5 Problems With Tracking Macros

Now that it’s the beginning of 2016, I find myself doing a lot of reflection on the past year. While reflecting, one of the things I have noticed about 2015 is that it seemed to be the year of tracking macros.

If you’re not familiar with macros, macros (short for macronutrients) represent the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat in the foods we eat. Many people track their macros on apps such as My Fitness Pal to make sure they are meeting their daily goals.

There are a variety of different reasons as to why people track their macros, but, for the majority of people, tracking macros is related to achieving certain aesthetic goals and can lead to very disordered behaviours.

I can speak about tracking macros from personal experience because I used to use My Fitness Pal and track my macros obsessively for years up until the winter of 2013 when I realized I did not want to live a life of obsession, restriction, and disordered eating any longer.

When I obsessively tracked my macros, I was stressed, anxious, fearful of social outings, moody, and irritable. I also slept terribly, had acne, and poor digestion. To sum it up, I was miserable and it wasn’t until I let go of following diet rules and tracking macros that I was able to free myself, listen to my body, and heal from the outside in – mentally and physically.

To this day I still see far too many people obsessively tracking their macros and feeling as though they have to follow them daily and religiously. Yes, being aware of your macros and tracking them for a small period of time can be helpful for some groups of people, however, most people (especially the women I work with on a daily basis) can suffer from tracking their macros as it often leads to disordered eating and other obsessive behaviours that do not support a life of intuition and freedom.

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5 Problems With Tracking Macros

1. It’s Not Intuitive 

People who track macros will argue me on this one and say that it is intuitive. I understand that it can be; however, only to a certain extent.

You can be intuitive while following your macros – obeying your macro “limits” – but what if you want more fat, carbs, or protein on any given day? What if one day you want more potatoes or avocado or peanut butter than your macros allow? See, where I’m going with this? It’s not intuitive.

2. Your Daily Needs Are Always Changing

If you are reading this, you are a human being with experience. You know that every day of our life is very unpredictable. We may be more active today than we were yesterday, but we may be more hungry yesterday than we are today. Yesterday you may have had a craving for ribs smothered in bbq sauce and today you might be craving a salad the size of your head, drizzled with homemade vinaigrette. Your needs are always changing – every day, your body requires something different. You’re not the same person you were a week ago; therefore, your needs are not going to be the same either.

Tracking macros forgets the fact that we may not need exactly x amount of carbs/protein/fat every single day of the year. We change, our bodies change, our needs change, and by tracking macros we are unable to keep up with and honour these changes.

3. It Makes You Feel Guilty 

When you set expectations for yourself in regards to food and fail to meet them, there will be guilt associated with it. Simple as that. You will feel guilt when you got over your macros, perhaps even when you go under. Guilt and food should not be associated, which is why I highly encourage people to refrain from tracking macros.

4. It’s Stressful and Time Consuming 

These could be two separate points; however, I wanted to keep this list to 5 points and #5 is really important. Tracking macros is stressful and time consuming because when tracking macros, you’re likely inputting your daily intake into some sort of app such as My Fitness Pal. This takes time, precious time from your beautiful life. In addition to inputting your data, you’re also likely pre-planning your days worth of meals to ensure you “meet your macros”. When I tracked macros, I would do this the night before. Yes, I lied in bed and planned out what I was going to eat the next day to make sure it met my macros (hello, NOT intuitive! see #1) Looking back now, I wish I would have spent that time reading university text books, journaling, or do anything but thinking about what I was going to eat the next day.

Lastly, it is stressful. Take this scenario for an example:

You have pre-planned all of your meals for the day and then a friend asks you out for dinner. She wants to go to an Italian restaurant where all they serve is pasta or pizza, but you only have macros left for a salad. You really want to go with her, but…

You are too stressed about following your macros, so you turn her dinner date down. Yikes! Not only does tracking macros cause you to feel guilt and stress, but it can also rob you of social outings. I speak from experience here (and I know I’m not alone).

5. It’s Not Normal

If I’m going to eat similar to the way my ancestors left (hello, real food!), I want to try and mimic the way they lived, too. No, I’m not going to give up my cell phone, texting, the internet, Instagram, or anything else like that, but I am not going to start weighing and measuring the food I eat because, well, that’s just not normal!

And I think that’s our biggest issue here. Far too many people are tracking macros, which makes it seem like it is a normal thing to do in our day to day life. At the beginning of this post I did say, tracking macros will be appropriate for some groups of people. For an example, some people will track their macros to meet a certain weight class for a powerlifting meet, but then guess what? Their meet happens and they stop tracking their macros. They don’t do it for life! Why? Because it isn’t normal and it isn’t something you should be doing on a daily basis.

God gave us a beautiful mind. He also gave us an intuition. He blessed us with bodies that are so incredibly smart. Our bodies want to be healthy, they want to heal, we just have to learn how to listen to them (and forget about the calculator that thinks it knows what our body needs!)

Want to hear more about what I have to say about macros? Listen to this podcast where we discuss this exact topic!

4 comments on “5 Problems With Tracking Macros

  1. I love this! I am a clinical counselor and I have worked with too many people (men, too!) who have disordered eating and macro counting is often a topic of conversation. Thanks for sharing!

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