I had originally planned on writing a whole intro and guide to eating macros in this post, but instead I’d like to keep it as simple and as brief as possible. You’ll see why as you read on. But first, a little back story.
While we were living with my in-laws during the remodel last year, I put on some weight. I’m 5’10” and so carry (read: hide) it fairly well; no one else would have probably noticed the difference besides myself and my jeans. Nevertheless, those jeans were getting uncomfortable and I didn’t want to have to go shopping, so I called up my friend Cara Clark, and asked her to develop a custom meal plan for me to shed a few pounds; nothing drastic of course, just 5-8lbs. I’ve known Cara for years and I trust her guidance and appreciate her approach to intuitive rather than restrictive eating, plus I had participated in a few of her challenges before, after my initial Hashi’s diagnosis, and knew how much I loved and enjoyed her food. A bonus was how fantastic I felt eating according to her plans.
Long story short, the plan didn’t work; I had a hard time giving up alcohol completely as she suggests, I think the portions/calorie count may have been a tad too much for me to actually shed some weight, and after 3 weeks I gave up. She reworked the plan for me to reduce the calorie deficit a bit more, but again, nothing too drastic; she is by nature a very conservative nutritionist, valuing her clients mental health above all else, but by that time I had lost my mojo and never really picked it back up. This was last summer.
Worth noting that Art did the plan with me the first time though and lost almost 15 lbs. Related, guys are jerks 😉
Fast forward to a few months later, and Art and I joined a new gym which we both absolutely love. The workouts are intense, I have increased my strength and endurance tenfold, and I couldn’t be happier. Plus, Art and I get to work out together which is surprisingly very fun and rewarding. The trainer runs individualized macro programs for his clients, and after talking to several people around the gym, they had all experienced a lot of success.
I had already been familiar with macros since Cara’s plans are centered around the idea of eating your macros in a balanced, healthy way, but I also knew that you could manipulate macros to meet certain goals; what those in the Instagram body-building world would call hashtag GAINZ 😉 I suggested Art look into it since with the new workouts he was slimming down quite dramatically, but now wanted to build muscle. I knew macros counting could get very complicated and the best results revolved around portions, timing of meals and appropriate macro ratios. We decided to just dive in, both of us head-first into a customized 4 month macros plan for 2017. My feeling was, I could do this plan for a couple of months and meet my target goals, then adjust back to my standard healthy way of eating intuitively.
But first real quick, what exactly are macros and why is it important to count them for weight loss or certain physique goals? Macros are short for macronutrients, and macro counting is essentially a deeper way of counting calories, by measuring the content of the 3 largest classes of macros we humans consume; protein, carbohydrates and fat. The required macros needed for each individual varies quite a bit depending on age, height, weight and goals, but as an example, many nutritionists suggest that a 40-30-30 (carbs-protein-fat) split is ideal for the average woman to either lose weight or stay at a healthy body weight. On my macros plan, I was eating more like a 32-44-24 split, so you could see I was consuming higher amounts of protein, lower amounts of carbs and fat. In addition, I was fasting for 14 hours, from 6 pm at my final meal to 10 am the next morning, and eating just 3 meals a day. The plan as designed would help me build lean muscle and tone up, which is exactly what I wanted. If you want a bit more info about macros and how to count them, I found these 2 Cooking Light articles pretty insightful and bonus points for not having to visit a body building page, since that’s where a lot of macros info is typically found 😉
The first month went great. After the first weigh-in I had lost 1 lb, but I was encouraged by my measurements; losing 4.4 cm in my upper chest, 3.7 cm in my mid chest, 1.2 cm in my low chest, 4.3 cm in my top waist, 3.3 cm in my mid waist, and 4.9 cm in my lower waist. I also lost about 4 cm in my hips and butt, and my arms and legs pretty much stayed the same. Needless to say I was psyched and very encouraged. Art had similar great results, although he did lose a few more pounds than I did, but all around we were both very pleased.
Well, last Friday we had our 2 month weigh-in, and as I suspected just by how I felt, I had hit a plateau and my measurements didn’t really change significantly at all. Art on the other hand dropped another 6 lbs and had huge reductions in his measurements; he looks leaner than when I first met him at the age of 21 and he feels fantastic. I am so happy for him.
I on the other hand am discouraged of course, and on top of that, the plan has pretty much wrecked my digestive system. Let’s just say over the weekend my biggest prayer was that I would have a bowel movement, and after 5 days I finally did. I was miserable, and come to find out after a lot of reading, this is not totally uncommon for people following a similar plan to experience these digestive issues.
For now, I am not 100% sure what I will be doing. After each weigh-in our trainer is supposed to analyze our results and make adjustments accordingly. It’s Wednesday and he still hasn’t figured out what the heck to do with me, so I am in limbo. The last 3 days I have gone back to my old, really clean way of eating which includes a Cara Clark smoothie first thing in the morning, a light mid-morning snack, a vegetarian lunch and small dinner. Physically I feel much better, but also feel a bit in limbo and am curious what my trainer will suggest going forward. I have made it abundantly clear that no amount of #gainz is worth me not pooping for 5 days, and suggested he bring me down on my protein.
So folks, I’m sorry this isn’t a macros post that is going to encourage you to jump on board the macros bandwagon just in time for summer, and shed 20 lbs. Above all else, I value transparency and honesty, and I encourage you all to think through any drastic dietary change, and do so under the guidance of someone you trust. Being on a program like this pretty much goes against a lot of what I have learned the last 3 years about balanced, healthy eating, but I also know that so many people, many readers included, have found happiness and accomplished incredible personal goals by following a macros program, so I never want to discredit their personal journeys. For me though, I’m still on the fence.
There are a few great things about macros though that I think are worth mentioning before I end this post that was supposed to be brief:
Flexibility – counting macros is a bit like weight watchers in that you can eat pretty much whatever you want, as long as it “fits your macro” count for the day. Some take liberties with this and take it to mean pizza and burgers can be consumed if it can be squeezed in, but of course you and I know that’s silly. I will tell you that it is incredibly freeing though to be on a meal plan and know that you can still have bread or chocolate or ice cream as long as you plan accordingly. Just proceed with caution however, since it’s a slippery slope. By month 2 when I was counting carbs, I was swapping out my usual fruit for an English muffin because I could. It’s extremely liberating but also can lead you down the path of making not the wisest of choices. An occasional English muffin is of course great, but every day, in place of a piece of fruit is no bueno.
Focus on whole foods – like Paleo and Whole 30, the focus is on consuming whole foods which is always a good thing. Unlike Paleo and Whole 30, balance is encouraged and there are no “off limit” foods, such as grains or beans. Just figure them into your count and you’re good.
Forces you to learn more about the true nutrient value of various foods, thus causing you to look at food differently. You guys, I feel stupid admitting this, but I had no idea that fruit counted as a straight carb, and that a piece of fruit is essentially the same in terms of macro carb count, as a typical piece of bread. Fruit is fantastic and a vital part of any diet, but I now see why shoveling handfuls of fruit down my muzzle all hours of the day could be detrimental to my goals 😉 It also drives home the point of why an all fruit Jamba Juice smoothie is not ideal. I’m just using fruit as an example, but overall I have learned so much about the makeup of food and that knowledge will last me a lifetime. As someone who is completely intrigued and who loves learning about food and nutrition, I am so grateful for that. And guys, don’t even get me started on bacon haha!
For me, it has finally enabled me to get a grasp on my drinking and snacking. Coming from an alcoholic household, I have always wrestled with the uncomfortable feelings of how much drinking became a part of our almost daily lives as parents, drinking as much as 4-5 days a week. While I’d often not even finish a glass of wine or beer I poured for myself during the week, it just became somewhat of a habit to pour a glass of wine at dinner time or while I was cooking dinner, and the thought of having to restrict myself from that seemed almost impossible. But for the past 2 months, we have limited our drinking to 1, sometimes 2 days a week, and it’s amazing how easy it has become (but believe me, it was tough at first). I’ve also finally gotten a grasp of the constant snacking I was doing. Snacking and eating my regular meals, then finishing the kids snacks and lunches, snacks before I went to bed, snacking pretty much all day long! With that being said though, you can imagine how frustrating it is to dramatically reduce your alcohol intake and get snacking under control, yet still not see very many #gainz 😉
So there you have it. I am happy to answer questions and of course give my honest feedback. I just encourage you all to research and work with someone you can trust, before you start any life changing eating plan. And please, don’t just google some stuff on macros and start trying to devise your own numbers. I was horrified the other day in a macros forum to read that one girl had been consuming 110 grams of whey protein each day, because she googled her macros count and learned that she should be eating 110 grams of protein (she took that to mean 110 grams of protein shakes!). Holy heck I can’t imagine how hard her body must have been working to try and process all that. Our bodies are so beautifully and intelligently designed, but they are also so complex, different and unique from one another, so that what may work for some may not work for others. I am living testament to that, as many of the women who began macros the same time I did in the new year, are seeing much different results than I am. If you wind up being that anomaly who experiences different results than the norm, will the person you’re working with be able to help and guide you down the correct path?
As always, email me or leave a comment below if you have a question or have some thoughts for me! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for how I wind up proceeding…