Is that the goal? Is that what we’re going for with the “counting your macros is not healthy” and the “accept your body the way it is, do not lose weight” and the ever popular “if you’re trying to lose weight, you are still under the thumb of the diet industry.” While a lot of the articles you’ll see with this theme of self love and acceptance are written by people with good intentions, they often feel disingenuous.
Let’s start from the beginning shall we and look at the factors that may have someone conclude that counting macros with the aim to lose weight is not healthy. Their introduction to macro counting was probably because of having jumped from diet to diet all their lives and having a desire to approach things in a healthier way. They were probably then introduced to macro counting at their cross-fit box or power-lifting gym. WOW! I can eat anything I want and still lose weight as long as I stay within these numbers?! I can ditch the unhealthy disordered eating behaviors I’ve had all my life?! What an amazing concept. So, they jump in headlong.
But here’s the thing, many of them end up bringing those disordered eating patterns to macro counting. The patterns they’ve had their whole lives infiltrates this otherwise healthy way of using nutrition to meet health/aesthetic goals. They obsess about the numbers. It’s not enough to meet your macros most of the time and to go out and eat with your friends every so often without tracking your macros. No, it becomes an all-or-nothing approach that has them glued to MyFitnessPal all day long trying to hit all zeros for their P/F/C.
Eventually, they get down to their goal weight; they ate enough protein and lifted heavy enough so they’re not skinny fat, they’re lean, they’re cut and perhaps they do a photo shoot or two to showcase their new and improved bod. Win win right?! Not so fast! They usually burn out because man how long can you go turning down all the invites to parties and restaurants and weddings and your grandmas cooking just because you don’t know the exact macro breakdown of everything. Or how long can you go bringing your own chicken, broccoli and rice cakes to a restaurant? Not forever that’s for sure. So, they burn out and look for more sustainable methods.
Usher in the moderation is the king and macros are bad phase. They go on this trajectory of touting how they are maintaining a fabulous physique without tracking every calorie or macro they put in their mouth. Sometimes, it’s not even about how they’re maintaining a fabulous physique and more about how they have diet freedom. This is not a bad thing at all and this is what I want for EVERYONE literally! Diet freedom!
Everyone should get to experience what it feels like to eat whatever you want whenever you want and still maintain health and achieve the aesthetic goals you desire. But what these “reformed” fitness gurus aren’t telling you is that this new learned moderation is based on a solid grasp of the basics of nutrition. True, they might have initially taken it to an extreme that made it impossible to maintain but ultimately them not regaining all their weight back or losing all their muscles now they’re practicing moderation isn’t just by happenstance. While they might not be diligently tracking everything they eat, they can easily eyeball the nutritional content of a meal. They are subconsciously drawing on the knowledge they have of nutrition to know they probably should only have only half of that bar of chocolate or that they probably should increase the serving size of Salmon they have on their plate, add a little more vegetables while perhaps keeping the potatoes to only a handful.
That’s the transparency I don’t see, and it drives me nuts. Ultimately, a fundamental knowledge of nutrition is needed if you’re to change your relationship with food for the better. This knowledge is a privilege that many do not have. While I believe that we need to move away from the obsession with being smaller and skinnier and all that, many people have a true desire for a different aesthetic and they want to know the healthiest way to get there. You know, I was going to just relegate it to those who want to be healthier but again, while that is all good and dandy, some people just want to have more muscle and less fat for strictly aesthetic purposes AND THAT IS JUST FINE!
Shit, I’ve literally NEVER hated my body but until last week, I’ve had a nutrition coach for the sole goal of losing fat and putting on muscle (in stages). I’ve never had a health concern, my lab work has always been on point and my cholesterol levels were the best I’d ever seen as a nurse even at my heaviest of 210lbs. So, me wanting to lose weight was never about health reasons. Sure, I want to maintain mobility into my old age (if I make it that far) and I want to flex on them hoes (haha) with my big muscles but ultimately; I wanted to wear a crop top and have my body look a certain way and I’m not ashamed of that. It is not because of the patriarchy; it is not because I think I’m better or prettier with a flat belly… it literally is just a preference.
So, yes, if you have things to unpack as it relates to why you’re losing weight, please do that. If you have unrealistic expectations about how you will suddenly become better/smarter/healthier/never die just because you’re skinnier, you need to check that and work to dismantle those beliefs because they’re just not true. If you, however, have a healthy view of self and just want to use nutrition as a tool to achieve health or aesthetic goals, then I believe that learning the basics of nutrition is the best place to start. And that often means unlearning a lot of bad habits you may have gained from chronic dieting.
Can you unlearn without macro counting? Sure, but macro counting just breaks things down in a way that’s scientific and just looks at numbers without emotional hangups. If you’re prone to obsession, it might not be the best approach to things but it is worth a look at. Just take what anyone who is super ripped (or not) tells you about how they “intuitively” know how to eat without tracking their meals with a grain of salt. Know that their “intuition” is probably because of having gained a mastery of the basics.
It all starts with the basics. Be smart, love yourself, have the discipline to master the basics and have a glass or two of wine every night while maintaining your preferred physique or health status!