Counting calories and/or tracking macros are quite popular in many nutrition programs out there.
Counting calories is pretty self explanatory … you’re counting the number of calories you eat in a day.
Tracking macros is when you break down where those calories are coming from – tracking the number of grams of protein, carbs, and fats that you’re consuming. (All calories are made up of macronutrients or macros. The only other place calories can come from is alcohol.)
I’m going to give you some raw and honest truth about tracking macros.
Before I do, you should definitely check out our training from last night where I broke down what macros are, how to track them, when to track them, and when not to track them.
Okay … so the answer to the question above … do you have to track macros to be successful?
But, it certainly can increase the likelihood of success.
Here’s why …
How can tracking macros help you achieve your goals?
Tracking macros allows for a level of specificity that you can’t achieve otherwise.
Think of it like this … can you be successful financially without ever budgeting or accounting for your income and expenses?
But, don’t you think you’d be more likely to succeed if you took some time to assess how much you’ve got coming in, the different revenue streams, and how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on?
That’s what tracking macros allows you to understand.
Tracking macros is a tool, not a requirement
First, it’s a great tool for understanding portion sizes … although the first time you see a REAL portion of peanut butter, it may be depressing! LOL
Second, it’s a great tool for understanding food labels. You should know what’s in the food you’re consuming.
Third, it’s a great tool for understanding your maintenance needs. How many calories does your body need to maintain where you’re currently at? Tracking macros will allow you to figure that out.
Fourth, it’s a great tool to create awareness around some habits that may not be serving you. You may be very low on protein, not eating enough veggies, not getting in enough fiber, etc. Tracking macros will shine a light on some of those things.
Lastly, it can be a great way to figure out what foods work well for you as an individual. You’ll start to notice if you prefer carbs over fats or vice versa, if you feel better on higher protein, if you do well with certain foods vs. others, etc.
Sounds like the holy grail of nutrition, right?
Not so fast.
Macros are just one single tool in the toolbox.
Yes, they provide useful information and a level of awareness that can really help.
But, does weighing and tracking every single bite of food that you take for the rest of your life sound fun?
Not to me it doesn’t.
The honest truth about counting macros
My belief is that everyone can benefit from spending at least 90 days tracking macros to learn the skill.
If you treat it like a skill that needs to be acquired … just like when you learned math, measuring distances, or budgeting your money … there’s a learning curve.
Give yourself time and grace to acquire that new skill.
You’ll start to become more equipped at eyeballing portion sizes, knowing what types of foods work better for you, and having a better grasp of food quantity and quality.
But, just like any tool … it can be used for good or used for harm.
A hammer is effective at driving in a nail but not so effective at screwing in a screw.
Macros can be a gateway to obsessive thoughts around food and disordered eating behaviors.
I fell into that trap, personally.
I became obsessed with hitting my numbers down to the gram. I suffered from anxiety if I had to go out and be social because I couldn’t track my macros perfectly. I thought about food all the time.
This is the dark side of tracking.
The problem is that most programs are one-trick ponies and shove tracking macros down everyone’s throat.
They create an environment where you feel like if you don’t hit your macros, you’re a failure.
Which is why so many people end up burned out and saying “fuck it” when it comes to tracking.
Tracking macros isn’t even an exact science. There’s human error and food labeling errors that make it damn near impossible to truly know exactly how many calories you’re consuming each day.
It’s not worth the obsession.
If you find yourself being consumed with tracking, feeling stressed about it, feeling like you need to be perfect, or suffering from anxiety if you don’t know how to track a meal …
You should not be tracking.
There are plenty of other tools in the toolbox.
If you are doing a program that gives you a set of macros, has you check in once per week, and their idea of coaching is “hit your macros better” … you need a new plan.
That’s not coaching. That’s the path to disordered eating.
Most people view tracking as an all or nothing thing …
Which is because most programs treat it like an all or nothing thing.
Be flexible and use multiple nutrition tools
Again, I cannot stress this enough … tracking is a single tool in the toolbox that can be useful in certain contexts and quite harmful in others.
You can track some days and not others and still make progress.
You can track for half of a day and still make progress.
You can track zero days and still make progress.
This is where understanding your own individual needs is so incredibly important.
Don’t allow yourself to be placed in a box.
Your success is not found in someone else’s way of doing things.
Tracking may be JUST the thing you need. Moving away from tracking may be JUST the thing you need.
And if you want to understand what that looks like for you … we can help with that.
I won’t even charge you for it because I’m so sick of seeing things forced upon you that do more harm than good.
I’ll tell you my honest and expert opinion about whether tracking makes sense for you or whether I think you should avoid it or if you fall somewhere in the middle.
Just schedule a call now.