What is a macro? “Macros” is a term for macronutrients. There are macro- and micronutrients in everything that we eat. When you hear someone say that they are tracking their macros, that means they are tracking how many carbohydrates, fats and proteins they are getting throughout the day. You or someone else will set your macros based on your age, activity level, goals and current body composition in a mathematic equation that spits out your totals for each group. Typically macros will look something like ‘60/40/20’ and that means 60% coming from carbs, 40% coming from protein and 20% coming from fats – and like I said, that number is different for each person as we are all different. Your macros will fluctuate as your body changes. You don’t bother with calories as the fiber content and other factors can effect caloric density and you just focus on the macro count in everything that you consume. This can be tracked easily on apps like My Fitness Pal and always with a food scale. You will also hear this referred to as 'flexible dieting'.
Why did you start in the first place? Competitive bodybuilders use macro counting to ensure that their body composition is in peak condition on the day that they compete. They “bulk” and gain a lot of muscle and then cut back or "lean out" as competition nears to shed fat and let their muscles pop out. I don’t have a desire to compete but I did have a desire to change my body composition. I was “skinny fat” meaning that I had lost a lot of weight (60 pounds) but still had a higher body fat percentage than I wanted to. Basically, I wasn’t building a lot of muscle. I found that I was undereating for an extended period of time and so my body wasn’t retaining muscle gains (my body was basically eating muscle instead of growing muscle)
Did it work? Yes. I saw drastic changes in my body composition in a positive way. I learned a lot that allowed me to have a healthier relationship with food – I wasn’t afraid to eat more thinking that I would gain weight back. I stopped being wary of certain foods and just saw food as nourishment. I also got a lot out of using the food scale. I was amazed at what a true serving size looked like with some things (like fruit!) and was pleasantly surprised by others (I was always so skimpy with my nut butters and came to realize I wasn’t even using a whole serving) This also gave me a really good foundation and understanding of nutrition that I wouldn't have otherwise gotten.
Why did you stop? I have a tendency towards obsessive behavior. Counting calories and counting macros are both essentially the same thing. They are both diets. You are restricting what you eat. You are placing restrictions on yourself to change something about your body. Now, for some people that is absolutely fine and they have a healthy relationship with food and their body and it is a great addition to their routine. I just found myself overanalyzing my body, not allowing myself to eat things because it didn’t “fit”, etc. It was really, really time-consuming. I was spending so much time planning out my meals and making sure everything fit my macros. It just got to be overwhelming and was causing me to have a really obsessive and negative feeling around my fitness and my health. (I also hate math, and it is a lot of math.)
It also takes the focus away from important micronutrients. A lot of the “IIFYM” (if it fits your macros) community raves about how they can eat cookies, ice cream, cakes and donuts and it totally fits their macros – and it DOES. But what is that doing to their insides? Where are they getting their vitamins and things that make you truly healthy? I was really turned off by that aspect especially as someone who is educated on the health benefits of plant sources and the detriments of pre-packaged foods.
Would you recommend trying it? Yes IF you think you have a healthy relationship with food or think that some of the tools from macro tracking could help you for a short time, do it! It is educational. It is a very efficient and effective way to shed body fat (or bulk, depending on your goals) The food scale will definitely help you understand portion if you struggle with that. It’s nice because you can take the tools you learn and continue use even after you stop officially tracking. Once you get an understanding of how it works you can even start setting your own macros. It can also help you realize that one food group or type of food is not BAD. A donut has the same macro value as something healthier etc. so it does teach you that you don’t have to deprive yourself of treats to make progress.
What are you doing now? I am intuitively eating, if you want to label it. I have been for a few months now. But really, it just feels like I am trying to be my healthiest self. I now know how much I need to feel satiated and have a good idea of how many meals I need per day and at what times I get hungry. This is something you learn with experimenting and with time. Be patient with your body. I eat a whole foods, plant based diet. I eat when I am hungry and I stop when I am full. I am now at a place where I just eat healthy because I enjoy it, I don’t have to obsess about what is about to go into my mouth day in and day out. If I find a recipe on Minimalist Baker or Oh She Glows that sounds really good to me, I make it. I eat it. I ENJOY it. Tracking macros was not fun for me and I just want to let you know that if any part of your life is causing you unhappiness in any way, fix that shit. You do not have to track anything to meet your goals, you can. But you absolutely do not have to. My personal suggestion is always to educate yourself, look into changing your diet to include more whole foods from plant sources.
Are you worried that you won’t be able to meet your goals? Sometimes. Lately, I have been feeling comparison creep in as I watch other girls start to cut and get leaner for summer. I know that I would like to be a little thinner for bikini season and I let doubt creep in just like anyone else. But I just keep focusing on what makes me happy and challenging myself to be better every day. Body obsession is a distraction that keeps us from living in the fullness of our being. I will make a disciplined effort to increase my cardio and be more mindful of snacking, but do not ever feel pressured to follow a plan that you know is not healthy for you personally. One thing that you have to realize and get through your head is that every single body is different. One person may hold their fat in their legs and one person may hold their fat in their stomach and one person may hold their fat in their arms. And each one of those people is probably self-conscious about that and wishing they looked like the person standing next to them.
Hope this helps and answers some questions that you may have had and, as always, feel free to ask me anything!