid "unhealthy" snacks or punish yourself for "giving in" to junk food cravings. You have permission to thoroughly enjoy a 1600 calorie Ghirardelli ice cream sundae (pictured), without guilt or shame or trying to "make up" for that calorie intake later.

Don't worry, you don't have to throw away your "I care about health card." Calories can be useful tools in certain situations, but there certainly are no steadfast calorie rules you have to subject yourself to. Listen to your body, and eat what it wants. Remember that it's okay, normal, and even healthy to be flexible with your diet. Your body tolerates a larger degree of variability than you think. You certainly do not have to restrict your calorie intake or try to work off "extra" calories in the gym.

Nutrition is not a strict regimen of eating all the right foods at all the right times. Rather, it is developing a healthy relationship with food, learning how to listen to and care for your own unique body, mind, and soul. It is a lifelong process of self-negotiation and self-determination, not a list of external rules and restrictions.

Calorie counting tends to promote an adherence to external rules regarding what is "best" for you. I encourage you to instead learn to trust your own intuition around food, knowing that choices related to food are (and should be) influenced by mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health, not just physical health.

Calorie watching (read: restricting) is driven by a desire to watch (read: maintain or lose) one's weight. But weight should never even be a part of the conversation when you're focused on living your best life because weight does not have ANY power to make you healthier, happier, more lovable, etc. That work is internal, not external.

Weight does not equal health, happiness, or love-- all that stuff comes from inside you.

Your best weight is whatever weight you reach while living the healthiest life you actually enjoy. Enjoying your life (mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health) is just as important as "being healthy", a concept which in our society has been reduced to largely phony ideas of physical health. The truth is, in order to be truly healthy you have to enjoy your life because health is not just physical, no matter what our diet culture tries to tell you.

So let go of fear, shame, and guilt around foods and the calories in them. Despite what the world tells you, you can trust yourself around food. And you can be healthy without dieting. So eat what you want. Eat what you love.