Wellness Wednesday: Why I Stopped Tracking Macros

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Welcome to a new series called Wellness Wednesday! Nutrition and health have become a big passion of mine lately, so I wanted to share some little bits about this topic now and then on the blog. The wellness trend is huge lately. There's a new magic potion or health trend popping up every day (adaptogens, anyone?). In a way, I think now is a great time to get interested in this kind of stuff since information and healthier options are more readily available than they were before. It's also the worst time because people can easily go overboard with all the "healthy" items that are marketed to us every day. I'm hoping this series will allow me to share my thoughts on different aspects of a healthy diet and lifestyle and how I incorporate that without going crazy.

In the past few years, I've gone from being someone who couldn't care less about nutrition to someone who is completely fascinated with it. It's amazing to me the way that food can heal (or poison, depending on what you eat) our bodies. Last year, I started the process of tracking my macros. It was such an eye-opening experience for me to learn about macronutrients and how our bodies need a certain amount of fats, carbs, and protein to function properly. Before counting macros, I had no idea how lopsided my diet was. A whole day's worth of meals could easily consist of nothing but carbs for me. Even though they weren't horribly unhealthy meals, they were greatly lacking in diversity and nutrients. Counting my macros was a good launching pad to making me more aware of what was actually in my food.

Now here's why I stopped:

While tracking macros, I made exceptions for eating any kind of food I wanted, as long as it fit within my macro count for the day. This strategy might show results if you're goal is to just lose weight, but it's not a very good strategy to have if you're trying to achieve optimal health. Our bodies don't care if we hit a number goal for the day; it cares about nutrition. I was meeting accurate goals for protein, carbs, and fat but they weren't always coming from the best source of protein, carbs, and fat. Just because Taco Bell fit into my macro count for the day didn't make it the healthy option. I decided to move away from the numbers and adopt the simple philosophy of eating real food. We humans can complicate health and nutrition like nobody's business when really it can all be boiled down to that simple mantra: just eat real food! 

I loved Michael Pollen's suggestion in the book In Defense of Food to shop as if your great-grandmother or great-great-grandmother was in the store with you. If she couldn't recognize the food item you're pulling off the shelf, then it's probably not something you should be eating. This mindset has led me to seek out food with the shortest and most pronounceable ingredient lists. Or, better yet, just eat one-ingredient foods like avocados, tomatoes, almonds, meat, etc.

If anything will make you want to eat healthier, it's looking at ingredient lists. I've realized how much of the food in the grocery store is just high fructose corn syrup in some form or another. It is in everything! You think you're eating a wide variety of food when really you're just ingesting the same unhealthy ingredient repeatedly, day after day. Recently, I was buying a box of breadcrumbs in the grocery store and noticed that the ingredient list took up half of the back of the box. For breadcrumbs! I put it back on the shelf and started moving down the aisle, picking up other boxes and reading the ingredients. It took me forever to find an ingredient list that I could actually pronounce. The main lesson I took away from this was that I should just make my own dang breadcrumbs, but it was also incredibly eye-opening to realize how much junk is hidden in seemingly innocent food.

Real food wins every time. Whatever your health or fitness goals, you can't go wrong with real food.  It worked for our ancestors for thousands of years and our modern "adjustments" don't seem to be paying off very well. The thing that is most encouraging to me is that it doesn't have to be complicated (and if it starts to seem complicated then I'm likely doing it wrong). Just eat real food.

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