I have had a lot of questions about whether or not I count my calories or macros and the simple answer to that is no, I don’t. I’ll explain later on, but first let’s talk about what calories and macros are. Disclaimer: I am not a professional, therefore I took exact descriptions from other sources and cited them below.
What are calories?
“A calorie is a unit of energy. In nutrition and everyday language, calories refer to energy consumption through eating and drinking, and energy usage through physical activity. For example, an apple may have 80 calories, while a 1 mile walk might use up about 100 calories”(Christian Nordqvist).
What are macros?
“Macronutrients are molecules that our bodies use to create energy for themselves – primarily fat, protein and carbs. They are found in all foods in varying amounts, measured in grams (g) on the nutrition labels.
Fat provides 9 calories per gram
Protein provides 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram”
Counting Calories vs Counting Macros:
“If you eat less calories than you burn, you will likely lose weight. But counting calories can only tell you so much; if you’re not careful and don’t eat the right calories, you’ll likely lose muscle too! To maintain, lose or even gain weight, many people rely on counting macros to make sure they’re eating correctly. 100 calories of avocado (fat) is a lot better than 100 calories of a doughnut (carbs). On a ketogenic (low carb, high fat) diet, it’s very important to know how many carbs you’re eating in comparison to fat and protein. Many people aim for less than 50g of carbs to maintain ketosis. When counting macros, you simply add up how many grams of fat, protein and carbs you ate that day”
What do I do?
Now that you have a general understanding of what each is, let me explain where I fall into these two categories. And bear with me as this is going to be a very LONG and probably an unnecessary explanation.
Since I started my fitness journey I have easily lost weight naturally with exercise and healthy eating and have never had the need or desire to count my calories or my macros. However, from the beginning of January to about two weeks ago, I have been experiencing PMS symptoms even though I hadn’t had my period yet since having my daughter and I wasn’t sure what was going on with my body. I typically have a lot of energy, motivation, and only eat when I’m hungry, but of course with PMS, women usually experience the opposite of that, which I was. At first I thought that maybe, somehow, even though I hadn’t had my first postpartum period yet, I could possibly be pregnant. So of course I took a test and it was negative. Since that didn’t answer my question as to why I was feeling so hormonal, I did a little googling and figured out that it can be normal for women to have PMS symptoms and feel like they could start their period at any moment for up to a couple months before they actually have their first postpartum period. This happens when your body is regulating itself again, which apparently can take a little while, who knew!
Anyways, during those couple of months where I was a hormonal mess, we moved to Utah, I stopped running (too coldddd outside), and ultimately my whole routine was gone and out the window! I was eating constantly and for no reason other than hello PMS and I was lacking energy and motivation at the gym and in my workouts. All of this combined caused me to gain about 6 lbs of maybe a little muscle, but mostly a lot of fat. I understand that life happens and it’s normal for things to set you back a little, but I was super discouraged after all of the hard work I had put in to get where I was. I had always just listened to my body when it came to eating, but I started to use MyFitnessPal to track how many calories I was eating and I did this mostly to see how much I was actually eating and if it was as much as I thought it was, and most of the time I was. Now, most days I wasn’t eating excessive amounts of food, but was actually coming up around 1500-2300 kcal, which for someone who was exercising quite a bit, is a normal amount. However, the problem wasn’t [only] how much I was eating, I soon realized, but was more a problem with WHAT I was eating. I was still eating an overall healthy diet, but I was also indulging in quite a lot of random and unhealthy snacks and treats.
Let me explain. When we first moved to Utah, we had to paint our entire house and get new carpet, which left the house a complete disaster. We weren’t even able to start unpacking anything for almost a week after we moved in. We also had not been grocery shopping which left us with nothing in the fridge to eat. I was still able to get my morning oatmeal in since it isn’t perishable and I was able to bring that with us from Idaho. But I wasn’t eating very healthy foods for lunch and dinner, and this went on for about a week, maybe a little longer. It doesn’t sound like a big deal to most people, but I NEVER eat out. Even when we get the chance to eat out, I usually won’t because 1) I don’t like spending the money, eating out is too expensive and 2) there aren’t usually very many healthy choices that my husbands also wants to eat and that are vegan friendly. Also, whenever I eat out I eat EVERYTHING. I was taught never to waste food so if I’m eating out, I eat all of it, which brings me to around 500-1000+ kcal per meal I ate out. So, eating out WAY more than normal, plus for some reason one of the only things we had on hand in our new house was candy, so I ate a LOT of candy. Oops!
All of these factors played a huge rule in my nutrition, or lack there of. Like I said, it wasn’t that I was always eating a high a mount of calories, although I did have PLENTY of days where I was most likely eating 3000+ calories a day, but rather eating foods that were very low in nutritional value. A little nutrition 101: You can eat a strict amount of calories a day, but if you aren’t eating the right foods to fuel your body with, your body will take the nutrients that it needs from your muscles and will store fat instead.
So, after a couple weeks of counting my calories, I realized that how many calories I was consuming wasn’t necessarily [always] the problem, but instead the problem was how much nutrients I was getting from those foods, which was more or less pretty low. On top of that, I was also still eating the amount of calories I would need if I was still doing all of the workouts that I had previously been doing, and I wasn’t, which led me to gain weight.
Which brings me to about two weeks ago, when FINALLY, after over 1 1/2 years (9 months from pregnancy + 11 months of breastfeeding), I started my period and I can’t even express how excited I was! Sounds like a weird thing to be excited about, but when you have been bloated, moody, constantly snacking, lacking energy and motivation, your skin is breaking out, and you have on and off cramping, it’s a GLORIOUS day when you finally have your lady friend return! Since then my energy levels have improved, I haven’t been snacking nearly has much, the bloating is subsiding, and I am finally my motivated self again!
Anyways, at about that same time, I started to read more about macros to try to understand what this was and what the benefits of counting them is. I am still learning about it, I’m the type of person that likes to understand something FULLY before I can commit to trying it, but the more I read and understand it, the more I am leaning towards trying it. The one thing that is really holding me back from doing it, is the ever dreaded money issue. We are on a pretty strict food budget since we moved and all of the added plant based and vegan friendly proteins (with my fitness goals and as a vegan, I know I need more added protein in my diet) are quite expensive and definitely don’t fit within our budget (sign).
So, for those that made it to the end of the excessively long explanation, no, I am not counting my calories or macros. I found that counting my calories didn’t work for me, and like I said, and it sounds silly saying it, but I can’t afford to count my macros just yet. For now I am going to keep doing what I know works for me, and that is I am going to keep listening to my body and practicing intuitive eating. I am trying to incorporate a little bit more protein into my diet from plants, nuts, tofu, and seeds, but aside from that I just eat healthy whole foods that sound good to me. I eat a lot of broccoli, almonds, tofu, peanut butter, brown rice, sweet potato, and fruit. These foods have gotten me this far, and the hope is that they will continue to help me grow muscle and lose fat.
I realize this explanation was a lot longer than it probably needed to be, but I want my blog to be a platform where I can share things with you guys and be completely open and honest with things that I experience and go through. So, as always I just want to say thank you for reading and I hope that this answered any questioned that anyone might have had!