Ever since I made the decision to not compete again, I have stayed away from any sort of calorie counting/macro tracking. For about 2 years, I tracked every single thing I ate. From breakfast to late night snacks, everything was calculated, accounted for, and evaluated.
If I wanted to “indulge” in something, I planned in advance, made room for it. If it was unexpected and I didn’t have any “room” left in my calorie allotment for the day, I would make plans to workout more intensely the next day.
I felt like I had control. At the end of the day, I knew what I had eaten, the macro count for each food I ate, and had thought ahead to exactly what I was going to eat tomorrow. Meal prep was precise using a food scale and measuring cups. All of this was then entered into my personal MyFitness Pal (MFP) account. I followed the IIFYM (if it fits your macros) mindset to a T, and for a while, it kept me focused.
Did this help me lose weight? Of course it did. In addition to a major caloric deficit, I was working a very active job and working out 1-2 times a day. I was dropping pounds and body fat but I was also exhausted. I was cranky. I was saying no to social outings. I was caving and eating everything in sight at times, only to feel like absolute shit afterwards…both physically and emotionally.
I had lots of control, but what I didn’t have was TRUST. Nope. None at all. I didn’t trust myself to eat intuitively. To listen to my body and eat when it was hungry, stop when it was moderately full. My response to this? Extreme control over everything I ate. If it wasn’t part of the plan, I didn’t eat it. If I didn’t know of something in advance, it didn’t happen. And when it did on occasion, I would stress out about it. I would look at the menu online, making sure there was something I could fit into my plan for the day.
A good amount of my mental space and energy was consumed by counting calories and macros. A good amount of my day was spent meal-prepping, inputting food for the next day to ensure it was on track, making adjustments to make everything fit. If I saw red numbers on my MFP account, I stressed out. Green numbers = good, red numbers = bad.
In the past month, my goals have shifted to focus more on fat loss while retaining as much muscle as I can. This is in addition to maintaining my yoga practice to help maintain my flexibility and inner balance. Has it been tempting to open up MFP and start tracking again? Hell yes it has. To the point where I even made an account again and started inputting foods.
But then I stopped. And I realized that doing this goes against everything I’ve been trying to do since my competition. I want to trust myself. I want to trust my body to tell me when it needs fuel. I want to trust that I won’t go absolutely overboard when at social gatherings where there is food. And that process takes time. Sure, the easy solution would be to go back to calorie counting, but that is not my end goal. I don’t want to be tracking calories and counting macros forever.
I want to be able to enjoy spontaneous outings.
I want to be able to get invited out for dinner and not stress about what I’m going to eat.
I want to be at a party and not feel compelled to eat everything in sight because “who knows when I’ll get this chance again.”
I want to be able to not even have to think about food as much.
In order to succeed with this, I need to keep working on trusting myself. And that doesn’t happen when I allow the numbers to take over.
Do I coach clients with IIFYM-type meal plans? Yes, I do. Some use it as a stepping stone. Others use it as their way of approaching their nutrition. Are both okay? 100% they are. I may be on one side personally, but that is because that’s where my goals lie. You do you. I’ll be over here being me.
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