For several years, I tracked my macros in MyFitnessPal based on daily gram goals I set for protein, fat and carbohydrates. Why? I believed cycling my carbs (some days were under 50g net carbs while some days I ate over 200g carbs) and pairing my workouts to my nutrition would result in fat loss and muscle gain. And it worked! …
Until it didn’t.
Stress and Low Carb Days
Before I ever heard the term “shelter-at-home” I had a stressful 6+ months, but I continued to power through low carb days, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts and intermittent fasting. I used the control I had over my food to help balance the out-of-my-control parts of my life. My “power through” mentality caused me to learn the hard way that the combination of low carb, HIIT and intermittent fasting—which already turns on your fight-or-flight system—paired with additional stress, is a recipe for hormonal disaster.
In a low-to-no-stress person, these fat loss strategies aren’t necessarily a bad thing. There is science suggesting these can rev up your body’s ability to burn fat; however, the majority of people are NOT stress-free. Everyday stresses from raising kids, marriage, jobs, paying bills, driving a car, etc. is enough to cause stress, but add in a death, toxic work environment, financial crisis, or a freaking global pandemic and it can shake even the calmest of people. Your body can only handle so much stress before the constant flow of cortisol tanks the rest of your hormones and sets your body into a tailspin.
The Top 5 Reasons I Stopped Tracking Macros
Once I realized I was now reversing the previous “success” I had enjoyed in my appearance, I opened my eyes to several other reasons why tracking macros was not a healthy approach for me. It was more than just the macros. It was coming to terms with my lifetime of disordered eating habits. It was also acknowledging that what I was doing was seeped in diet culture and that I had fallen for it hook, line and sinker. While my journey has taken place over the course of many years (and many diets!), the top reasons I finally woke up and stopped tracking macros was:
- I realized I had trusted a calculator app over my own body to determine what I needed. A calculator that had NO consideration for my genetics, stress levels, hormone levels, emotions, autoimmune disease, and all the billion other things that make me uniquely me. It had become such a critical part of my disordered eating, I had to actively ween myself off from using the food tracking app.
- I allowed macro grams to determine what I ate. I would mix combinations I didn’t really feel like eating all in the name of hitting those macro goals. Macro Tetris anyone?
- Constant guilt. Too much to think about. Too many ways to fail. Eating window. Fasting window. Macro goals. Workout style. Low carb day. Feast day. Leg day. Good Lord, could I just enjoy the freaking day without all the specifics to keep track of?!
- I had NO energy after two low-carb days. The cycle always had back-to-back low-carb days so literally every Wednesday, I was exhausted and had to use much lower dumbbells in my workout to compensate.
- I had gotten unhealthier in my quest for fat loss. My mental health sucked. My inner dialogue was awful. I now had anxiety since my cortisol levels were through the roof when I combined everyday stresses with HIIT and low carb. I was obsessed with tracking. I acted like an elitist in my food choices and ability to do intermittent fasting. I had terrible mood swings. The weight of guilt was heavier than any pound of fat my body “refused” to let go off.
Writing and then re-reading that list is both hard and therapeutic to me. And I’m also a little embarrassed, if I’m being honest here. I read those 5 reasons back and see 100% clearly that I was so obviously on a diet. But I vehemently argued that it wasn’t while I was on it. I believed I was doing what was best for my health. I believed the lie that we have to have willpower, grit, and self-determination in order for our bodies to be thin—anything else is lazy.
But I finally realized that diet culture taught me to believe all those lie. Diet culture taught me guilt. Diet culture taught me that thin (and, in later year, strong) equals “healthy” no matter the detriment to mental and emotional health.
I am so happy I woke the eff up.
What I Do Now Instead of Macro Tracking
It is quite the journey to undo everything you’ve learned about “wellness” and “diets” your whole life. Even Certified Health Coaches and Registered Dietitians are not immune to the messaging that diet culture and society blasts in our ears. But I have learned to trust myself and the 10 principles of intuitive eating. Which means, I am now listening to my body’s needs. I am working towards food neutrality (e.g. an apple and cookie are equals—not “good” or “bad” foods.) I am also learning what foods help me feel my best and which foods don’t help me feel so great (then taking that knowledge and making the decision on if I still want to eat it based on digestion; not guilt.) It is certainly a journey, and I’m working through it, but I have seem the glimmers of light and hope at the end. And WOW is it bright and free!
Ready to ditch diet culture too?
If you are interested in beginning your own journey to stop macro tracking, purchase a copy of my Gain Wellness 35-Day Self-Guided Workbook and/or consider working with me 1:1 to heal your relationship with food, fitness and body image. Sign up for a FREE 15-minute consult to see how you can start ditching diet culture today.