EAT WHAT YOU WANT
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
diets are crazy but doesn't mean you have to be
I grew up as a stick figure of a kid. Up until my sophmore year of college, I was a bean pole. 6'0 and 130lbs soaking wet. Not too good of a look. I hated how skinny I was and it seemed like no matter what I tried, nothing ever changed. Maybe you're like me and battle to anchor down or get blown away in a slight breeze or maybe you're the opposite and want to shed some extra pounds. It all comes down to diet (if you're not a big reader, you can watch some training footage while I read this blog to you!).
But let's be real, dieting is hard. Especially when it's so drastic like going #Paleo, #Keto or any other diet ending in "O". In this post I'll cover how you can still eat what you want while being more mindful of your health through tracking your macronutrients, calories, weight, and progress pics.
dieting is hard
"...slowly transitioning towards what we'd like to adhere to long term, not throwing out our entire fridge."
We were all raised with certain eating habits that are challenging to break. Me personally, I was raised on #RamenNoodles, Hamburger Helper, white bread, and deli meats. All food was highly processed, loaded with sodium, and lacked any type of #Vegetable or real nutrients. After a life time of this, is it realistic to move away from pre-made meals and lunch meat cold turkey (no-pun intended) in a drastic overnight diet change? Maybe...for a while.
If you're anything like me, you've probably tried some dieting, was a food Nazi for a few weeks, and then fell of the wagon so hard your ancestors felt it. Humans are creatures of habit and when decades have gone into forming these habits, it's going to take more than a few weeks to rewire those patterns. So my biggest thing when it comes to dieting (or any change) is slowly transitioning towards what we'd like to adhere to long term, not throwing out our entire fridge in a food frenzy.
What the hell are macronutrients?
We all know what they are, it's just a fancier way of saying #Carbs, #Proteins, and #Fats. These three categories are where we derive most of our calorie intake and are found in unison in nearly every food. However, some foods are higher in certain areas than others. For simplicity sake (because we've already determined dieting is a battle), let's break down these categories into common foods we all know.
For carbs, think pastas, potatoes, breads, grains, and fruit (that last one seems to come out of nowhere, but that's the way it is sometimes).
For protein, think nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, and lean meats (I listed meats last because these can be high in fats which we want to be careful of).
Last but not least, we have fats. Oils, nuts (again), and dairy products are the fats we'd like to think of. Now that we have a better idea of what macronutrients are and where we mainly get them, let's talk about tracking.
my fitness pal
The easiest tool I've found to help count and track my macros is an app called MyFitnessPal. They have a HUGE data base of foods and a barcode scanning system for easy lookup. All you have to do is head to your App Store on your phone and download it for free. You can also choose to pay for a premium account. I've done just fine with the free version. You can choose to sign up using your #Facebook, another email address, OR if you have an #UnderArmour account, you can use that as well.
After choosing your login method, it will ask for a series of data points. Would you like to lose, gain, or maintain your weight? What's your daily activity level? Male or female? Birthday? Where do you live? How tall are you? How much do you currently weigh? How much do you WANT to weigh? Then it will ask you about your weekly goal (it will auto-populate two choices). Finally, it'll ask for your email, password, and first born child. Kidding. If you're a visual person, here's a screen recording so you know what you're getting yourself into.
Sweet, now that we're all set up, how the hell do we use this thing? On your home screen, it should look like this (see right). At the top, you'll see the goal for how many calories to eat that day, how much food you've already had, and you can even connect your phone's step counter or log exercise to account for calories burned. It'll obviously show zero until we've logged some grub. So let's do it! Click the blue plus sign at the bottom> click "food"> click the meal you're wanting to log> either type the food you're logging or click the barcode icon on the right of the search bar in which you'll scan the barcode on the label> click the food you'd like to add> adjust the amount of servings and viola! You've logged your first food. Here's another screen recording if you're having trouble.
Finally, we can track our macros
Now that we've gotten our food logged, we can dive deeper and see where all these calories are coming from. You'll notice when you log your food, it gives you a small circle comprised of blue, red, and green segments with calories in the center.
Each color represents one of the three macro nutrients so you'll get a pretty good idea of what the food is comprised of. Obviously not all foods have the same make up so as we log more foods, our daily percentages of where our calories come from becomes apparent. To see these overall percentages for the day laid out in a graphical representation, click the "more" tab at the bottom right hand corner> click "nutrition"> click "macros" on the top right, and there you have it! A pie chart (mmmm, pie) with the same color coding showing you the percentage of calories coming from each macronutrient for that day. Again, if you got lost along the way, here's another screen recording to get you there. Final product should look like this (see below).
After you log a meal, you can come here and see if you're on track for the day. You'll notice there are goals by each macro category. These can obviously be changed to meet whatever goal it is you're trying to achieve. Whether it's adding muscle and gaining weight, loosing fat/weight, or staying right where you are. Manipulation of macro goals can be a great way to still eat what you want, but in the right amounts for your goal. So, how do we change these goals? From the home screen, click the "more" tab at the bottom right hand corner> click "nutrition"> click "goals" on the top right> under "nutrition goals", click "calorie, carbs, protein, and fat goals." Now you can adjust your macro percentages as well as your daily calorie intake! Again, if you got lost, here's a screen recording.
I think a good starting point for everyone is 40% carbs, 30% fat, and 30% protein.
Notice I said "starting point." I'd religiously track your food and hit your macros on point for a month before you go adjusting these percentages to see how it changes your progress. Everyone is a little different so you're going to have to see what works best for you. I've found that bringing awareness to what I'm eating and how much, drives me to make healthier decisions.
It's also worth noting that I haven't talked about restricting calories at all. I'd suggest sticking with whatever my fitness pal auto-populates for your calories and adjust your macros first. If you've played with your macro percentages and are not making the progress you'd like, then start slow by adjusting your calorie count by 100-250cals/day for a month. Re-assess and readjust as needed.
logging weight, exercise, & Progress Pics
My fitness pal also allows you to track other things. One of the most important ones (in my opinion) is logging your weight. I'd step on a scale at least once a week for the sake of collecting data. Beware though, the scale doesn't tell you how your clothes fit, how good you feel about yourself, or if you're replacing fat with muscle. All it tells you is gravity's pull on your mass. In short, DON'T STRESS. It's just a number.
To log your weight, click the blue plus sign at the bottom> click "weight"> enter your current weight> and my favorite part, the progress photo! Click the camera icon on the right, snap a quick photo, and finish your log by clicking the check mark in the top righthand corner. There it will take your to a graph that shows your weight change since you started logging as well as a photo gallery of all your progress pics which makes for great motivation as you get to see your body change. I suggest weighing yourself on the same day and time every week while taking your picture in the same spot and pose to get an accurate reading of how you're changing. Again, for my visual learners out there, here is a screen recording.
As for logging exercise, click the blue plus sign at the bottom> click "exercise"> click either "cardio"or "strength"> search for an exercise> log your number of sets, reps, and weights or the minutes you performed your cardio along with the start time> click the check mark in the top righthand corner and it will now add calories to daily intake as you've burned some working out. Here's a screen recording to get you there.
I generally don't log exercise as I'd rather focus my efforts on tracking my food, macros, weight, and progress pics vs. adding exercise and throwing off my calorie count in total. As of now, cardio is the only exercise that will add calories to your intake for the day and as I primarily do weight training, I didn't find this function too useful but maybe you will!
Dieting can be such a pain in the ass and a huge source of discouragement so if there's one thing I want you to walk away with, it's this: the point isn't to starve ourselves. The point is to begin a process of mindfully fueling our bodies and taking care of ourselves better. We can do so by tracking our macronutrients, or the amount of carbs, fat, and protein we ingest daily. A great and simple tool to use for this is my fitness pal where you can log food, adjust your macro percentages, your caloric intake, take progress pics, and log your weight while seeing it all broken down graphical.
As always, I hope you've found something useful in this post but if you have any other questions, feel free to drop a comment below, send us an email, or schedule a call.
Thanks for the read!