I’ve seen plenty of people balk at the suggestion they should count macros. It seems difficult, time consuming, stressful, unhealthy to track your food that closely, and besides, why not just eat when you’re hungry?
All fair points. But what if I told you counting every gram of fat, protein and carbs you put into your body wasn’t the end game? What if I told you that counting macros will help you be a better intuitive eater? It’s true!
Before counting macros, my idea of intuitive eating was probably eating around 1300 calories and almost none of it was protein. No wonder I didn’t have any muscle mass.
Counting macros taught me about portion size and creating meals that have a good balance of macronutrients so that I perform at my best. Now, if I put even a small amount of thought into what my next meal is going to be, I tend to choose things that help me reach a macronutrient balance close to what I would want if I were counting. When I’m putting my meal together, I think to myself, “You need more protein,” or “That would be too many fats for one meal,” and I change my portions accordingly.
You can do it, too. Here’s are some things you can do while you’re tracking macros, so that you don’t have to track forever:
Pay attention to portion size. What does 4 oz. of chicken breast look like, or 2 oz. of uncooked pasta, or 100 grams of raspberries? When you’re no longer tracking, you’ll have a better idea of how much to put on your plate if you learn to estimate portion sizes.
Pay attention to the macros for your frequently eaten foods. It’s helpful to think of the macronutrient group the food mainly represents. I know off the top of my head that a quarter cup of uncooked jasmine rice has 160 calories and about 35 grams of carbs. It might have some trace amount of protein, but I’m mostly concerned with carbs. I know a 4 oz. boneless skinless chicken thigh has about 120 calories and 20 grams of protein. It also has some fat, but I’m mostly concerned with the protein. When you start to step away from counting, roughly calculate your macros in your head as you put meals together.
Pay attention to what a whole meal looks like. This can help if you’re not into memorizing macro counts. How much food is on your plate, and what kinds? How often do you eat meat, eggs, fruit, grains, rice and veggies? What should you eat throughout the day if you want a cookie before bed? What do your snacks look like if you have pasta for dinner? What about if you have steak and green beans? What are your go-to meals that usually fit your macros?
Do trial runs. Plan a meal as if you weren’t counting, then weight and measure the ingredients before you cook or eat them to double check if you were close to your macros or really far off.
Don’t panic. Just like when you’re counting, not every day of intuitive eating will be balanced. Some days, your intuition will tell you that breakfast should be a donut, lunch should be pizza and dinner should be a cheeseburger with some ice cream for dessert. Remind yourself that it’s okay. You’re not on or off any imaginary wagon, and you have the right tools to choose a more nutritionally balanced meal next time.
Did you make the switch from macros to intuitive eating? Do you have any tips?