I always struggle when I begin a post about something such as this because I find nutrition to be very controversial. When I first began in the fitness industry and writing a blog, I wrote solely about what worked for me and as time went forward, I realized that this was definitely NOT the only way and then I went down a few roads and finally realized that as many of us know, there is not one right way for anyone. There are multiple different ways to approach things, but if you are solely looking at intuitive eating vs macro or calorie counting, most of the general population would say that intuitive eating is the way to go, no questions asked, and that you just have to learn the principles and reject diet culture. I don’t disagree with that necessarily, but I think that there is a time and place and I think that for some, as I’ve heard it actually from their mouth, they feel MORE guilt because they can’t figure out intuitive eating than if they just count, keep balance of all kinds of variety of food within those macros, and then move on with their day without having to think about it.
I almost feel that because I have researched SO much in every different avenue of nutritional guidelines (keto, paleo, high fat, metabolic efficiency, vegan, plant based, intuitive, macros, calories, HCLF, and so on) that it can seem ignorant of me to pick one of those and say THIS IS THE WAY. HERE IS THE EVIDENCE IN THE LITERATURE ON PUBMED. Because the truth is, there is literature for all of these. There are some that are better than others but when you are looking to your health from a holisitic perspective (meaning everything as a WHOLE – NOT just your body aesthetics), this can encompass many things, but it also can hold value in different areas for each individual person.
I think that there has been a wonderful shift away from body image. I think that it is so important to recognize that you are valuable despite the size of your body and that it honestly should be something that we kind of stop talking about. But, the truth is, that the pendulum swung. I had a client email me that she felt unworthy because she doesn’t have a “I gained 20lb transformation photo from when I tracked macros to this new found liberation in food.” She feels liberated in food, but she finds herself questioning her motives. She’s not obsessively tracking to the gram. She’s not NOT going out to eat. She’s fully living her life. She’s participating in athletics that give her joy. Nothing that she does is really based on body image. She doesn’t have a crazy ab separation, but she’s healthy, fit, and lean and she “kinda” tracks macros each day to get a general sense of the balance that she is consuming.
Don’t get me wrong. The person I described above is someone that I really value and think that she has the missing piece that many find so difficult to find which is that macros are not meant to be these perfect ratios that fit your body and if you do think that, then that’s not looking at the science either because that’s not how we function. Our body’s have different amounts of expenditure daily based on our exercise but also on our NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) because some days we might be more active with our kids, or have to walk more stairs at work and in return, we might be more hungry. If we aren’t able to listen to those cues and feel confined to these little ratios, then that can form a disordered approach to eating.
Many times, as I saw as a question on Lynette’s Instagram, she asked “If you don’t hit your macros, do you find yourself saying ‘screw it’ for the day and eating in abundance?” I think that’s a great question because it’s something that comes up so frequently, and so the answer to that question from almost everyone would be “well it’s clear macros aren’t for you and that you should learn intuitive eating and that macros are no longer for you.” Honestly, that might be the case, but I think that the biggest thing to note is that you need to work on your relationship with food first and foremost.
Working on your relationship with food and counting macros/calories are obviously not in the same boat as just about everyone will tell you, but I think that we all enter different seasons of our lives when one thing is more appropriate than the other. We have to recognize that everyone has different personality traits that lend them towards certain things.
I handle each client individually and many times, I can tell that they are in a place that they need to pursue intuitive eating, so I start to talk to them about this. Many will go down this road, especially those that are in Shelby, and because they don’t have any nutritional knowledge, they aren’t “cursing diet culture and eating in abundance” but they are going to McDonalds and Chickfila now for every meal because that’s what is convenient and they find themselves gaining weight. I can promise you that my stepfather has ZEROOOO attachment to diet culture, but he’s ALWAYS going to choose unhealthy options. He’s not going to choose healthier foods literally ever. Ever never. So, unless there is some dialogue with him or someone fixes something else, then he’s never going to properly “intuitively eat” which has an element of “choose this healthy salad because that is what will make you FEEL good.”
There is also a progression for every single person. I could have NEVERRRRRR (I repeat NEVER) done intuitive eating before I took the progressive steps to get there, and to be honest, I’ve kicked up exercise for the ironman therefore I am tracking again to make sure I get enough loosely. When I started macro counting, I had to meticulously count every gram to be able to trust the fact that I could fit these things into my day and that my body could handle it. It was a liberating and absolutely WONDERFUL part of my story. It was absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me, because no matter how much literature I would have been given, I would have never tried these foods and just been able to let go. That was obviously not a healthy mental manner that I was living, but it’s just the truth. I had to learn to trust the foods based on the nutritional value of them first, and then I was able to move into these other stages.
Last but not least, we have a finite time on Earth. We all have the choice to do whatever the heck we want to do with our lives. I have clients who vehemently wants to track macros because that gives them structure and routine and a challenge and helps them to fuel for their performance (they are eating 2800 calories most days by the way-macros are not limiting-they are just structured). When most of the world thinks of this, they think “Oh how sad. Stuck to those numbers and values. That can’t last forever. She must find a way out”. I get this viewpoint. I do. But it’s also her life, and if she is handling it with a healthy mindset without being obsessive, or even IF she is being obsessive, as long as she is healthy with a period and all blood work is great, then why do we choose a lifestyle that is meant for us and place it on someone else? Am I making sense here? It’s like politics. I believe things with my entire whole heart, but my brother literally feels the exact opposite. We could fight all day about it, but we ignore it because that’s what you do when you love someone. If you know that it’s not harming them to think that way, and they are able to live a happy and fulfilled life doing what they love, then why do we make them question themselves and say that their way is absolutely not appropriate?
I follow @ellenfisher on Instagram. She is the epitome of perfect living with her cute little family in Hawaii. They are STRICT STRICT vegan. She is not limited by this. ATALL. But, if you were to ask many people about veganism they would say that it’s way too strict and a terribly, unbalanced, mentally obsessive way to live. But, she doesn’t see it that way. She sees her life as a beautiful bounty of abundance as she home schools and lives in nature. I literally LOVE.HER. She is herself…completely and freely, and it’s beautiful.
Self care doesn’t always have to be doing nothing. Self care can mean making yourself go do your run because you know how you will feel afterward. Self care can mean tracking your intake for the day to make sure you get enough or you don’t get too much so that you can progress towards some bigger goals that you have. It all comes down to your mindset, because on the flipside, if you are obsessing then self care can mean dropping it all and relaxing into your life more. But, it’s absolutely an individual process of finding that for yourself and it might not look like what it looks like for anyone else around you.
It is of note that I truly do understand that not everyone will agree with this blog post, and therefore is why I normally avoid these topics altogether, but these are not thought processes that I have taken lightly and have pondered over them for literally years and read tons and tons of data.