Okay. Let’s chat about something. And I’m just going to go ahead and start by putting this out there right up front…
For the past few months, I’ve been tracking my macros. And I’ve never felt better.
Listen, I GET IT. Some feathers might get ruffled with this type of stuff, especially in the healthy living blog circuit. One minute you’re hearing all about body acceptance, and loving it for what it’s done for you, and the next minute, you’re reading all about low-carb/keto/vegan/gluten-free/paleo/macros/PFC eating and how these methods can or should be used to change your body.
But I think there’s something to be said about the fact that you CAN, in fact, accept your body and be happy with it, while also having the desire to work towards a specific aesthetic goal. As long as your specific goal isn’t harming your health and is being done in a reasonable, healthy way, then there should be no shame in that, no matter who you are.
There really is no right or wrong method for someone, and macro tracking may or not be for you. But there really are many reasons why someone might want to track them, and it is quite a popular concept right now in the health world. For me, it was more of an interest in using macro tracking as a tool to help better understand the components of food and learn how to eat to MY needs. It wasn’t about eating less, or eating more. And it wasn’t at all about any sort of body UNacceptance, if that makes sense?
More than anything, I wanted to FEEL better, and I knew that I had plenty of room to do better in terms of fueling my body properly. On top of that, sure, I’m not going to lie and say there was no sort of aesthetic goal involved; since I’d started strength training a bit more, I really wanted to see some more muscle definition (some proof for all that hard work, if you will!).
So back to macros. For the longest time, I would see other people talking about “macros” or their “PFC” meals (protein, fat, carbs) on social media and I literally had no clue what any of it meant, let alone, wondered who even has time for this sort of stuff?
And for the last, oh I don’t know, at least 5-6 years? I had no desire for that sort of stuff. Pregnancy, postpartum, babies, unpredictable schedules, little sleep…none of that sort of stuff was even remotely close to being on my radar. But for the first time in a while, I finally felt like maybe I was in a season of life where I actually DID have a little extra time to devote to something just for me. Work + marriage + life with two crazy (awesome) little boys is always keeping me busy, but I was at the point where I felt like I had a little room to breathe and could work on my health without feeling like I would be sacrificing something else.
So back in early May, Jay and I got talking and he had made a commitment to eating/being healthier. He wanted to start working out again, try to cut back on the booze, and make better food choices, but he wasn’t totally sure the best way to start. I, too, was just coming off of a rather difficult winter (in terms of all the sickness, etc.) and was really looking to try to get back to some healthy habits myself. My workouts had been totally hit or miss, and they had no rhyme or reason to them either. On top of that, I was getting sloppy with my eating. All sorts of snacking, making poor choices, extra wine, loading up on sugar at night…it was all stuff I knew certainly wasn’t helping me feel any better.
Let’s be clear though – those pomegranate margaritas were BOMB.
So we talked about it and decided that maybe we’d give this macro tracking thing a try. If, for nothing else, just trying to feel better and get a better understanding of how we can best eat for our personal needs. We’d both seen the different, free macro calculators that are available online, but as newbies to this whole macro thing, simply being given a set of generic numbers to try and follow left us feeling a little lost. If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right, and after talking to a few different people, we made the decision to really go all in with it and signed up for a 12-week plan with an incredible RD, Emily Field.
Now, I say “we,” but since Jay said he wasn’t comfortable doing weekly check-ins, etc., I agreed to sign up for the actual 12 weeks with weekly check-ins with updated goals each week with Emily, while Jay was given a specific range of macros to follow, along with certain goals and recommendations to guide him independently through the 12 weeks. From there, we worked together with the tips and tools Emily provided me to apply each week.
I’m not going to lie, I was totally apprehensive about it. Was it going to feel restrictive? Or like a diet? Because if that was the case, I would have been ready to bail. But I knew I was ready to commit to cleaning up my eating habits and just start FEELING better. Plus, knowing that Jay was ready to commit to it made me more excited to learn more, as a team.
When I began working with Emily, I let her know my main goals upfront:
- Try to combat/reduce my chronic heartburn, reflux, and stomach bloat
- Clean up the bad/sloppy eating habits
- Work to curb some of the sweets cravings
- Have a nutrition program that’s aligned with a well-rounded strength training program to improve strength and overall energy
This post really has the opportunity to get super long, thanks to my ability to ramble and go into way too much detail…so in an attempt to keep things somewhat short and sweet, I will tell you that I finished those initial 12 weeks at the end of July and have truly, honestly, never felt better. And as someone who appreciates a good, bulleted list of details, I’m going to go ahead and do that here.
A few main points/realizations/highlights…
- I track(ed) everything using MyFitnessPal (the free version, I did not upgrade) Initially, it took some getting used to, but if/when I do it now, it’s a piece of cake (most of the time).
- I was eating so. many. carbs. before working with Emily. I always knew I was a carb lover (hello, sugar), but tracking for 2 weeks before officially starting with Emily made me realize just how much I was eating.
- I wasn’t eating nearly enough protein. Once I started increasing my protein, and dispersing it throughout the day, it was amazing to see what a difference it made.
- Before tracking, I would often get in a pattern of unintentionally undereating and overeating, causing me to feel lousy in energy.
During the 12 week cycle…
- I was provided two sets of macros every week; one set for my active/strength training days and one set for my non-active days. For me, strength training days (usually 3-4 days/week) involved higher carbs and lower fat, while non-active (or just cardio, non-strength training) days involved higher fat and lower carbs.
- Nothing was/is off limits. And I mean that in every sense of the word. I still ate/eat many of the same things I had been eating, but paying closer attention to portion sizes and making smart food choices were/are huge. I still eat pizza, and ice cream, and birthday cake. I still drink wine and beer.
- There was rarely a day where I felt deprived or hungry. Some days, I actually had to make a decent sized evening snack to ensure I hit my goals for the day!
Real vanilla ice cream + peanut butter + mini chocolate chips + graham cracker crumbs
- I wasn’t perfect with my tracking or reaching my goal numbers everyday, but I tried. I told Emily that, being summer, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my social calendar for the sake of macros. So on the occasion where, say, a neighborhood street party or a girls night happened, I didn’t worry about tracking everything and just simply enjoyed myself.
- I completed two, 4-week rounds of Fitness Blender’s FB Strong program, followed by a week of independent workouts while on vacation, then began Fitness Blender’s FB Mass program (which I just completed).
- I did not track anything in MyFitnessPal while we were on vacation in July, but I used the tools I’d been practicing for the weeks prior, and have honestly never left a vacation feeling as good as I did this year. Huge ice cream sundaes and all!
Typically after a vacation, I feel like garbage, so this was a BIG realization for me. I’d been committed long enough to the point where I didn’t feel like I was going “out of my way” to make smart choices, it was just a habit.
As for my final thoughts and results after the initial 12 weeks?
- The absolute MOST exciting result for me was my decrease in heartburn medication. I’ve been on different forms of omeprazole for years now, and I haaaate that I’ve needed it, but I’d been a mess without it. Before working with Emily, I was taking my medication once a day, occasionally every other if I felt okay. Now I can typically get away with taking it just 1-2 times a week. This is so huge for me, and was quite honestly, the biggest goal I had for this whole thing. So if nothing else, this would have been enough for me.
- I still crave sweets (what would this blog be without my sweet tooth?!), but not quite as bad. I broke my nightly ice cream habit and was able to replace it with other, smarter ‘sweet’ options, but I still eat ice cream and other treats when the opportunity presents itself.
- I definitely have some favorite go-to’s for meals and snacks in order to hit my protein goals everyday. Out of all three macros (carbs/protein/fats), protein is the one thing I have to be most mindful about getting enough of everyday.
- I just. feel. so. good. My energy is up, fatigue is down, I’m sleeping great (although that wasn’t ever really an issue for me), and my stomach bloating is so much better. This way of eating is 100% something I could (and plan to!) do long term.
- I feel stronger than I ever have. The combination of focusing on the right nutrition with the increase in strength training has really made such a difference for me. I’ve seen considerable strength gains, now being able to lift a decent amount more than I was able at the start, and I’ve toned up a bit, too. Which I’m certainly not mad about.
- I lost inches overall and also dropped about 4-5lbs (I also fluctuate a lot with weight, and I’m not big on the scale, so I usually only weighed myself for my check-ins with Emily and that was it).
I hesitated to even write that last part, because talking about weight loss is such a taboo subject, and it wasn’t even my initial goal to begin with. And I’m not here to show any sort of major before/after photos, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t find it! But now, after having gone through those 12 weeks, I’m really not ashamed to share what a positive experience it has been. I feel too freakin’ GOOD to be ashamed of doing something that has truly changed my quality of life. So take that as you will.
Will I macro track forever? No. I think it’s a wonderful tool to have in my pocket, and while I’m still loosely tracking right now (my cycle with Emily finished at the end of July, but she provided me with some tips and tools for keeping tabs on myself), it’s not something I will want to do forever. I could see taking breaks and possibly going back to it if/when I find myself veering off track again, but overall, I’ve gained plenty of healthier habits that don’t necessarily require me to have to track everything, everyday anyway.
Would I work with Emily again? Absolutely. Emily and I talked a bit about where to go from here (I’m at a point where I’m not interested in losing any more weight, but rather, would love to work more with her on recomposition), and it’s definitely a goal of mine for the future. It’s a pretty big investment (which, thankfully, I was able to use the $300 fitness reimbursement that my job offers towards my first cycle), but looking back now, I would say it was 110% worth it. If money were no object, I’d likely start up again right away, but I may have to wait a bit until I can use next year’s reimbursement. We’ll see!
Regardless, I cannot say enough good things about Emily. She totally gets the whole picture, she’s not about fads, and she believes in doing what works best for YOU and what you can sustain long term. I would highly recommend following her on Instagram (@emilyfieldrd) because she shares some pretty awesome stuff. And if you’re at all interested in the various services she offers, you can see more of those on her website.
FYI: This is not sponsored, these are not affiliate links, I’m not getting any sort of kickbacks for sharing this with you. She’s just freakin’ good at what she does, and I figured if I’m going to share that I’ve been macro tracking, then I need to share where I learned everything from!
I honestly wasn’t even going to share this on the blog, since I really didn’t want to make a “thing” out of it and just wanted to work on my own health. And then after deciding to share, I probably wrote at least three different drafts of this post before hitting publish because I get all too consumed about what people were going to think.
But I’ve had a number of people reaching out lately with some very nice compliments (mostly along the lines of saying how strong I looked, which could not be a better compliment to receive, in my opinion) and asking me what “my secret” is. That’s when I realized, I don’t really need or want this to be a “secret,” and I’m not trying to be deceptive. The fact of the matter is, I worked hard towards a goal that I set for myself, and I feel better now than I have in a long, long time. So why WOULDN’T I share that?
I’m sure this might ruffle some feathers, and some of you may think I’m crazy, but I’m not at all ashamed to tell it to you. My hope in posting this was to simply share how I’ve been able to feel like the best, strongest, healthiest version of myself.
I think there’s something to be said about the fact that you CAN, in fact, accept your body and be happy with it, while also having the desire to work towards a specific aesthetic goal.
If you have any other questions or related topics you’d be interested in having me (or Emily) address, let me know and I’ll try to do some FAQ’s!