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How Counting My Macros Changed My Perspective on Food
As most of you know, I have now been in recovery from anorexia for 11 years.
In that time, repairing my relationship with food has been harder than anything else. For years, I took my anger and hurt out on food and built a habit of allowing food to determine my self-worth because looking inside at the real problem was too painful. Eating disorders truly have nothing to do with food. The food is merely one of the many symptoms of what is truly going on inside.
But that’s not what this post is about.
It’s about how taking the emotion out of food has helped me understand the need for it as fuel.
Understanding how the body uses food so that it can function was one of the biggest turning points for me. By learning how each molecule is broken down and passed through our bodies, it made food feel necessary instead of a means to lash out on myself.
If we want our brains to process information, our organs to function, our cells to regenerate, and our blood to run through our bodies, we need food. The chemical breakdown of food is tedious, and while that's not the focus today, let me simplify it by saying this:
In order for our bodies to function on a mechanical level, they need energy (aka calories aka food).
Each micro and macro nutrient supports our everyday functions. If you were to do nothing except lie in bed without moving or blinking at all, your body would still need a certain amount of calories in order for your blood to flow, your lungs to take in oxygen, and your heart to beat. This is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Since the larger percent of our population does more than lie still in bed (and a good amount of us cycle through workout programs), our BMR takes up roughly 60% of our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).
- You need to figure out your personal BMR.
- Using your personal BMR, you can estimate your TDEE based on your average everyday lifestyle (how much you exercise/move on average per day).
- Once you know your estimated TDEE, it makes eating to reach your goals so simple and easy!
If you want to know all that goes into taking these measurements, you can check out the studies and findings that help determine your BMR and TDEE. If you simply do not have time to get into the details—that’s cool! I’ve made it super easy for you with my customizable calculator:
Remember that this is a rough estimate for the otherwise-healthy* individual. You can refer back to these numbers when starting a workout program, such as G8WAY, to make sure that you stick with and achieve your fitness goals.
*If you have a health condition such as an Eating Disorder, Diabetes, PCOS, Severe Obesity, Fibromyalgia, Kidney, Liver, or Heart Disease, or you are taking medication for a health condition, do not supplement this calculation for working alongside your doctors and nutritionists. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SPEAK WITH YOUR QUALIFIED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS BEFORE TAKING MATTERS INTO YOUR OWN HANDS.
I love counting macros because it allows for flexibility within my nutrition plan. The goal is to meet your daily macronutrient suggestions without restricting certain foods (which, for me, was a game-changer). Now, this doesn’t mean that you should throw away all of your vegetables and meet your carb goals by eating candy! It simply means that if you want some candy today, have one, and remember to have your broccoli later on.
Eating nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods is going to give you more energy, more focus and, especially if you’re trying to lose weight, help you feel fuller longer than if you ate foods with little to no fiber or foods that spike your insulin levels (processed sugar, white bread, white rice, etc.). When you can, opt for whole foods with lots of color and limit processed snacks and foods as much as possible.
Counting your macros does take a little extra time and energy at first. I don’t do it all of the time, but I have been able to return to it when I feel like my eating has started to get out-of-wack. It truly helps to create a fantastic balance of nutrients in my body. There are no 'food enemies' and there are no restrictions or eliminations of a macronutrient because our bodies have very specific needs for all of them!
“How do I calculate the food once I know my macros?”
My personal suggestion is to download the My Fitness Pal app, which already has most foods in their database. You can scan the barcode of your foods to keep track and even add your friends for accountability! If you don’t hit your goals with 100% accuracy, don't go crazy. This is perfectly normal. Stay as close as you can and just do your best! It’s rare that mine are spot-on.
Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all sort of deal by any means—what works for me may not work for you. If you’re looking for a way to take the 'fad' and confusion out of everyday eating, then give this a shot! Remember to stay flexible, especially for special occasions—don’t restrict yourself from enjoying your life and, above all, be gentle with yourself.