I’m a great consumer of fitness content. I follow a lot of the big YouTubers in the bodybuilding/powerlifting community. Guys like Omar Isuf and Alan Thrall. One of the common themes I always hear in the community is about weight loss and gain, and how you should “track your macros” and use IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) as a strategy to enjoy eating the foods you love while still making progress on your goals.
I’ve used macro/calorie tracking in the past with great success. I used it to go from 335+ lbs. to 220 lbs. in about 10 months. I was laser focused on eating my 2,000 calories each day. No more and no less. I don’t think I could have done that for so many months without help. I had a therapist and a dietitian to support me. I would check in with my RD every other week, and provide her with three days worth of food logs to review. She would often make suggestions, telling me to consume a little more dairy for calcium, or more protein to support my exercise.
After my initial 100+ lb. weight loss, I still tracked off and on. I still wanted to lose weight, to get shredded like the ultra-lean fitness model types I saw on Instagram and YouTube. I used the MyFitnessPal app on my phone to track my foods, and I got leaner. For a brief time, I was down to 195 lbs., but what kept happening is that I could maintain my discipline and motivation for a short period and lose weight, but I had trouble maintaining that weight loss over the long term, even the next few months. Tracking worked for me until it didn’t.
For a lot of people, including me, tracking macros and calories (and anything else, really) causes a lot of additional stress that none of us needs in our lives. It causes us to obsess about the food we’re eating, how much we need, and how to reduce that amount. Tracking caused me to constantly be thinking about food, because I was always reminded of how many calories I had left for the day, and how big my dinner needed to be. There was never a time when I just listened to my hunger, ate when I felt like it, and ate until satisfied. For me, tracking just encouraged strange eating habits like waiting to have all my calories until late in the day, then feasting. Probably not great on the digestion, and certainly not great for my mental health.
Whatever happened to eating according to hunger, until reasonably satisfied? Surely we don’t need to follow the latest fad diet to lose weight. And must we watch our intake like a hawk in order to ensure we’re meeting all our macronutrient needs? I would answer with a resounding no! And I’ve recently discovered that there is a whole world of people out there with ideas on how to stop tracking, stop obsessing, yet still lose weight, eat for health, and be fit.
You don’t have to count all the things to lose fat. Here are some of the resources I’ve been finding helpful as I work to counter this mindset and eat sanely:
- Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. I haven’t read this book, but it seems like one of the more popular and important ones. From what I know of the Intuitive Eating mindset, it feels quite gentle and peaceful, encouraging you to work with the body rather than beat it into submission. I plan to read this book soon.
- Lose Stubborn Fat, the website of Josh Hillis, encourages us to reject a diet mentality and learn new skill and habits for weight loss. He uses an acceptance-based approach, and has familiar with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and other evidence-based approaches to connecting with your values and accepting what comes your way as you live those values.
- Georgie Fear has a great website about losing weight with four simple habits, rather than dieting. Her book Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss looks awesome, and I plan to read that one as well.
What do you think about tracking? How has it helped or harmed you? What do you think about these more intuitive, habit-based weight loss approaches?