Should you count calories if you are trying to lose weight? or is macro counting a better option? counting macros for beginners can be very overwhelming and the answer to those questions is, it depends.
I know that’s a crappy answer, but let me explain in more detail. Counting calories is a very useful tool but it can also be tedious and time-consuming. It can even result in a very unhealthy relationship with food if used incorrectly. So, let’s break down if calorie counting is a good option for you or not.
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Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be as these are solely based on my experiences. Please consult your family doctor before considering any recommendations listed in this post. Thanks!
What are calories and macros anyways?!
Calories are a unit of measurement. In order to lose weight, one must be in a caloric deficit. This means you consume fewer calories than you expend. When it comes to determining your caloric intake a lot of factors such as age, weight, muscle mass, diet history, and height play a role so many online calculators are never 100% accurate.
IIFYM (if it fits your macros) has become a popular term in the dieting world and I personally think it’s more beneficial than just counting calories. Counting macros for beginners can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to the whole fitness scene so here is a breakdown of what you need to know!
There are 3 macronutrients. Protein, carbs, and fats
counting macros are similar to counting calories in terms of you want to stay in a caloric deficit but it’s more functional for performance.
all calories are not equal
IIFYM users are also notorious for eating like crap. Low calorie this, low fat that, it may fit into your macros but what is the nutrient content of that food I don’t even want to know what all those artificial sweeteners are doing to your gut.
Whole, nutrient-dense, sustainably sourced foods not ONLY support you in your physique goals but also allow you to feel good doing it. Internal health is more important than how you look on the outside. So, If you use macros or calorie counting, make sure you are also mindful of the types of food you eat because they matter.
Stick to lean protein sources, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and minimally processed foods.
calorie and macro tracking as a tool, not a crutch
Counting calories and macros was a crutch for me. A crutch to control my body, a space where my eating disorder was seen as “discipline” rather than an unhealthy obsession for being perfect.
Tracking should not be an obsession you attach emotion to. I should be the tool you use to collect data about how food affects your body and well-being. Thats it.
Counting macros for beginners is a very helpful tool to learn about the nutritional content of foods and what macros serve what purpose. However, macro counting should not be a permanent habit. At some point, you will have learned enough about the nutrient contents of the foods you eat and be able to make mindful choices to server your goals.
when is it a bad idea to count
If you have an unhealthy relationship with food and your body. Macro tracking can accentuate that. Some tell tail signs you struggle with body image or have a poor relationship with food can be any habit related to “earning” food.
- Exercising to burn off food
- restricting to save calories
- or restricting after a large meal
- warding off hunger with caffeine or chewing gum
- having restrictive rules around food and exercise
- hating how your body looks on a regular basis
You should not feel guilty for nourishing your body. You are a human, not a robot so sometimes you overeat on Christmas. That is ok. Learn to move on without judging yourself.
When is it a good idea to practice macro counting?
When should you count calories or macros? Firstly, everyone’s approach to fitness is different and that is ok. You do not NEED to count calories in order to see results. However, counting macros for beginners can be a useful tool to speed up the results of your efforts.
If you already have a healthy relationship with food and your body. Do not engage in disordered eating behaviors as mentioned above, macro counting can be a great way to incorporate intentional eating!
how to stop counting calories and macros
So, you’ve gotten to a place where you’re happy with your results and want to transition into an intuitive eating/maintenance phase. Here is how you can do that as smoothly as possible:
- Trust yourself
This is so important. I know counting calories offers some relief to people and they feel like they will “fall off track without it. However, that is not at all true. You have the knowledge to make mindful choices so just trust yourself.
2. Delete the app
Get rid of it so it’s not there tempting you to input your breakfast.
3. stick to your routine
subconsciously you have established an eating routine and have foods that you usually have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is ok to stray away from your regular routine but for the most part, stick to what you’ve been doing. Just don’t track or measure it.
my thoughts on calories trackers
Calorie and macro trackers can be overwhelming. I know when I first started tracking it got old REALLY FAST. So, in order to avoid burnout, take a more gentle approach to it.
Almost all the tracking apps on the market are the same so pick your poison and just treat it as a learning experience. Get curious, take things as you come, and don’t beat yourself up when you mess up because you will mess up. That’s just a part of the game.
Some tips to make tracking less of a chore:
- input your food the night before if you know what you eat
- meal prep ahead of time
- Hit your protein and total calories, let carbs and fats fall where they fall
Counting calories for beginners can be a very useful tool to get to your health and physique goals quicker. It is not completely necessary to get to those goals. If you use it as a tool and not a crutch, you will be on your way to learning more about nutrition and eventually becoming a mindful eater.