This post is something I've wanted to write for YEARS. Today, I'm talking about an approach to dieting that I did on and off for three years. Before I get too into it, I want it to be clear that I am NOT dissing this approach to nutrition. This simply didn't work for my life. There isn't a whole lot of information on this way of eating out there and I hope my honest feedback can help people see a little deeper than the surface before they decide to dive straight into this. Here we go....
Three years ago I saw people on instgram eating Eddys ice cream EVERY SINGLE NIGHT and waking up with abs. WTF? How in the world could they do that? Not only ice cream, poptarts, bagels, bread, cookies..all the things I wasn't eating. I came to learn that what they were doing was called IIFYM (if it fits your macros) or counting your macros. AKA: Eating the specific amount of protein, carbs and fat for your specific body based loosely off a variety of calculations.
Here's how it works:
- A calculation based off your age, height, weight and goals will determine the amount of macronutrients you need for the day to just survive. From there you can adjust those numbers to either stay at the weight you currently are (maintain), lose weight, or gain weight.
- You weigh out all of your food on a scale making sure to hit your numbers daily.
- Grains, sugar, dairy ect..nothing is off limits. If it fits within YOUR specific numbers for the day, you can eat it.
- You track your food in an app to make sure you don't go over your numbers and to make sure you're eating enough of each macronutrient.
I mean how cool does that sound? You can have anything you want if it fits in your numbers?
Important things to note:
- If you want to stay full throughout the day, you NEED to eat more nutrient dense foods. While it may look fun to eat poptarts for breakfast, those fun foods will pretty much take up all of your intake for the day!
- People who count their macros still need and eat veggies just like everyone else (or at least they should)!
Okay, so now that you know how it works. Here we go! I first started to count my macros three years ago. I got my calculations off of an online source because I didn't want to hire a coach at the time, I downloaded MyFitnessPal and started to track my food daily. I ate ice cream with graham crackers every night for 7 days and after 14 days I was LEAN. I was hooked. About 2 months in though, I hated life because I felt like shit. Well I wonder why Rachel? You're eating grilled cheese for lunch, ice cream for dessert and making a bunch of shit fit into your macros--leaving very little room for nutrient dense food. Without diving in deeper, or making some simple adjustments, I decided to quit and go back to simply eating food that made me feel good. Because being lean didn't mask the fact that I looked sick, and it didn't mask the fact that eating grapes at a BBQ caused me so much anxiety I wanted to leave because I couldn't just eat freely without weighing.
Quickly I became terrified of food. Because now I didn't see a banana as a banana, I saw 27g of carbs. I didn't see green beans as a veggie, I saw the amount of carbs they would take away from my daily total. Would I rather have green beans or a Ezekiel bread? Well of course I knew I should have the green beans but instead I would choose the more fun option.
Even after I deleted the app off of my phone, I had gotten use to what portions looked like. In reality that was a good thing, I could know how much protein I needed with each meal which so many people don't know! That's not how it worked for me though. Now the weekly "relaxed" or cheat meal wasn't just some pizza and ice cream. I'd secretly be tallying the amount of fat and carbs in my head. 300+g of carbs + 200g of fat for my relaxed meal. No thank you! I would then go on to think about how long I'd have to work to get that off because I had then become aware of the amount of calories I was eating. Side note: counting macros is NOT the same as counting calories.
Because I had become a counting monster and basically feared all foods, I went back to what I knew worked. Counting, again. This would continue for 2 years. Counting became the only place I felt safe. Not because I could eat foods I wanted, I could do that eating clean--but because this was structure and I was scared out of my mind if I didn't have it. I needed to know the numbers. I felt as if this was the only way I could stay lean.
I counted my macros for three years to maintain a certain physique.
One final time I said fuck this and really committed to stop counting. But if you've read prior posts, you know that I mixed binge eating into the mix and it was bad. I had stopped counting and lost it for a few months because I was too scared to ask for help and let someone know that what I was doing to my body was unhealthy. So there I was, post three binge spree feeling disgusting and so upset with my body. I decided to count again, and this time I went full force and bought a nice scale, a coach, the whole nine yards. I even decided to compete in a bikini competition.
This time was different, I felt that by having a coach who understood me that I was on top of the world. Love her BTW! She helped me in so many ways but something was still off. I lived for my food because I was always hungry. I knew that by deciding to compete that I was choosing to diet, that I was choosing to eat less. But hungry became me. I was hungry all the time. I began to get so intense about it that I would cut grapes into small pieces in order to hit the number to the T, that way I wouldn't go over my carb intake.
Listen, I don't blame my coach or ANYONE for the matter for how I acted and the behaviors I created. That was on me. But what happened when I decided to count is that from that point on, food was no longer nutrients for me. It was only numbers.
I finally stopped. One day I was working out with a friend and afterwards he ate a smoothie. It was huge! PACKED with spinach, avocado, a banana, chia seeds, and protein powder. He drank it all and my first thought was OH MY GOSH--ALL THOSE CARBS! A 1/2 of an avocado, does he know how much fat that is for one meal? (no, I don't fear fat or carbs--for me, it would have exceeded my numbers though). I then excused myself to the bathroom and I cried.
I was raised in the fitness industry, with a dad who taught me that I was strong and beautiful. We didn't own a scale of any sorts. We ate healthy food that made us feel good and that was it. No stress, no dieting. Nothing. I knew better. I use to wake up daily and make a big green smoothie--and I loved my body then. That day I went into the bathroom and cried because I knew, I had known all along that this relationship and though pattern that I had created with food and seeing it as numbers was horrible. On the inside all I wanted was to eat healthy again and not over think it. So that's what I did.
I deleted the app for the last time. I began to have my smoothies again, not freaking out over the fruit content. I cooked with fat again, because I wasn't restricting myself to 25g a day anymore.
I would be lying if I said there where times were I didn't want to count. It has become a place I know I can go and get lean. But my goal in life is not simply to become lean. It's to be healthy. From the inside out--that starts with a healthy mindset.
So, did counting my macros work for me? No. When I'm 85, I want to be doing the same exact thing I'm doing now to be healthy and fit. Honestly, who wants to count and track things at 85? Not me. Does this work for some people? Yes, of course! It worked for me, I lost weight and looked insanely lean. But I also lost myself. And NEVER will I risk loosing that again.
If you have any questions at all please don't hesitate to email me and ask: firstname.lastname@example.org