Do I Track?
Tracking calories and macros in a phone app … I have a love-hate relationship with it. I love it because it taught me how to establish which macros work best for my body (in terms of performance and body recomposition), it taught me how to approach flexible dieting, it helped me get really good at estimating the amount of calories in various portions of food, and it helped me learn how to practice moderation. This gave me food freedom: I no longer had to rely on strict meal plans to get results.
Because I tracked my calories and macros for years, and because I'm a creature of habit with my dietary choices, I became very good at estimating my portions, calories and macros.
It wasn't before long that I had honed a skill. I had become an expert at intuitively eating the calories and macros that worked best for me mentally and physically. This helped me stop getting so hung up on the precise grams of macronutrients, or the exact amount of calories. I had learned a maintainable approach to practicing moderation. I no longer needed to track my calories and macros.
I wouldn’t have gotten to this level without having tracked my calories and macros. So yes, I do recommend tracking for newbies because it’s how you learn to become an expert at intuitively eating the right amount of calories and macros for your body. I also recommend tracking for "those times" when we need to increase our own accountability (perhaps you have an upcoming photoshoot, or you need to "make weight" for your athletic competition, or you're on a cruise ship bombarded by food, or you're struggling and need to increase your food intake awareness).
I tracked for 4 years before I realized I no longer needed "training wheels". I knew what I was doing. So I had to ask myself why I was so reluctant to stop tracking. Truth be told: I was scared I would gain weight if I discontinued my "ritualistic behaviour".
Why Tracking Became "Bad" For Me:
This approach to nutrition didn't take into consideration what I was actually digesting. It only addressed what I was ingesting. Do we digest everything we ingest? Not necessarily. If you are in a sympathetic state of your nervous system, you will not be able to digest the 30g of protein you've been told to consume multiple times a day. With my new approach, I take into consideration the state of my nervous system. I like to eat my protein before bed, when I'm winding down for the day and I'm in a parasympathetic state (so I'll actually be able to digest what I ingest). This also helps me fall asleep when I go to bed.
Furthermore, trying to follow an exact prescription of calories and macros was a lot of daily pressure. I was always tracking my food in my app, even in restaurants, even while people were trying to have conversations with me. I wasn't even able to enjoy my meal because I was too busy tracking while I was eating. I even have fitness model friends who bring a food scale to restaurants to weigh the food! I think we can all agree that this is not normal behaviour.
I had locked myself into something that made me feel like I was either passing or failing. I had to eat an exact amount of calories, fibre, carbs, fats and protein, or else I failed for the day. I always felt like I was failing because I couldn’t nail my macros and calories perfectly, although, who the heck can? and if they can…. why are they so insistent on perfection? All this does is train us to become losers at dieting.
I realized that trying to adhere to my "calorie and macro rules" was making me anxious. And the travesty is that you don’t have to be that precise in order to succeed! The fewer the rules, the better. Why? Because rules get broken, and this leads to anxiety. Anxiety precludes results. But this doesn’t mean you can eat donuts all damn day.
This made me question what was really going on to cause this ritualistic behaviour. I realized I didn't believe in myself enough to go it alone, without my "training wheels".
To walk away from something that you’ve always done is very hard to do ... because you have to walk away from your comfort zone. It's the reason why you continue doing things the way you have always done them, even when you know it's not in your best interest. The more time you invest in something, the greater the angst you will face when it's time to reconsider. Basically, we find comfort in our daily habits, even if they are bad for us.
Time for an Intervention
In 2016, I made the decision to quit tracking my calories and macros. I quit cold turkey! I reassured myself by making a list of reasons why I would succeed on my own:
•From experience, I know how to estimate calories and macros, and I know what macros work the best for me.
•I tend to eat the same types of foods on a daily basis so I’m already familiar with the carbs/macros I typically consume in a day.
•I am not depriving myself of calories or carbs, so it's not difficult for me to remain consistent. The biggest mistake I made was going on a diet in my early 20’s. I spent the majority of my 20’s and 30’s on a bloody diet! For the first time in decades, I’m no longer on a diet, and for the first time in decades, I’m maintaining my weight! Let me say that again: not being on a diet is the secret to maintaining your weight!
Note: The only time I needed to truly rely on tracking was when I was on a diet (i.e. when I was cutting calories and carbs). I was hungry all the time, so I would over consume. But all tracking did in this situation was make it obvious to me that I was over consuming food and failing miserably at adhering to my prescribed calories and macros. The solution isn't tracking. The solution is to stop depriving yourself of the calories your body requires to function.
Good news. I am able to loosely adhere to my desired macros/calories on a daily basis. I was willing to experiment with this (which means I was willing to make mistakes and learn), and it paid off for me… it liberated me. It made me stop second guessing what I was eating, and it forced me to actually listen to my body. My body is smart: it will tells me what it needs.
I listen to my body and I make intelligent choices the majority of the time. I enjoy food and successfully practice moderation. I don’t believe we need to follow something strict or that we need to answer to someone in order succeed (because that is NOT maintainable).
Practicing moderation is a maintainable skill that we can hone from experimenting, which means being cool with making mistakes (mistakes are the only way to learn what works/doesn’t work for you). When it comes to food, I firmly believe we have to minimize temptation in order to succeed. I always say, "less options = more chances for success". That’s why I only purchase one tempting item at the grocery store per week. In other words, my house is not filled with tempting high calorie cheat foods. For example, this week, I bought ice cream for my freezer, but I didn’t also buy licorice and cookies because if I did, I’d end up succumbing to temptation. I think this is common sense: You can’t eat everything! And if you can’t stop yourself from eating everything, then that’s a sign that there’s something else going on emotionally/mentally that needs to be addressed (why are you stuck in a flight state and why are you relying on food to get you out of it instead of taking action to rectify the cause of your self-sabotaging BS?). Note that bingeing could also be a sign that you might not be eating enough calories and carbs.
More good news: I’ve been able to obviously improve my body composition (more muscle and strength), I’m obviously not gaining fat, and I no longer feel like I’m either “passing” or “failing”. #GainingWeightisCool.
I eat when I’m hungry and until I’m full. I’m never hungry in the morning, which is why I fast daily following a 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol.
So on that note: no, I will not give you personalized macros and calories to follow. If you are a newbie, I will encourage you to track your calories and macros in order to learn more about food and nutrients. But eventually, I’m going to ask you to wean yourself off of tracking. As always, I encourage you to experiment and embrace mistakes so you can figure out what works for you/doesn't work for you.
If you want to learn the principles behind intermittent fasting and flexible dieting (i.e. tracking calories and macros), or you want help adding more calories and carbs back into your diet (i.e. reverse dieting), then I'd be delighted to help you. This is my passion ... helping people restore their relationship with food. For more information about my Fat Loss Fast system, click here.