First of all, this is NOT a diss to macros or tracking. At one point, it was the best thing for me. I currently have a love/hate relationship with tracking macros. Weirdly enough, it helped me SO much at the beginning, but not so much towards the end. Here’s my personal experience, and what I have learned along the way.
I started tracking at the beginning of my health journey. Like everyone else, I initially just wanted to lose weight. I did the short-term crash diets. I did the cardio. This time, I wanted to do it in a way that would bring long-term results. I followed a lot of fitness vloggers and instagrammers at the time, which is how I found out about tracking. I used different calculators and adjusted as needed. This and consistently hitting the gym worked really well for me. I got a sense of what exactly I was putting into my body, I reached my physique goals, and learn what portion sizes looked like. It also helped me binge a lot less.
I tracked for about two years, but consistently tracked for a year and a half. Currently, I haven’t tracked for the past three weeks. Honestly, I never thought I would say that. However, the longer I tracked, the more obsessive I got. It wasn’t until I started to intermittent fast, around last April, that I noticed how much of an issue it was for me.
I would cancel plans to eat out with friends if I knew it wouldn’t fit my macros. I would lean towards lower calorie foods, even if it didn’t taste as good as what I wanted. I would rotate between the same 4-5 meals to make sure I hit my macros each day. Most nights, I would even track everything I would eat for the next day.
This was my normal. Looking back, that’s insane to me. With this, and introducing my body to intermittent fasting, I was losing weight like crazy. I was reaching my physique goal faster than ever. But, I mentally felt SO off. At this point, restricting myself in the way that I had didn’t make aiming for a smaller waist worth it anymore.
I stopped because I switched from a physique goal to a mental health goal. I wanted to be more in tune with my body, heal my relationship with food, and be more comfortable in my own skin. Intuitive eating just made more sense for where I wanted to progress next.
So, I made the switch (slow, slow, slow switch) from tracking to intuitive eating back in July. It took me about four months to get away from tracking.
It was hard. It still is sometimes. SO hard. The hardest part for me? Tracking or not, I’ll still see those numbers in the food I eat. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like now which helps me know if I’m eating a balanced meal, but sometimes it’s a bad thing, because those numbers will haunt me as I reach for a second cookie.
I started at first by stopping intermittent fasting. I naturally don’t wake up hungry, but some days I do, so I honored that. Then, I started to loosely track. Here are few technical things that I transitioned into that helped me (I didn’t do these all at the same time):
-I didn’t track either one snack or main meal.
-I only tracked my main meals.
-I ate intuitively, then tracked everything at the end of the night.
-I didn’t track on days where I was eating out for holidays, birthdays, celebration, etc
Now, here are the ways I tried (and am still trying) to rewire my brain when transitioning:
-Consider your end goal: what lifestyle will get you there? What will make you happier?
-Focus on ingredients, not the numbers. Aim to fill your body with nutritious, wholesome foods.
-Listen to your body, its so smart. It will crave different things, it will want more food one day, it will want less food another day. And that’s okay.
-Associate your feelings with the food you eat. How do you feel after eating that additional portion? How do you feel swapping out that low cal version for the real deal? If the answer is satisfied, happy, content, etc, you’re doing something right.
-Breathe. Take it easy, especially when you eat out, find yourself hungry at night, have to grab food in a rush unexpectedly, etc. Sometimes lunch will be a pint of ice cream. Sometimes it will be a kale salad. Sometimes its a protein bar you shoved in your coat pocket. It’s okay, it be like that sometimes!!
There are days when I still “track” in my mind, only because I just KNOW the numbers associated with those foods, however, I try to keep my end goal in mind: to enjoy life and be happy. I knew tracking wouldn’t get me there. It’s served it’s purpose, it was time to move on.
I knew getting my body off of tracking and into intuitive eating would have lots of ups and downs. I expected to struggle. I expected to overeat/binge a lot more. I expected to gain some weight.
And I was right. All that, and more, happened. But, because I was changing the way I viewed food, the way I viewed these expectations were different. I consider those temporary things to be worth it if it meant that my mental health was improving.
A huge struggle right now for me is overeating when it comes to “bad” foods. It’s hard for me to stop at one serving of things like cookies, ice cream, brownies, etc, and I tend to just finish the whole in one sitting. Sometimes, my body needs it, but a lot of times, I just can’t control myself. This is something I’m working on.
However, I don’t fear overeating, strangely enough. I think my body would automatically want that because of my past relationship with food, I actually almost even welcomed it.
I knew I would tend to overeat more because I was so used to restriction, this new lifestyle I was adopting would make it feel like a free-for-all. I actually spent most of September overeating every night. Like a pint or two of Ben & Jerry’s 5 times a week. It was crazy, my skin broke out, and my digestive system was just NOT having it. But, I took this as an opportunity to learn (so cheesy I know.) Now I know, lots of dairy, sweets, and waffles does the body, skin, and wallet, BAD.
I assume I did gain some weight, but I’m not too sure because I also don’t weigh myself anymore. I can say, if I did, the weight I’m gaining is being distributed in a different way than before. I used to carry most of my weight in my oblique area (love handles UGH), and back. Now, I only notice the extra weight show up in my stomach area, and every other area generally stays the same. When the bloat goes down, I notice just being “fluffier” in that area (like now lol). I assume having consistency in the gym has helped me with this different weight distribution.
The weight gain doesn’t bother me because I know this is just a result of my body finding out what it needs to fuel it, and what its limits are. I don’t mind my weight fluctuating if it means that I’m growing mentally stronger.
I don’t really have a current physique goal, but I still have fitness goals, which switching to intuitive eating has actually helped me get there A LOT faster. I’m lifting heavier than I have ever been. I see a lot more definition in my quads and back. I overall just feel a lot more stronger and confident in the gym.
There are days when I feel tempted to go back, just because it was honestly easier for me. Freshmen year in college, I didn’t have many options as to what I “could” eat, so tracking just took out the anxiety of finding different foods. I stuck to the same meals, usually a carb and protein source, with fruit and veggies. My college uses Net Nutrition, a website that has nutrition information for food on campus, so I used that too as a resource. I didn’t find it difficult to eat healthy, or stay within my macros since I stuck to the same foods, and got creative when I had to (I was always asking for whole-grain, substitutions, add-ins like veggies, etc lol I was THAT girl.)
Another reason I want to go back? I knew this would help me lose those last few inches on my waist. Grow my quads a little more. Tone my arms just enough. But, it just isn’t worth it to me anymore.
I’m so tired of letting numbers control me.
There are days where I don’t want the other half of my banana because of the extra carbs. There are days when I track in my head and get anxious when having my snack at the end of the night. There are days where I wait until I am absolutely starving to eat breakfast. But these are the days that make me stronger.
I don’t want to live a life where fruit makes me nervous. A life where I never eat more than a serving of something again. A life that makes me stick to low calorie foods filled with additives just to keep me within a range of numbers.
Tracking isn’t for me anymore. At one point it was. For others, it still is. But for me, I can’t heal my mind and body in that way anymore.
Hopefully, my experience helps some of you. I think everyone needs to find the lifestyle that works best for them, and I think having a clear goal helps with that. Mine is to be fully happy with how I look and who I am, and food is something I don’t want to worry about anymore.