For several years, I felt tracking my macros in MyFitnessPal based on daily gram goals I set for protein, fat and carbohydrates was the healthiest approach to fat loss. Why? I believed macro tracking, carb cycling, and pairing my workouts to my nutrition would result in weight loss and muscle gain. And it worked! …
UNTIL IT DIDN’T.
Stress and Low Carb Days
While participating in a carb cycling program called FASTer Way to Fat Loss, I went through a stressful 6+ months. Even though I had outside stresses happening in my life though, I continued to power through tracking my macros, daily workouts and intermittent fasting.
I used the perceived 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. Combining low carb with HIIT and intermittent fasting and additional stress, is a recipe for hormonal disaster!
In a low-to-no-stress person with no history of disordered eating or eating disorders, doing carb cycling and intermittent fasting aren’t necessarily a bad thing. However, the vast majority of people are NOT stress-free.
Everyday activities from raising kids, marriage, jobs, paying bills, 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 physical health into a complete tailspin.
The Top 5 Reasons I Stopped Tracking Macros And Carb Cycling
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 my macros and carb cycling was not a healthy approach for me.
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:
1. I realized I had trusted macro goals set by a food tracking app over my own body.
An online 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 MyFitnessPal.
2. 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? It also caused me to get into fights with my husband when he would suggest a meal or restaurant that didn’t match my macro goals for that day.
3. Carb cycling and intermittent fasting creates too many opportunities to fail.
With all those “fat loss strategies” there was way too much to think about. Too many ways in which I could 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?! Plus that constant threat of failure can’t be contained to just the food. You begin looking at other areas of your life with pass/fail, all-or-nothing thinking.
4. I had NO energy after two low-carb macro days.
The carb cycle schedule 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. My body thrives with more carbs.
5. I had gotten unhealthier in my quest for fat loss.
My mental health sucked. My inner dialogue was awful. I constantly felt anxious since my cortisol levels were through the roof. My obsession with macro tracking was taking priority over my family. And I acted like an elitist in my food choices and ability to do intermittent fasting. I had terrible mood swings.
Ultimately, I was forced to come to terms with my lifetime of disordered eating habits. Tracking my macros and carb cycling is seeped in diet culture and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I realized the weight of an eating disorder is heavier than any pound of fat my body “refused” to let go off.
It’s Diet Culture’s Fault. Not Mine.
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.
It’s both freeing and enraging to realize diet culture teaches all those lies. Diet culture promotes food guilt. And that thinness equals “healthy.” It doesn’t care about detriments to your mental and emotional health. No matter how many times they rebrand and claim it’s a lifestyle. Diet culture encourages body appearance over health.
I am so happy I woke the eff up.
What I Do Now Instead of Macro Tracking and Carb Cycling
It is quite the journey to undo everything you’ve learned about “wellness” and “diets” your whole life. Even Anti-Diet Nutritionists 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.
Now I listen to my body’s needs. I have food neutrality (e.g. an apple and cookie are equals—not “good” or “bad” foods) and know that all foods fit. So I mostly eat the foods that help me feel my best. I know which foods don’t help me feel so great, but I decide if I still want to eat it based on digestion; not guilt.
Eating intuitively is certainly a journey, and I continue to work through it every day. But I see the glimmers of light and hope at the end. And WOW is it bright and free!
Ready to ditch macro tracking and carb cycling 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.