Seven-day cleanse. Yo-yo. Diet. A few words and phrases that cause anxiety the moment we think about them. I know when I think about diets, a few other not-so-comforting words pop into my head: Restrictive. Anti-social. Stressful. Unsustainable.
Being healthy requires sustainable lifestyle changes that fit in with how you want to live and feel. A method that works for many is macro counting — keeping a healthy ratio of carbs, protein and fat. Not just because it’s a flexible, sustainable, even empowering way of eating, but because it’s an effective way to reach fitness, health and body composition goals for the long-term.
When you first start, there might be a trial-and-error period — and you might be inclined to use a food scale — the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to eyeball portion sizes. The better you get at eating a consistent amount of food each day, the more these portion sizes feel right and normal for you, to the point that you won’t feel deprived or feel like you need or want more.
As you practice and start to instinctively know how much protein, carbohydrates and fat you need with each meal, you’ll be more in control and able to know when you can be flexible with your food consumption — such as if you’re dining out with friends and will have a cocktail and order family-style with a group in the evening.
“I find that learning to track and weigh things was just like learning a new skill, but now that this skill is a habit, it’s not restrictive at all. I get to use this skill to be more flexible in my eating. This flexibility allows me to still enjoy social eating and also accommodates what my body needs. It’s not just about eating spinach salad to lose weight anymore,” says Katie Allen, who has been counting her macros for nine months and has lost 30 pounds.
As a result, because macro counting allows you to be flexible and adapt based on what’s going on in your life that day or week, once you get good at it, it stops feeling like a short-term diet and starts to feel like a sustainable and healthy way of life.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to diet, but the feedback from counting and tracking really helps you get to know your body — what it needs and how much — to feel and look its best. In this sense, macro counting is empowering because it can help you feel like you have a say — you have control — over your efforts, which ultimately gives you confidence.
Plus, those who focus on the appropriate proportions of macronutrients each day see results. Those results breed motivation to continue on that path, and eventually it becomes an easy habit and no longer requires the willpower you once thought eating healthy did.
As you age and your goals change, your nutritional needs change, too. Macro counting allows you to experiment with what works and what doesn’t work as your needs, wants and goals evolve over time.
Here’s the thing: You’re not going to be perfect all the time. You’re going to have moments where you overeat or you overshoot your macros. And that’s OK. You have probably forgotten to put on deodorant one day, but you didn’t beat yourself up about it. You simply remembered to put on deodorant the next day.
In this sense, when you overshoot your macros because you were at a Christmas party or on an all-inclusive vacation, instead of letting that spiral into another three months of terrible eating, you can be comforted knowing you can return to your macro counting as soon as possible — maybe even the next meal.
Gone are the days of guilt-tripping yourself and falling off the bandwagon because you don’t have the tools. Macro counting lets you take comfort in knowing you have the tools to get back on track.
Not just for six weeks but for the long-term.