Three years ago, I hopped on the IIFYM diet (stands for If It Fits Your Macros) and became obsessed with maximizing my protein, building my glutes, and losing fat.
Then, I did what any good big sister does – I sought to convert my little sister to my exact lifestyle. #SisterLife
For the sake of this very brief story (I swear I’ll get to the point soon), there’s two things you should know about my sister, Ham (yes, Ham):
- She’s been hard-line vegetarian since she was 14.
- She also has the appetite of a bird. That’s just her nature – sweet and light.
I calculated her macros, taught her how to track them in MyFitnessPal, generated sample meal plans, and created her weight training program (note: I was a Certified Personal Trainer, please don’t try this at home!).
Ham was miserable and threw in the towel within 2 months.
- Because she was force feeding herself egg whites and protein powder every damn day to meet her expertly calculated protein intake.
- Because she’d shifted from embracing her body to disciplining and ranking it.
- Because meal prep went from daily pleasantry to college-level chemistry class.
- Because she was sick of being bonded in servitude to her phone – searching, calculating, and logging every bite.
Ham’s experience is a case study in why diets fail. It simply doesn’t work long term because dieters aren’t learning self-reliance. In fact they’re practicing the opposite.
In this blog post, I’m going to break down exactly why macro tracking may actually be sabotaging your diet goals.
Then, I’m going to introduce you to the single most effective dieting tool for long term success on YOUR terms.
I use this tool with all of my coaching clients and students. I’ve created a FREE version for you so you can start taking charge of your diet TODAY!
4 MAJOR Reasons to STOP Tracking Your Macros
1. Numbers cannot control your behavior.
Using a number tracking system to control what you eat is like putting up a paper fence and expecting a tiger to stay inside.
MyFitnessPal has no power to reach through your smartphone and slap the cookies out of your hand at night.
Expecting macro tracking to be your magic, Do Not Pass This Point boundary is asking an external system to control you. You’re declaring, “I can’t stop myself from eating too many cookies, so I’m going ask this imaginary boundary to contain me.”
But it CAN’T control you, only YOU can control you.
(Don’t worry, I’m not going to use this as an opportunity to tell you about my epic 5 Day Willpower Supercharge course. I just won’t do that.)
Instead, what you need is a system that starts from the inside and moves outward.
2. Problem: Macros are invisible.
How many grams of protein are in 4 oz of chicken breast?
Is this 4 oz of chicken breast? Or 3? Or 2.68?
How much salad dressing is on this salad from the take out spot down the street?
Did babe serve me ½ cup of rice? Or 2/3rd cup?
Here-in lies the big rub with macro tracking – the grams of carbs, fat, and protein in a food is not written on that food! Thus, you are dependent on your phone to calculate your macros for you.
Plus, for the app to calculate it for you, you have to input the exact measurement of how much you ate. “About the size of my face” won’t cut it. So, you are also dependent on measuring tools all the time. You need a digital food scale, measuring cups, measuring spoons, pre-portioned tupperware, etc, at EVERY MEAL.
Oh, and that’s if you’re eating all single-ingredient foods, like: brown rice, steamed broccoli, 2 eggs.
But what about foods simmered in sauces or served in layers?
Mixed side dishes?
Soups, stews, and chilis?
Happy hour small plates?
You get the idea.
I mean seriously, what are you going to do?
- Only eat food you prepared and pre-portioned out yourself?
- Plug in each individual ingredient for every recipe you make?
- Then, tediously portion out how many servings are in the total?
- So then you can calculate the serving of the total macros you’re consuming with each serving? (I’m exhausted just reading that explanation!)
- Then, tediously portion out how many servings are in the total?
- Travel with a digital food scale in your carry on?
CONFESSION: I did ALL THESE during my days of macro tracking and #iifym dieting!
THAT’S HOW INSANE THIS SHIT IS!
Any diet system in which you can only be successful with: specific tools and equipment, a live internet connection, and time to consult with your phone before every single snack, meal, or bite is not a real solution!
Not sustainable. Not adaptable. Not empowering.
3. Psychosis – tracking macros every meal is like living in two worlds at once.
While skimming the menu or cooking in your kitchen,
serving yourself or being served,
sitting around the table,
enjoying company and conversation,
being a part of what’s actually going on here and now,
here’s what’s going on in your mind:
- Shit, I knew I would regret eating toast at breakfast! I’m gonna go over on my carbs today!
- How much protein was in that food bar 2 hours ago?
- Justin is going to make dinner tonight, he always cooks with too much oil. I’ve got to keep my fat as low as possible right now.
- How late will I be up tonight? If I go to bed early, I can avoid getting hungry for a late snack. That’s the only way I can avoid completely obliterating my macros today.
When you keep constant track of your macros, you superimpose a second reality on top of this reality.
You’re not even here at this meal any more. You’re re-running through everything you already ate today, and spiraling off into the future worrying about how you’ll manage 30 g protein for dinner with only 3 g of fat left.
You’re living a double life!
^ If that hit home, please, share this post on Facebook or Pinterest. Be the one to start a ripple of healing in your circle.
This is not only mentally exacerbating, it’s emotionally isolating.
You’re waging a secret battle in your mind every day, all day. Keeping what has your attention a secret kills relationships. Instead of connecting with others, you’re somewhere else, fighting a war without support.
We want you back here, with us.
4. It strips away the soul of food.
When I was in school, I fucking hated math. It was stale, tedious, even tyrannical. One wrong move, and you got slashed with The Red Pen. Every problem was like a little prison cell on a piece of paper.
Then, in 11th grade, I transferred to a boarding school in a new state (it’s a long story). I got a new math teacher, just in time for Algebra II and Geometry. His name was Mr. Fultz, and he was an angel in a sweater vest.
Fultz (I dropped the Mister, because we’re cool like that) tore down the prison walls separating math from real life.
He brought the content into the real world and gave math exercises a story my 17 year old self cared about. For every calculation, I had a reason to punch decimals into my TI-83 graphing calculator.
Macro tracking and MyFitnessPal is like math class, pre-Fultz. Your daily allowance of fat, carbs, and protein are little prison cells. Go past it, and sirens alarm and red lights flash and you’re put in solitary confinement until you’re back in line.
Food is rich in story, emotion, and context: the seasons, the soil, the hands that harvest, the culture that simmers and spices, the company you share it with…
It has soul far, far beyond numbers. There must be a meaning to your meals to ever truly find peace and confidence with food.
So…What the Hell will help you gain confidence and control of your diet?
A Portion Size Chart!
Look at that! I just happen to have one for you right here:
Why a Portion Size Chart?
Simplicity is the key to consistency.
Consistency is the key to long-term success.
What’s a Portion Size Chart?
A portion size chart is exactly what is sounds like. It’s an infographic illustrating the appropriate serving size of various types of foods.
Portion size charts may not be fancy smartphone apps or have online chat forums with cult-like devotion, but they WORK .
3 Reasons A Portion Chart is a way more effective diet tool
1.You can actually SEE visual references (duh).
Here’s a scientific fact about the human brain:
Images are easier to remember than verbal or written information.
Every time you refer to the images on a portion size chart, they snuggle up in your long term memory. The images are concrete reference points and create mental hooks.
Comparatively, the number values (grams, ounces, miligrams, calories) you calculate when tracking macros are abstract, raw information. Plus, like I said in #2 above, they’re invisible to your human eye. They are not useful or reliable reference points for your brain as you make food decisions.
2. You have the power.
Portion size charts are an illustrated guide – a learning tool. They are not a control mechanism.
When you let MyFitnessPal tell you when you’ve had enough and when you’ve had too much, you’ve given away your power. You’re looking outside of yourself for control. Thus, you will remain as untrusting of yourself as when you started
Portion size charts give you back that power.
Now YOU make the decisions on what you want to eat and when you’re satisfied. You look inward to learn internal cues, listen to your triggers, and manage your cravings. For food decisions, you consult with your hunger and satiety, your emotions, your heart, and your goals. This is where actual self control and confidence is born!
When you use portion size charts, each meal is independent of another.
It doesn’t matter what you already ate today, if you had a snack, or what restaurant you’re going to for dinner. All you have to deal with is this meal, here and now.
One meal at a time, refer to the images on the portion chart to learn how to build your perfectly portioned plate. Then, settled the fuck down and enjoy it, sister.
Nothing to predict, nothing to get anxious about, and nothing to make up for. You can finally be where you are, here, with us.
4. Totally custom to you and how you like to eat.
Tracking macros and using MyFitnessPal is like choosing to live in a dictatorship.
When you stop tracking numbers and instead learn proper portion sizes, there is no more dictator!
Savory tooth? Sweet tooth?
Eastern pallet? Western pallet?
You can eat whatever YOU like. It’s a journey to independence, not a battle to hold yourself back.
Today, all my clients and students NEVER TRACK MACROS. Instead, every woman receives my portion size chart with easy to remember illustrations. The portion size chart is like a map to find your unique sweet spot.
It’s a guide, not a dictator.
An accomplice, not a captor.
If you can’t tell by the length of this blog post, I feel some type a way about nutrient tracking.
I crave a world where more women act on real faith in themselves.
Maybe you don’t know how to control your cravings, stop the restrict-binge-guilt cycle, change your eating habits, etc. That’s okay, I’d love to teach you everything I know about the How. But for any of it to work, you have to believe you have the power to do it.
Not, “Oh, this expert system/program/diet can fix this for me!”
Instead, “Oh, I can totally figure this out. Where’s some reliable, fantastic information and tools?”
See the difference?
Print out the FREE Portion Size Chart and post it somewhere you will see it with each meal. A lot of women post it on their fridge like this:
In the beginning, refer to the Portion Size Chart as often as possible. The more often you refer to it as as guide, the more ingrained the images will become. Eventually, you’ll get to where you don’t even need to refer to the Chart, because serving yourself proper portions will be an automatic habit.
That’s the goal, #amIright?
Note: the Portion Size Chart is already included inside of the Healing Starts Here Food Journal. But, I wanted to give you this larger printed version so you can re-print it as many times as you like! Post it all over your house, give it out as party favors, put it in your kids lunchbox, go wild!
I’d really love to know,
Does letting go of nutrient tracking – whether it’s calories, macros, points, whatever – for a Portion Size Chart make you anxious?
What do you fear could go wrong?
What do you feel could go right?