If you've been following me for a while, you likely know that my journey with tracking macros began well over a year ago. Prior to that, my relationship with food was anything but healthy. If you're unfamiliar with my story, I have a whole blog post on why I started tracking macros, but here is a little recap:
2014: Graduated from college, bad breakup, relied on alcohol and food (aka all the carbs) as a coping mechanism, hardly ever worked out, gained 25+ pounds
2015: Recognized the weight gain, began extreme restriction (~1000 cal/day), started lifting light weights and doing 45+ min of cardio daily, lost weight, became weak, tired, still unhappy. Disordered eating hit an all-time high. Would binge thousands of calories in one sitting. Gained weight back.
Beginning 2016: Followed beachbody meal plan, thought I had my eating under control. Found it to be even more restrictive, struggled with severe binge eating episodes (again). Mostly cardio workouts. Lost weight, gained weight, lost weight (you get it).
End 2016: Quit beachbody, pretty much stopped working out or following any meal plan. Gained weight yet again.
2017: Started lifting weights and working with a macro coach (Paola). Gained so much strength and happiness back, saw incredible results using her twelve week guide. Followed macros for pretty much the entire year (with a few weeks off here and there), finally started getting comfortable in the gym and could pretty much "guesstimate" all my meals correctly in MFP.
2018: Deleted MFP. Starting researching Intuitive Eating. Which led me to this very moment. So here we go...
First of all, let me just say that TRACKING. MACROS. WORKS. It's a great resource and it's based on science and it straight up WORKS - as long as you do it correctly. I do not want this blog post to be taken as "you shouldn't track macros," I just want you to understand it's not the ONLY way.
Second of all, I'm not really sure how to tell you how I got here. And I'm not really sure how this transition is going to pan out. All I know is that I haven't been tracking macros for almost a month now; I haven't completely gone off the deep end, but I haven't completely figured it all out either. The best way I can present this is to give you a list of pros and a list of cons. Take with it what you will :)
What I liked about tracking macros/IIFYM:
- Saw the physical results I wanted
- Still got to eat the foods that "weren't allowed" on my previous diets (aka all the ice cream)
- Gained so much knowledge about nutrition and metabolism
- Became familiar with portion sizes
- Gave me concrete rules to follow, which my type A personality inevitably loved
I loved tracking macros. I saw the results I had been so desperately trying to achieve for so long. I finally felt like I understood how my body was using the food I was eating.
I had the freedom to not restrict myself out of fear of eating too much and I had room for the foods I used to binge on.
I learned to eat in correct portions and that weighing your food gives you a much more accurate portion size than eyeballing a certain fraction of a package. I gained knowledge, I gained muscle, and I gained a sense of understanding about how the body is fueled by proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. I also learned that you don't need to cut any of these out of your diet. Ever.
Why I'm transitioning out of it:
- Entering everything into MFP (and I mean everything) became annoying
- Had to learn to weigh my food
- Sometimes felt like I was forcing myself to eat when I wasn't even hungry
- Stopped focusing on ingredients and began to see food as numbers
- Not a sustainable lifestyle for me long-term
As of right now, counting macros has served it's purpose - I'm ready to move on. After listening to so many podcasts, reading blogs, and now finally reading the book "Intuitive Eating," I know I'm ready for this next step in my journey with food. After a year of counting every little thing I put in my mouth, I knew it just wasn't a maintainable lifestyle for me. One day when I'm in my 30s with a family I'm not going to have my children watch me enter all my meals into a silly app. I recognize that that's totally manageable for some, but for me, it's just not an option.
I found myself starting to see food more as numbers in an app and less as sources of nutrients.
Some days I would be force feeding myself a protein shake or a handful of crackers because "I needed to hit my numbers." That still didn't feel like I was being the healthiest me I could be.
"Hold up, what even is counting macros and intuitive eating?"
The long and short of it is this:
Counting macros refers to simply calculating the number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats that your specific body needs. Sidenote: I HIGHLY recommend working with someone that is trained and someone that has been doing it for a decent length of time. There are online calculators and computer-generated formulas, but being able to talk to someone who actually understands your activity level and your dietary needs is SO important. I cannot recommend Paola (@paosfitworld) enough. A couple other women I found helpful while tracking macros are Madeline (@madeline_moves) and Julie (@juliealedbetter) - they are incredible!
Intuitive Eating is exactly as it sounds. It's tuning into your body's needs and hunger cues - eating when you're hungry, stopped when you're full. It's kind of sad, if you think about it, that we have to have a name for this. It seems so logical that it'd be second nature, but in today's day and age, it's just not. It's definitely proving to be challenging, but it's definitely going to be worth it.
"How did you go about making the transition?"
To be honest, I stopped tracking macros cold turkey. At the beginning of 2018, I took part in my friend Jess' Sexy Sugar Cleanse, in which I gave up most forms of sugar - as well as dairy, grains, legumes, and some fruits and veggies. I didn't track a single macro and I focused on eating whole foods. I had never felt better. The first week was tough; I still found myself adding up numbers in my head. Once you track macros for a year, it becomes habit to measure portions sizes out in your head and calculate their protein, fat, and carb content. But as the 20 days of the cleanse went on, I found myself focusing less and less on the macros and more on how my body was feeling.
"Won't you still be tempted to overindulge?"
Of course. I'm human. However, I'm at a point in my health and fitness journey where I can trust my body to tell me what it needs. Obviously I'm still learning and it's going to be a process. IE is not going to be an excuse to eat all the burgers and fries and milkshakes and call it satisfying my taste buds. Just as counting macros is not intended to be a free for all with just "hitting numbers."
From here on out, I'm focused on my hunger cues and eating healthy, nutrient-dense food. I'm sure I'll have days I'm more hungry than others and I'm sure I'll have days I eat less than what my macros used to call for. Bottom line is, if I'm out to dinner, I'm not going to stress about the carb content or the fat content and I won't feel obligated to get a salad. Is there anything wrong with getting a salad? NO, not if that's actually what you want. But if I want the fully loaded bison burger and sweet potato fries, that's what I'm going to enjoy.
Because from now on I'm going to look at the menu and ask myself "what is my body telling me it wants?" rather than "what can I fit into My Fitness Pal?”
I'm extremely excited for this new chapter in my life. Equally nervous. But excited. And I just want to thank each and every one of you for being so supportive of me. I know I have a long way to go, but hopefully this gives you plenty of insight as to why I'm making this transition. My relationship with food was better in 2017, but I know 2018 it will be the best it's ever been. And I can't wait to share this journey with you. If you have any questions at all, or if you have any good IE resources, feel free to leave a comment or email me!