We all have that one friend - the one who makes regular exercise and proper nutrition a priority in her life. She loves nothing more than to discuss the latest and greatest with what she's doing in the gym and keep everyone updated on all the morsels of food she consumes on any given day.
At first, we may find it amusing - admirable, even. Look at Judy, so dedicated to her health! Look at Judy go, waking up an hour earlier in the morning so she can squeeze in her workout before the day begins - and then telling us about every single exercise she performed. Look at her spending extra time scouring the menu at our favorite restaurant to find the most macro-friendly meal. We lean in closer as she explains why she's not eating the top bun of the turkey burger she's ordered. We oooh and aaah as she goes on about portion sizes and how some days she'll have four slices of Ezekiel bread instead of two depending on whether or not she worked out.
We're intrigued. All that discipline! Much knowledge. If only we could all be a little more like her.
But after a while, it starts to wear on us. We can't even put a glass of Riesling to our lips before she shrieks out But what are the macros in that wine and how do we log it? If she can't find a restaurant menu online before heading out, she decides that she'd rather stay in and cook up her own meal at home - you know, for security reasons. She goes out of her way to audibly guess the macronutrient content of everything everyone's eating whether we ask for it or not.
It's exasperating, damnit. Judy, do you mind? We're trying to enjoy ourselves here, not argue whether last night's potstickers were cooked in three tablespoons of oil or four.
Obviously, the title of this post is mostly tongue-in-cheek. Macronutrient consumption does absolutely matter - as does total calorie intake - particularly if you are actively working toward shedding bodyfat. I'm not denying that by any means. And yes, as a fat loss coach, it is technically my job to "give a shit" about your macros. Please hear me out.
I'm also not denying that there is a time and a place to be meticulously tracking macros and adhering to prescribed protein, carb, and fat numbers. (I even wrote an e-book all about it, for cryin' out loud!) But it's entirely possible to be dedicated to your nutrition program (or not!), attend social functions and mentally guestimate the macro content of what you eat (or not!), and not have to give the whole world an unsolicited play-by-play.
(See related: To Macro or Not: Should You Track Your Macronutrient Intake?)
This much we've already established in the #eatliftthrive community:
- Calories in vs. calories out determines whether bodyweight is gained or lost.
- When it comes to nutrition, total calorie intake matters above all, followed next by macronutrient breakdown of said calories.
- Consistent dietary adherence is paramount in achieving your physique goals. In other words, the best nutrition program in the world will do nothing for you if you are unable to stick to it over the long haul.
Here's a great video by Eric Helms going over the nutrition pyramid:
Unless you're deep in the throes of preparing for a bodybuilding contest and you're within weeks of stepping on stage, or unless you're a professional athlete whose livelihood is contingent upon making weight, it's not worth fretting over one social function, or even one meal.
I know individuals who "brag" about routinely ditching their friends and missing out on amazing restaurant food because the idea of having to eyeball portion sizes sends them into a frenzy. And yes, it can get addicting, and maybe for now you'll be able to sleep better at night knowing that you were able to control your macronutrient intake down to the very gram. Considering the long-term costs to this kind of behavior, however - particularly when repeated over and over - it's worth asking yourself if this is truly making you happier or if you're letting your obsession with macro tracking take over your life for the worse.
I'm not trying to be a prick by any means, though I can understand that I'm probably coming off as an insensitive jerk. I simply feel strongly about this matter because I used to be one of those individuals who thought and talked about food and calories and macronutrients nonstop, to the point where my social life all but dissipated and I was no fun to hang around anymore. And for what?
As it so happens, my friends and family didn't love me for my bodyfat percentage. And they certainly didn't love me any less if I didn't nail my macros on any given day. In fact, they didn't give a shit - and that's putting it lightly. But I couldn't see it back then because I was so hung up on this false idea that being more compliant with my diet, and thereby eventually getting leaner over time, would equate to happiness, more fame, and more friends. It's highly ironic - and sad, really - how that pursuit completely backfired on me.
It was. not. worth it.
I wish I could go back and have a do over, but obviously that's not possible. The next best thing I can do, then, is to help others learn from my mistakes and heartache and live better, happier, more fulfilling lives.
Don't misunderstand me: This post is not a cop-out for getting sloppy with your nutrition. If you're committed to a goal, you obviously need to be consistently adherent to see results. But it doesn't have to become an obsession, and one isolated, mindful, non-tracked meal is not going to derail you.
I'd say that one of the hardest parts about macro tracking is knowing when it's worth the effort and sacrifice. Are you just going about your everyday life and trucking along the fat loss train? Then perhaps it's worth it. Are you headed to your aunt's annual holiday bash where she busts out her famous homemade apple pie and Uncle Jon whips together his world-renowned stuffing? Then probably not.
The point of a hobby is to add to your life, not take away from it. So if you're not enjoying the journey - and worse, if you're making those around you miserable - then what's the point?
I can't eat this; I don't know the macros.
What are the macros for this dish, do you think?
Can you tell me the macros on that?
These above statements should be kept to a minimum.
So how, then, do you learn to feel less anxious not weighing everything you eat? How do you go to a restaurant, enjoy a handful of fries, and not worry about how many grams of carbohydrates and fats it contains and not let it consume you?
It's a practice. You have to get your reps in. And if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again.
(Sorry, I had to!)
On a more serious note, dealing with uncertainty with your food is actually more about your mindset than the food itself.
It's not one extreme or the other, either. Your choices are not only to either be neurotic with your macronutrient intake or become a shameless glutton. How about we learn to navigate the middle ground most of the time?
Let's say, on a scale of 1 to 10, that 1 is essentially eating yourself into a food coma each night and a 10 is being a basket case and spending an absurd amount of time trying to figure out your macros.
We don't want to be at a 1, of course, and I think that a 7 or 8 ranking should be reserved for high level bodybuilders whose success is contingent upon strict nutrition adherence. But even then, it doesn't have to take over your life.
Where does that leave the rest of us, then? How about those of us who maybe just want to drop a few pounds and live a happy life while doing so?
I'd say we should fall at a 5 or 6. I think it's important to always have a pulse on at least approximately where your calories might be, and if you are actively trying to adhere to macronutrient numbers, then do so without that becoming the bane of your existence. You don't have to talk about it all the time, and not everyone needs to know every single detail of what you choose to (or not to!) ingest.
I promise you won't spontaneously combust if you allow yourself to enjoy a meal every now and then sans macro tracking.
Quality of life, quality of life, quality of life.