Over the past few years, I’ve thought about macros in passing. I’ve tracked them more as part of percentage of my diet instead of the actual amount consumed. Mostly, I’ve been focused on my overall calorie consumption, but I’m trying to change that.
Since 2013, I’ve recorded my meals in MyFitnessPal since 2013, with varying degrees of zeal. I have gone through phases of logging every single item I eat (including each piece of sugar free gum), but sometimes I would question how healthy my tracking was and stop. I always had the same set up: set a goal of 1,200 calories a day, increasing with extra calories I burn.
At the start of this year, I hit my highest weight ever. Although not happy about this, it makes sense: I had been eating like shit and not working out. I wanted to change this, so I started tracking my meals again. Most people can probably relate: after a period of not tracking anything, you get the desire to start tracking your meals again to “get back on track”. Instead of getting back on track, I ended up feeling not great about myself when I went over my calorie goal, and didn’t see any results for the deficits.
Macro Focus Instead of Calorie Focus
Clearly what I was doing wasn’t working. Instead of simply counting calories and trying to stay under a goal, I decided to dip my toes in the macros pool. I started paying for MyFitnessPal premium last year so that I could export all of my data. Initially I took a look at the macro counting features, but I didn’t like it at the time. Recently I looked into it again, and have been much more at peace with my eating.
I’ve been trying to eat 1 gram of protein for every pound of lean mass I have, which ends up being about 90g of protein a day. Having done a VO2 max test, I know that the Fitbit calorie and cardio estimates for me aren’t really accurate. Because of this, I’ve change my approach: instead of allowing MyFitnessPal to increase my calorie limit with exercise calories (coming from my Fitbit), I keep a steady goal.
Now, my calorie goal is 1,500 calories, with 90g protein. While I do have goals for fat and carbs, I don’t pay attention to them much. The increased calorie goal is still less than an average day’s goal before (after adjustment for exercise calories), but it has changed how I look at food. Before, eating 500 calories at once would stress me out because it would be nearly half of my daily calories. Now, it’s 1/3 of my daily calories, which is much easier for me to reconcile in my head with the rest of my day.
Working my way up to my protein goal instead of stressing about getting too close to my calorie limit is freeing. Over the past month, I haven’t felt as “bad” about eating. It’s been easier for me to log all of my meals, because I don’t feel like a failure for eating. In addition to feeling better about myself, I’ve also lost about 3 pounds. I’m not always hitting my calorie goal (averaging 1,700 calories/day), but this approach is working for me.
…But Calories Are Still Important
Don’t get me wrong, you still need to eat at a caloric deficit to lose weight. I still do count my calories, and calories are still important. Calories are calories, whether they come from protein, fat, carbohydrates, or alcohol. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight, no matter how much protein you eat, or how “clean” your food is.
The difference for me is calories are no longer my focus. By tracking macros, I’ve change my mindset and made it easier for myself to actually eat at a deficit. I don’t know how long this will hold up, but I am really surprised by the benefits of a change in focus.