Why I Will Never Count My Macros
If you dabble in the health world at all, you've probably heard about counting your macros. Social media is full of #IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and plenty of other related hashtags. For those of you who are worried that I'm speaking another language, let me break it down.
"Macros" is simply slang for macronutrients - protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Your calories, or food energy, come from these three sources, and monitoring your intake of each respective category is based on your age, weight, activity level, and goals. If you want to maintain, gain, or lose weight, counting macros is far more efficient than simply counting calories. By determining how much of each macronutrient you require for your goals, you can be sure to maintain muscle mass while eating the proper amount.
Counting your macros can be an excellent way to achieve a healthy lifestyle, but I will continue to stay far away from this method. Why? Because it would be the biggest detriment that I can imagine to my pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.
You see, I have a history of a very negative relationship with food and unhealthy body image issues. Food was something I obsessed over for years, it was a medium of control when life felt out of control, and it was a way to reward, but more often punish, myself for following the plan or falling off the wagon. For some people, counting their macros is freeing and helps them moderate their caloric intake.
For me, counting macros would be a constant reminder of what I'm eating and the hold that food has over me. It would cause me to obsess, feel guilt, and live inside the confines of a plan that would drive me crazy in the pursuit of perfection.
One of my favorite nutrition podcasts is Balanced Bites, and a comment from a recent episode really stuck with me, "Managing your stress around a lifestyle change is even more important than the lifestyle change itself." Health is physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, and I know myself well enough to know that counting macros would be a detriment to my emotional health. In turn, the amount of stress I would feel would impact my physical health because that is how our bodies work. Chasing after a healthy lifestyle isn't just about food or exercise; it's about the big picture. There are many different paths to health, and what works for someone else will not necessarily work for you, and the best part is that it doesn't have to!
In summary, it's important to realize that there is nothing wrong with counting your macros. When done correctly, it can be an incredible thing for your health. However, I am a big believer in real food and real ingredients, so if you are counting your macros, make sure you're not depending on processed food for your calories. I don't care if it fits your macros, Halo Top is still full of some crappy ingredients (see my previous post).
If you feel the need to keep up with someone else's health strategy, it's time to let that go. Certain things are required of everyone to be healthy (eat real food, exercise, drink water, sleep), but if a plan is causing you more stress than success, let. it. go. Just because your friend is paleo or vegan or full of smoothies, that doesn't have to be you. To steal another Balanced Bites quote, "We're not talking about being strict for a month, we're talking about being healthy for a lifetime." You don't want to be miserable for a lifetime, so find what works for you, get educated, and run with it.