Okay, okay, okay, okay…..I realize this entire post could come across as hypocritical or maybe odd, after my recent posts “singing the praises” of macro tracking.
BUT, I always try to keep this space very open and honest. And the reality is, well- there are a couple realities.
1) As I admitted previously, before now, the last time I’d tracked macros was many years ago. While I am/was confident in my knowledge of the topic, some of the actual experience of doing it was a little fuzzy.
2) There are some definite down-sides to macro tracking! (Maybe?) more down-sides than up-sides, depending on your viewpoint. I cannot fully discuss this topic without being transparent about this.
Now that I’ve been tracking quite consistently for 2 1/2 weeks now, I definitely remember some of the reasons I eventually stopped before. 😉 I’m going to try to not blab on forever about this, so, here we go, in no particular order:
Some bad stuff about tracking macros:
1. Tracking your food is tedious. And it can get old, fast. Weighing food, measuring things out….it can be, frankly, annoying. It can also make you feel…weird/ obsessive/ etc. sometimes.
2. Even though it’s not super “restrictive” (as in, you can eat any foods that you like), the reality is, if you’re trying to be in a caloric deficit, or even maybe maintenance mode, you’re probably going to have to limit and/or restrict a bit in some ways. This just comes with the territory of trying to lose weight/fat.
I do feel like I can eat a LOT of food while counting macros, but it’s not always the exact food I may feel like, in the moment. (Example- all the protein! I might have 150 calories “left” for the day, but perhaps in order to fit what’s left of my totals, they’d need to be all protein. And maybe I just feel like some fruit (carbs) and a piece of cheese (fat). Or a handful of chips. Or whatever. It can be a bit exasperating to be told what you can or cannot eat….by an app.
3. I sometimes take issue with the idea of eating a fixed number of calories per day. Because, in real life, I think we have some days that we simply want (or need) more calories than other days! Our bodies are pretty smart and good at adapting to our activity level and other needs. Animals in the wild do not count calories on their phones.
So, for example, if we say, “over-eat” a bit one day, we may find we naturally restrict a little bit the next day, without even thinking about it. We may not be as hungry! Or vice versa- if we under-eat a tad one day, we will more than likely make up for it over the next couple of days. Over the span of a week or a month, our calorie intake will average out to a pretty flat curve.
This explains why most adults, generally speaking, maintain their weight with little to no effort. And why people don’t really “accidentally” lose weight very often. (Yes, people can and will gain weight slowly over time, due to various reasons, but overall, your body probably hangs out right around its current natural set point without too much direction from you.)
It might not be your preferred weight/ set point! But a majority of adults do hover within 2-5 lbs. of the same weight for long stretches of time. This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ever want to lose weight, change your body’s composition or move your set point, but I just mean that people typically will intuitively eat more or less as needed to maintain their weight.) Homeostasis.
When you’re tracking macros, you’re essentially “forcing” your body to be very regimented/ regular with your calorie intake, the same every single day. This isn’t necessarily bad, but I just don’t know that I love the idea of people losing touch with their body’s natural hunger cues.
While tracking macros, it’s not uncommon for me to either eat something when I’m not even hungry (to “hit my macros”) OR feel a bit hungry, but decide to wait to eat so I can spread out my macros according to a pre-planned meal schedule. It just doesn’t seem 100% natural or maybe even healthy to mess with some of these built-in body signals. (Then again, our bodies are wired to want us a little “plump”- with extra storage to stay alive during the cold hard winter. 😉 )
The regularity of very consistent, optimized calorie consumption is great for body composition purposes, yes. If you want to be a bikini model, the whole thing is very effective. 😉 But big picture, I’m not positive that I love that part.
4. Speaking of big picture, tracking macros is simply not sustainable for some (or many) people long term. (*I did state in my previous posts that I personally feel that temporary macro tracking is a great learning tool, OR a way to buckle down and lose some stubborn fat. I personally never advocated for permanent, lifelong macro tracking.)
Because honestly, tracking your food for life??? Would kinda suck. And that bears asking the question- why do something that isn’t sustainable long term?? I think the ultimate goal for most everyone should be (in my opinion) to move toward a form of intuitive, natural eating that both nourishes you AND gets you the overall body composition you desire (or close enough). While eating foods you enjoy!
(*Of course, some people might love the structure of macro tracking- if it works for you long-term without being a burden and/or mental struggle, that’s fine too! I’m using generalizations here.)
What we hear so often in the healthy living articles is true…. what’s really required is a total lifestyle shift, not a temporary “diet”. And yep, this is probably easier said than done for a lot of people- but certainly not impossible. Macro tracking might help some people lay the foundation.
The same idea holds true for exercise. You have to find something that you can see yourself doing for the next 30 years (and is, ideally, pretty effective too!). Work smarter, not harder. 🙂
For me, I definitely feel that 3-4x per week lifting in the gym (45 minutes or so each time), plus 1-2 sessions of cardio (20-30 minute short home workouts), plus some casual walks sprinkled in, is a very sustainable, long term exercise “plan”. I can see this fitting into my life pretty effortlessly for the long haul. If someone said I needed to do Crossfit 6x/week for 90 minutes each time, or that I needed to run 35 miles per week, I’d never stick with it.
It really boils down to this: The best exercise and nutrition plan is the one you will consistently do!!! Consistency trumps almost everything else.
I’m starting to blab (okay, I started to blab 500 words ago), so I think I’ll wrap it up! There are probably other points I’m forgetting. Oh well, I can always write another post. 🤪
Final note! :
I still really do think that macro tracking can serve a (short term) purpose and can be VERY useful for helping people to learn more about nutrition, what foods are made up of and how your body responds to them. It also can be an amazing tool to really optimize your body’s composition, if you should so desire. Unfortunately, I don’t really see tracking as something I want to do forever- even if it IS super effective. I guess when we really get down to it, I choose (lots of/unrestricted) nachos over a “perfect” body. 😉 YOLO. 😂
I am grateful for finally painting my toenails the other night. Sandal season is here, but my feet were NOT ready, at all. 😬