Updated: May 22
I've been there; counting the caloric value of everything I ate. When I was deep into my hardest of training cycles especially, I would diligently log everything I ate into MyFitnessPal in order to make sure my macros were just right. "Just right" according to the online calculator I probably used, based on my age, weight, goals and activity level. If I could time my carbs just right they would perfectly replace my glycogen and if I got the exact amount of protein I needed each day I would continue to grow muscle. Now, I will say that I am the type to eat the same foods every day, so I was eating real food ( meaning not bagels, pop tarts and ice cream) 90% of the time. I've been off dairy for quite a while and knew I needed to eat vegetables, but I was eating a shitload of meat and eggs, mostly rice or sweet potato and avocados. Then on the weekends I would log any unhealthy food too and just make it fit my macros. So easy! Not a bad diet in the eyes of most, but at a certain point I knew it was not healthy.
So many people seem to be turning to Instagram for the nutrition/fitness advice, basing the accuracy of that advice off the number of followers a person has, or the cute info-graphics they make, or if they tell you you can eat like shit and still lose weight. What a dream! That's the thing - this era of counting macros and being calorie-obsessed has us stuck in the mindset of 'weight=health.' Yes, you can lose weight if you eat nothing but big macs and skittles every day, as long as your calories are low enough (at a certain point, though your metabolism will adapt and you won't lose weight on those numbers, but that's a different topic.). But you will not be healthy. That person you trusted on IG with 550k followers will still have lots of followers and make some money, but you still will not be healthy.
I understand that counting calories gives someone who is trying to lose weight (or gain weight) something to focus on that is measurable, and that that can make it easier for some people. I don't think that's a bad thing. I think it can become an obsessive thing and a way to use calculations to justify eating terrible, processed, unhealthy food. I know that it has become very popular to believe that protein is the most important macronutrient and that carbs are the devil and fat is ok but only from avocado and peanuts blah blah blah. BUT we are forgetting the 4th macronutrient (not a seperate source of calories but a very important nutrient): FIBER.
Fiber is the most ignored piece of the puzzle when people turn to counting calories or macros. Fiber (both soluble and insoluble) is extremely important for our body's overall function. It is a type of carbohydrate that passes through the body undigested. The main benefits of fiber in the diet are that it normalizes bowel movements ( meaning say goodbye to constipation / diarrhea),lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease, helps to regulate blood sugar ad prevent type II diabetes, reduces the risk or diverticular disease as well as certain cancers such as colon cancer and breast cancer. It is essential for optimal health.
A plus to tracking your food would be to observe your fiber intake. If you find that you are getting less than the recommended daily amount (women: 25g, men: 35g), you will need to slowly increase your intake. I believe the recommended amounts are too low and that we should all aim to slowly and steadily increase this number over time. Some great sources of fiber include: beans and other legumes, chick peas, whole grains, brown rice, vegetables. This means that OMG WE NEED CARBS.
And here's the overall point:
Quality matters more than quantity.
This is fact.
For so many people, if they know they are "allowed" to eat 150g carbs per day, they will most likely fill that number with non-food: highly processed, refined, sugary, un-fibery carbs.
The damage this does to our bodies over time is a way bigger problem than wanting to lose 10 pounds. When we fuel our body with processed food and other less-than-ideal choices, it is the equivalent of putting mud, rather than gas, into a luxury vehicle and expecting it to run optimally. It will screw up your hormones to say the least. You will begin to notice certain things happening that you think are normal - stomach issues, anxious or depressed moods, stalls in weight loss to name just a few. These problems are commonly referred to as conditions, but I argue they are symptoms. Symptoms that can be managed or reversed with proper diet. Certain foods can and will affect your body in different ways and it is very common to not realize these symptoms are being caused by our diets when we think that just because we are eating the "correct number of calories," that we are healthy.
If you are someone who is obese and have been told to count your calories, chances are you are making many bad dietary choices and most likely changing a few of your food choices could lead to an easy kick start to your weight loss.
If you are a serial macro-counter and are living on a diet of chicken/beef/eggs/white rice/the occasional vegetable, I can pretty much guarantee you will notice improvements on the way you feel, perform, and function if you can make the switch to a diet rooted in whole, unprocessed food. Yes, you can - and will- still lose weight even without obsessing over numbers.
So..what do I eat? Let's keep this simple:
-whole grains (such as oats, quinoa, brown rice)
-fruit (any and all)
-vegetables ( and and all - including potatoes and other starchy vegetables)
-beans, lentils, chick peas
-nuts and seeds (including natural nut butters)
*If you consume animal protein: pasture raised eggs when possible, free range organic poultry when possible, pasture or grass fed beef and pork when possible, seafood that is wild caught and from sustainable fisheries when possible. These guidelines can give you the most (but not definite) peace of mind that there might not be antibiotic and hormones in your food. Again, a topic for a different day.
TO SUMMARIZE - as I feel all my posts about what to eat can be summarized - you are always best to consume whole, unprocessed, mostly plant-based foods. For health AS WELL AS achieving a healthy weight.
( I should note that those blog was written straight from the thoughts in my head, not previously written or edited, while my baby took a scarce 20 minute nap. SO if it IS all over the place - too bad. EAT REAL FOOD)