Macro Counting – An IIFYM review, A Dietitian’s Perspective and Top Lessons Learned

A few years ago I stumbled into macro counting as an experiment via the popular online site, IIFYM. But after seeking the support of a fellow registered dietitian to learn more about the popular plan, macro counting quickly become a way of life for me — one that I’ve been embracing for more than two years now. The reason I originally tried IIFYM, what I learned from the experiment and most importantly, how macro counting actually helped me eat more, feel stronger and be happier in my body are detailed below. Much of this content originally appeared on Healthy Aperture but has subsequently moved to this site and updated here with recent insights. ~Regan 

IIFYM review

Part 1: The IIFYM Experiment

Are you a sucker for before and after stories like I am? Are you hoping you’ve clicked into this post today and are about to be amazed by pictures of the transformation I’ve undergone as a result of trying IIFYM?

Sorry to dash your hopes. 

I guess I’m just an old-fashioned unmillennial, but I still believe there are some things that don’t need to be shared online.

And by “some things” obviously I mean me in a bikini-clad before/after picture collage.

Instead, I am going to share in this post a very detailed account of what it was like to sign up for a “flexible dieting” plan via IIFYM, what happened with my weight, how I felt adopting a higher calorie eating plan and what I learned from Emily Field – a registered dietitian who specializes in macro counting – about how this type of eating plan can be the right fit for some people.

But first, a disclaimer and then, a bit of background.

Disclaimer

There are a number of dietitians I’m associated with professionally who advocate for a diet-free approach to healthy eating. I do wholeheartedly agree that many people can and should approach a healthy lifestyle without a focus on dieting and being a slave to the scale. But I personally stop short of the mentality that loving your body and wanting to change/improve your body are mutually exclusive. In fact, as you read this post you’ll learn about how this experiment actually helped me personally get in touch with my own intuitive desires for what I want and need to eat each day.

I’d also add that if you personally struggle with obsessive eating thoughts and behaviors, I don’t recommend a self-guided plan like this or macro counting in general. You should seek out the support of therapists and dietitians who specialize in disordered eating.

Now, The Backstory

A few years ago as I was doing some prep work for Healthy Aperture and looking at trending topics on Instagram, I stumbled across a cluster of hashtags that all centered on macro counting. Known by many different names (flexible dieting, IIFYM, reverse dieting), macro counting has been popular in the bodybuilding ranks for years. But recently, it seems to have made an upswing in mainstream popularity. Without knowing much about what exactly it entailed — I already understood it meant counting the basic dietary macronutrients of Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate  — I asked Lindsay to pull together a round up of “macro” focused recipes.

She was completely clueless what I wanted. 

And so was I.

Knowing nothing about the community of folks devoted to macro counting, neither of us had any idea what recipes macro-counters were looking for. So I decided to do something totally outside of my comfort zone. I found the most popular macro counting site I could (IIFYM), signed up, ordered their “blueprint” and started tracking macros based on their recommendations daily for two months.

An RD signing up for a non-RD developed eating plan. It’s a little weird, I know. But I wanted to experience a mainstream plan to better understand what IIFYM fanatics were really looking for.   

IIFYM Review – The Sign-Up

It wasn’t hard to find a community to join. One of the most popular hashtags being used among macro counters is #IIFYM (“If It Fits Your Macros”). The central premise of many macro counting plans is “flexible dieting,” where you can “eat whatever you want” as long as it works into your daily set of macros (hence the “If It Fits Your Macros” moniker.) This freedom of choice wasn’t exactly new to me. In my job as an editor at Weight Watchers Magazine years ago, I learned the Points system, which at that time heralded a quasi-non-diet approach to “allow” you to eat whatever you wanted as long as your Points allowed for it.

Note: If you’ve ever tried a plan like this you know drinking Coke and eating Little Debbies, Pizza and Doritos meal-after-meal is never an option, even if it’s being sold to you that way. The structure of Points or macros or whatever parameter you’re tracking simply won’t allow it. The numbers won’t add up. But there is a “freedom” factor that can be a psychological benefit to folks who fear indulgences without structure and have a hard time letting go of the idea of “good” and “bad” foods. In a macro-centered approach, there is no good or bad. There’s simply food, which contains macros and the requirement to count those macros.

So I visited the IIFYM site, input my info, used their free “macro calculator” and it spit out a set of fat, protein and carbohydrates numbers that I was to track each day.

And then came the up-sell. 

For $67 I could get a “custom” blueprint, tailored just for me. Their “coaches” would use “30 points of information” to generate a personalized plan. I thought “Hey, If I’m gonna try this, why not go for the gold?”

So I took the bait, answered a bunch of questions about my goals and my current exercise regimen and waited…

…but not long. Almost immediately I got an email — from an actual human; that was a bit of a surprise — wanting to clarify about my goals. The “coach” who was reviewing my goals noticed that I’d said I didn’t want to gain weight, but that I wanted to gain muscle.

She basically called me out on this (in a nice way) and said I couldn’t have it both ways. “If you’re gonna gain muscle, you’re gonna gain weight.” 

(I’ve since learned from Emily Field that this notion isn’t “exactly” true. Some people can build muscle in a calorie deficit, but it requires an intense focus on eating protein and weight lifting… and even then, it’s more attainable in an untrained individual than people who’ve been working out for years.)

But I responded to her email and said “Okay, sure. I’m up for a weight gain” and waited again.

A few days passed and my blueprint arrived. All 2000 calories of it. And I got scared.

With the exception of my two pregnancies, I’ve never estimated my own calorie needs anywhere near 2000 calories. Never. In fact, at this point, it’s probably worth giving you a little background about my struggle with a healthy view of my weight.

The Back-Backstory 

I’m nearly 44 years old and have been trying to lose weight for at least 30 of those years.

I started “dieting” as a 7th grader. I was always a chubby kid growing up. Then in 7th grade, I lost a lot of weight eating a diet mostly of oatmeal and baked potatoes. (Don’t try that at home, kids.)

First, I won a beauty pageant. 

Then, I made the 8th-grade cheerleading squad. 

And subsequently, I adopted a thinness = success mentality.

I’m not particularly proud to admit these things, but I think it’s worth understanding where I’ve been in my mental journey to healthy eating.

My weight and eating habits normalized a bit in high school. (Although there was the time my high school majorette coach told me that I’d need to drop a few pounds over the summer if I wanted to stay on the squad in the fall. “Healthy At Every Size” wasn’t a concept on anyone’s radar circa 1990.) I would cycle in and out of seasons where I was hyper-focused on my weight and where I wasn’t. Eventually, I left for college, discovered a nutrition career path and never really fell back into any dangerously restrictive eating habits, but my weight was always on my mind.

I’ve been trying to lose “a little” weight all my adult life. And truthfully, I’ve always believed that losing weight (or being lean) meant restricting. Not restricting to the point of an ultra low-calorie diet or major health risk, but restricting in a way that meant focusing on fewer calories in and more calories out — the traditional diet mentality. It’s sort of like being a teacher and focusing on the importance of reading. As an RD, it just seems to go with the territory.

But it’s a territory I’m less happy occupying than I ever have been. Below, I share things I learned in this macro counting experiment, but the biggest benefit I’ve seen is in how much better my workouts feel when I’m not “restricting” my calories and how much more I want to work out. I can’t say if I’d feel the same had I chosen a plan that was geared toward “cutting” (a more calorie-restricted version of their macro plan aimed at fat loss). But since restricting’s never been my problem, trying out a plan that was fairly calorie-rich by my standards was an awesome change of pace.

My Macro Experience

Remember when I said it was a 2000 plan? Well actually, the blueprint I first received told me to eat the following each day (and track accordingly. I used MyFitnessPal to track my macros):

Protein = 110 grams per day

Carbs = 230 grams per day (30-35 of which should be fiber)

Fat = 60 grams per day

If you know your macro math, this totals out to be 1900 calories per day (Protein and Carbohydrate provide 4 calories/gram and Fat provides 9 calories/gram). This info was included in a 12-page plan that discussed all the basics about what macros are, how many calories are in each macro, made suggestions about healthy choices for each macro, detailed the importance of each macro, gave menu plans suggestions and on and on.

The big “hook” in most macro counting plans, especially IIFYM, is the idea that by eating more than on a traditional restrictive diet, and especially more carbohydrates than many “dieters” may have been eating before, you’re boosting your metabolism, fueling better workouts and eating enough protein to build the muscle that’s so crucial for a more efficient metabolism (and build muscle for all those millions of before/after photos that are as much a part of the #IIFYM culture as are photos of what they eat. While participants aren’t told to post those pictures publicly, they are encouraged in their blueprints to take before/after photos to help see their progress beyond a number on the scale.)

I can’t say how all macro counting and flexible diet plans allocate their ratio of carbs : protein : fat. But I will tell you IIFYM as an eating plan eschews the notion of low-carb and/or low-calorie eating to achieve a healthy weight.

In terms of the actual info contained in the blueprint, none of it was “education” that I needed as an RD. But I read it all and tried to put myself in the position of the average blueprint buyer. And honestly, it was pretty good info. Other than the requirement to drink 3 to 4 liters of water per day, I don’t recall reading anything I thought was completely off-base.

There was no sugar ban. No call to ditch dairy. No prohibition of foods that ended in Y or started with a W or whatever the most popular dietary restriction of the day is. The blueprint discussed the importance of healthy fats, carbohydrates as fuel and protein for muscle building. It was basically balanced. And I’ll admit, I was a little surprised.

The part of the blueprint that caught my attention most was the recommendation to increase my macros if I was “the same weight” after 4 weeks. Recall how I said I’ve been restricting calories for 30 years? I was CERTAIN that this uptick in calories, well over what I’d been eating for years, would cause me to gain weight. I was prepared for it and had already decided whatever I gained on this little experiment would easily be trimmed off when I went back to my normal diet.

Four weeks came and went. I gained weight. I lost weight. Two pounds, to be exact, that I gained right before my period and lost right after. So by the end of 4 weeks I was the same weight as when I started.

Not gonna lie. I wasn’t expecting that.

Either I had been grossly underestimating the calories I had been eating each day or this upswing in calories did actually dovetail with a boost in metabolism. It’s also possible that the set-point weight theory is coming into play here. You can read more about that here.

So at one month with no weight gain, I did what the blueprint said and added 15 more grams of carbs and 5 more grams of fat to my diet. It’s hard to say if those extra macros amounted to permanent weight gain since I cycled 2 pounds up and down the entire time I was doing the program.

So what did I think?

My quick takeaway from this short trial of IIFYM was that it helped me get in touch with hunger in a way I hadn’t known before and helped me see the difference that adequately fueling my workouts made. Overall, those two things made it worth the $67 I sunk into it.

But my macro counting experience didn’t end there.

Dietitian Macro Counting Emily Field

Part 2: Macro Counting – An RDs Perspective

After I wrapped up my 60-day IIFYM experiment, I decided I wanted to take a deeper dive into learning more about how RDs were incorporating “flexible dieting” into their own practices and what types of results they were seeing with their clients.

Identifying a “macro counting” RD wasn’t easy at first. I know TONS of RDs. But I didn’t recall a single one ever mentioning to me macro counting or flexible dieting as a part of his/her practice. Luckily, through the magic of Facebook I was able to post a query in a closed RD group and through a colleague thankfully found Emily Field, RD.

I emailed Emily and asked if she’d be willing to answer a few questions about macro counting and the popularity of IIFYM (the online program I tested out.) She was kind enough to agree and provided some great insights as to how she uses “flexible dieting” in her practice. Little did I know that one little intro would turn into a longterm professional relationship and new friendship. In the months/years since I first emailed with Emily about IIFYM, I’ve worked with her as my personal dietitian and have included her input in The Sleep Episode, The Menstrual Cycle Episode and The Intermittent Fasting Episode. I adore her and I’m so glad our paths crossed through this experiment. Here’s what she had to say in that first email exchange:


Emily: I’ll use the term “flexible dieting” throughout this interview, but it can be used almost interchangeably with “macro counting/tracking”, “if it fits your macros” and “iifym”.

Regan: Macro tracking isn’t exactly “mainstream” among RDs right now. But so many fitness professionals are using it and its popularity seems to be growing. As an RD, why do you use Macro Tracking with your clients? What type of results have you seen? And how do these differ from approaches you might have taken in the past to achieve weight loss?

Emily: I’ve found that offering flexible dieting in conjunction with behavior change coaching to be the perfect recipe for my clients to achieve their goals. Most people seek nutrition professionals after they’ve made all the changes they know to make but are still not seeing the results they want: maybe they’re not able to lose that 10-15 pounds sitting around their midsection, or they constantly struggle with digestive issues or highs and lows in their mood and energy.

We all need a certain amount of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to feel vibrant, energized, and to support a healthy metabolism. Your body is counting macronutrients whether or not you are. In my experience, my clients are typically struggling to meet their protein and fat needs, which means they’re proportionately eating too many carbohydrates – though they don’t realize it. It’s also very common to see people eating far too few calories, and again, they don’t really know it. These typical eating patterns lead to common complaints (like I mentioned before) we see as nutrition professionals. I’ve found that tracking macros offers a way to help clients see how much protein, fat and carbohydrates they need. When they’re able to start eating enough of the right macros in the right balance for them, they see almost immediate positive results.

Regan: What type of results have you seen?

Emily: I typically work with my clients for 3 months, but sometimes up to 6 and 9 months. In that amount of time we are able to see drastic improvements in body composition; primarily dropping body fat while maintaining or gaining lean muscle. However, I am always most excited to see my clients make peace with food for good (Sidenote from Regan. I LOVE what she says here. It hits home).

Flexible dieting is the only method I have found which offers the structure that people need, while also promoting choice and autonomy. I think it’s incredibly powerful to help someone achieve the “look” or aesthetic they want while living the life they enjoy at the same time. I’m interested in setting my clients up for success and essentially, I’d like to be the last nutrition professional they seek out. When clients “graduate” my services, they’re armed with the sustainable tools and approaches to make them feel empowered to take things into their own hands long into the future.

Regan: And how do these differ from approaches you might have taken in the past to achieve weight loss?

Emily: I’ve been using flexible dieting as a part of my coaching services since I went into private practice so truth be told, I haven’t tried other approaches to help clients make the lasting improvements to their body composition and athletic performance like I do these days. In my practice we focus on the relationships between nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress and I help my clients start to recognize the behaviors and patterns that support or inhibit them from reaching their goals. So while macro tracking is certainly a part of my methodology, it’s not always the dominating feature that leads to desired results.

When I’ve worked in more traditional RD roles, I felt that using meal plans, the food guide pyramid or MyPlate as tools for clients were never super helpful or applicable to different food preferences or cuisines. Whether you prefer vegetarian or Paleolithic styles of eating, Mexican or Vietnamese cuisines, for example, flexible dieting allows you the freedom to eat the foods you prefer while meeting your nutrition needs and delivering the body composition results you want.

Regan: Along those same lines, are you only using Macro tracking for “weight loss” with patients? A quick social media assessment shows that many people are macro tracking to actually “gain weight” to bulk up and start a “cut phase.” I’m curious about your thoughts on this as an RDN and how this may/may not fit into your practice.

Emily: Some of the biggest proponents of flexible dieting on social media seem to be athletes and bodybuilders- so yes, a quick glance would definitely reveal language about how they eat to gain lean muscle or to lose body fat. I use flexible dieting to help my clients achieve a variety of different goals so their macros would reflect weight gain, weight loss, inches gained, inches lost, etc. I work with weightlifters, Crossfit athletes, endurance athletes, and regular people who generally want to feel healthier – and quite frankly just want to look good naked.

In my experience, flexible dieting is one the of the most calculated and efficient methods to go about shedding unwanted body fat to reveal a lean, strong physique. So whether or not you’re a fitness enthusiast or a “regular person”, you can see how adopting a flexible dieting eating pattern might be attractive.

What you might not see on social media is that it can also be one of the most cathartic and rewarding experiences for someone who has a history of trying to lose weight with traditional methods: gone are “yes foods” or “no foods”, short, bland and limiting food lists or a canceled social life. No more “chicken and broccoli life” – I like to say.

I typically stay away from using words like “weight loss” because I think it ’s largely misleading. Many people couldn’t care less about the scale weight when they’re tightening notches on their belt, experiencing higher energy, sleeping soundly and attacking their workout routine with gusto. So while weight might be one measure of progress in our work together, I am typically using a mix of lifestyle factors, body measurements, and quality of life commentary from my clients to measure success with the program.

Regan: How do you determine the Macro ratios you’re using with patients? Is there a set formula you use with all patients or does it vary based on their goals?

Emily: I use the Mifflin-St. Jeor formula that takes into account gender, age, height, weight and activity level as a starting place. From there, I have learned through professional practice and client preference, how to tweak macro ratios to get us closer to their individual goals. Based on a client’s preference for fat-containing foods or past medical history indicating possible blood sugar issues, I might opt for a higher percentage of calories to come from fat macros than for someone who participates in longer endurance activities, for example.

Regan: Do you only macro track the big 3 – CHO/PRO/FAT? Do you have any concerns that in a flexible diet model clients can meet their CHO through simple sugars and not focus on complex carbs?

Emily: I only ask my clients to track the three macronutrients, but I do know some coaches that ask their clients to track fiber as well. By keeping an eye on fiber and setting targets for it, clients are mindful to eat their whole fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains often.

(Regarding concerns about simple sugars) Nope, no concerns at all. Simply put, it’s very hard to hit your protein, fat and carbohydrate prescription with junk food. My clients have health, body composition and athletic performance goals that are clearly established so while I encourage them to work simple sugars, junk foods, “bad foods” (however they want to label it) into their macro prescription without guilt, they find out very quickly how hard or uncomfortable it is to “eat around” those types of foods with plain chicken and broccoli, for example, because they decided to chow down Krispy Kreme donuts.

In order to get to the place they want to be, they’ll need to prioritize meal planning, food prepping as well as restructure their environment in order to be conducive to the lifestyle changes they’re making. What kind of RD wouldn’t want their clients to struggle through the muck with the right tools and come out the other side having decided on their own to eat whole, real foods over processed, packaged or refined ones?

Regan: Some of the commentaries I’ve seen about programs like IIFYM indicate the calories set by their “blueprint” often feel really high for the average person who has maybe been trying to “lose weight” in the past. IIFYM’s info seems to indicate the reason “why” their calorie/macros are so high is in an attempt to “reset” a person’s metabolism. Any thoughts on this and/or IIFYM in general?

Emily: There are typically one of two things going on when someone comments that their macro prescription feels really high – as in the calories feel high and they feel like they’re eating “so much food”.

One is related to chronically undereating in an attempt to maintain a low body weight or to lose weight prior to starting flexible dieting. We’ve been told that “eating less” and “moving more” are the keys to losing weight, and our clients hear this messaging loud and clear everywhere from our food advertising to health organizations. Quite frankly, I think this advice should be buried right alongside margarine on the island of misfit health recommendations.  Eating less and moving more makes you tired, cranky, hungry, frustrated and, if done chronically, will slow metabolism. So when someone starts on a flexible dieting eating pattern and they’re encouraged to eat 1800 calories, for example, up from the 1200 they might be used to, yes, that’s going to feel really high!

Second is related to the types of food they might start to eat when they begin flexible dieting. Eating whole, real food proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates is certainly more filling than processed, packaged and refined foods. Imagine switching from a granola bar for breakfast, low-calorie microwave meal for lunch, soup or salad for dinner with a few light snacks between meals. Suddenly while with flexible dieting you’re eating substantially bigger meals: 2-3 eggs in an omelet with vegetables topped with cheese, large salad for lunch with a full breast of chicken, sunflower seeds and avocado, maybe a stir-fry with ground turkey and rice for dinner – even some macros leftover for a bit of full fat yogurt topped with slivered dark chocolate.

It becomes almost easier to reach for foods in their most natural form because most people want to be in control of all the ingredients and portion sizes in order to hit their prescribed macros for the day. So while they might work in some treats and sweets during the day, most people are eating more real, whole food, feeling full and energized between meals, and enjoying their fat loss journey.


That’s where my initial email exchange with Emily ended, but certainly not the end of the macro counting story. At this point, two years after this whole journey started I could probably produce an entire podcast just on what I’ve learned about myself through my work with Emily and through my embrace of counting macros. Instead, I’ll offer these 10 thoughts and save the rest for another day.

macro counting benefits

10 Lessons I Learned Counting Macros

1. Macro counting isn’t for lazy eaters. It requires thoughtfulness and a few math skills. I’m convinced “-free” diets (going “free” of some food or food group to lose weight) are so popular because they take a lot of the decision making out of choosing foods. “Decision fatigue” is a thing, so for some people, choosing what to eat based solely on what it “isn’t” or “doesn’t have” may seem easier. But it’s not necessarily healthier. With macro counting, you’re choosing foods based on what you’re hungry for and maybe, what macros you have left for the day. This last part is the “math” side of macro counting (and also, the part that would make some intuitive eating advocates cringe. Eating based on a few numbers left over in MyFitnessPal doesn’t exactly feel like letting your body do the guidance. But for me, if I chose well the rest of the day I didn’t really mind a little “boosting” of some additional macros to make everything line up numbers-wise. But that’s me.)

2. My “hunger” is more than a rumbling in my stomach. I’m not sure where over the last 30 years of dieting I lost touch with many of my hunger cues, but I’ve recaptured them, ironically, counting macros. I’ve always been good “waiting” to eat until I was hungry… or so I thought. I based hunger on that internal rumbling. What I realized during this process was that I was hungry a lot more of the time than I realized… moments when I would find myself thinking about food, craving sweet/instant energy foods, getting irritable on conference calls. Kylie (who is a strong advocate for Intuitive Eating) shares a good visual on her blog about the spectrum of hunger cues. Interestingly, on her scale “growling” shows up before irritability. I’ve found for me, that’s actually not the case. My deep internal hunger shows up last. So usually once I’m there, I’m well past being a fun person to be around. The reason I discovered this through macro counting is very honestly, based on how much more food I was eating from Day 1, I was eating at times I didn’t *think* I was hungry (i.e. the growling hadn’t started.) But I quickly realized how much better I felt when eating more and more frequently.

3. When you increase your fuel you can absolutely do more with your workouts. You guys know I’m no Crossfitter or powerlifter wanna-be. I’m just your average 40+ mom with two kids staking out my spot 3 to 4 times per week at BodyPump. After I started counting macros, I’ve been amazed at how much more energy I have throughout my classes. One of the best compliments EVER came when another mom in my class told me that I was inspiring her to work harder and try heavier weights, simply because she saw what I was doing. Me… totally un-athletic, not-a-badass Regan.

4. Eating more and working out feels so much better than eating less and being tired. This needs no further explanation.

5. I was eating a greater percentage of calories from fat than I realized, but not enough calories overall. I’ve believed for a while that whole fat dairy can be a part of a healthy diet. I love nuts and avocados. And salmon is one of my favorite foods. After a couple of years now of tracking macros and trying different ratios under Emily’s guidance, I’ve realized that a heavier percentage of calories coming from fat does seem to help regulate my blood sugar, hanger and general ups-downs BUT the MORE important parameter for me than what the ratios are is simply that I eat enough. Where many RDs seem to point to macro counting as a path to undereating, it has been THE EXACT OPPOSITE for me. It’s what helps me ensure I’m eating enough each day to feel good and fuel up. Period.

6. I was drinking wine every day partly because of my hunger. I used to get REALLY cranky on conference calls (read: I was hungry.) And I used to also get REALLY cranky at about 4:45 p.m. I always thought that meant “Hey… It’s nearly 5 o’clock. I need a drink!” But what I realize now was it’s more like “Hey… It’s nearly 5 o’clock. I need a snack… or better yet, dinner!” As I said earlier, macro counting is promoted as an “Eat/Drink Whatever You Want” flexible dieting plan. And at least with IIFYM, that includes alcohol. Within their plan they do a good job of explaining, rightfully so, that while drinking alcohol certainly doesn’t help boost your metabolism or promote gains in the gym, it’s not prohibited (Alcohol can have *some* health benefits, but it’s REALLY important to understand what they are and in what amounts those benefits apply). IIFYM instructs clients to account for the alcohol calories by assigning those calories as either carb calories or fat calories or a combo of the two. Remember what I said about math earlier? Case in point — When tracking macros, if you want to drink a 5-ounce glass of red wine and split it between your carbohydrates and fat, you’d estimate 125 calories, divided by 2, which gives you 62.5 calories for carbohydrate and fat respectively. Figuring the grams of each macro based on 4 calories per gram in carbohydrate and 9 calories per gram for fat leaves you with that 1 5-ounce glass of wine accounting for 15 grams of carbohydrate and about 7 grams of fat. That’s basically the equivalent of a piece of white bread with 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter. I’m not likely to sit down to 2 or 3 pieces of bread every night with a couple of tablespoons of butter. So why would I drink 2 or 3 glasses of wine night after night? (Aside from the fact that you feel like you need drink after doing that math exercise, of course.) 

7. My meals don’t have to be evenly spread out through the day. I tend to eat a big breakfast and then fly through the day without stopping for a lot of eating breaks. Sure, that may be its own issue, but I’m home alone during the day and working as hard and fast as I can. It’s when I’m eating breakfast in the mornings and eating dinner together as a family at night that I want to spend time enjoying a big meal. And I’ve decided “That’s okay.” That’s what works for me. That’s what makes me happy. My time alone eating doesn’t fill me up emotionally like my time with my family does. So I don’t want to put a ton of time/effort into it. That said, going skimpy on food during the day, means I have some catching up to do at night. Conventional wisdom would tell you this is going to wreak havoc on my metabolism, but I can say definitely, it hasn’t. In fact, just before the holidays this year I had some metabolic testing done at DexaFit in Atlanta (here’s the podcast episode detailing that experience) and it showed that my metabolize is actually SLIGHTLY HIGHER than predicted for a woman my age. THIS is something Emily have discussed at length — the notion that our bodies rebound much more easily than some nutrition- and fitness-gurus would have you believe. But it does require nourishing adequately, building muscle and adopting healthy behaviors. I sometimes think even my own profession has worked so hard to come up with “helpful tricks and tips” that we’ve created a bunch of arbitrary food rules that make people feel like they “have” to eat at certain times and “shouldn’t” eat at others.

8. It doesn’t matter if I eat late. It won’t make me fat. I’m gonna suggest here you forget everything you’ve read on those “get ready for your bikini body today” magazine covers. That whole rule of nothing after 6pm hasn’t held a bit of truth for me in terms of weight. While there are benefits to condensing your feeding window – those were discussed in The Intermittent Fasting Episode (Part II) – eating at night has simply not translated to weight gain for me. In fact, I’ve recently realized that eating a protein+fat rich snack before bed actually helps me sleep more soundly. Eating before bed doesn’t agree with some people, and that’s okay. I’m not saying you NEED to eat before bed. But those “never eat after dark” folks are only offering up that advice as a way to help you cut calories overall.

9. My sleep sucked and now it’s better. I’m not sure if I can attribute all of this to macro counting because I’ve made a lot of changes this last year that I think have helped my sleep — including quitting coffee and as mentioned earlier, drinking less wine (Be sure to listen to The Sleep Episode). Those two things alone will help you sleep better if you, too, are suffering from some less than ideal sleep patterns. But what I noticed happened when I started eating more calories is that I’ve been having more vivid dreams through the night and waking up having gone through periods of much deeper sleep. This whole thing is a little difficult to describe objectively, but I can honestly say I’ve been waking up feeling more rested.

10. There’s a whole world of people out there who want to eat better, feel stronger and be healthier. I am an RD who believes that macro counting may help *some* of those people. I know this last one is a little more philosophical than tactical, but I think it’s worth sharing, especially since I know many readers of this blog are RDs. I have concerns that we as a profession are increasingly unaccepting of differences of opinions and more importantly, different areas of practice. I no longer believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to health.

I’ve seen tons of posts over the last two years by fellow RDs mocking people who count macros or worse, suggesting that dietitians who incorporate these methods into their practice are doing a disservice and promoting diet culture by helping their clients and patients achieve their goals.

I’m not saying that every macro counting plan is perfect or that every RD who is using it in his/her practice is. But I am saying – as I said earlier – that in my very humble opinion and personal experience, I can both love my body AND want to take steps to improve it using a tactic like macro counting. I’ve spent two years doing just that and I’m all the happier and healthier for it. ~Regan


Before you go… 

If you’ve made it through ALL of that info, you might now be wondering “Well, what does she eat as a result of all of this?” 

As luck would have it, I’m telling you in this post about My favorite quick & easy ways to sneak in more protein. Click on over there to read more.

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10 Comments

  1. Kit B on January 2, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    I love this Regan! I have recently stopped tracking my macros and logging my food, after doing it for about 5 years (not every day, but close to it). I am trying to eat more intuitively and not be tied to my macro goals (btw I also got a blueprint from IIFYM out of curiosity and was also pleasantly surprised at the saneness of the information they presented). I’m glad you learned a lot about yourself and your body etc during this period–I think we all continually learn what feels best to us. And as a fellow RD, I think trying different things makes us better at our jobs.

    • thisunmillenniallife on January 2, 2019 at 3:00 pm

      Thanks!!! I agree – trying different things helps us see the world through other people’s eyes. I know my way isn’t for everyone. But being willing to share what worked for me might help someone else like me. Thank you for your kind words 🙂

  2. Carolyn on January 3, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you for this post, Regan! I felt conflicted about tracking macros but I soon saw how much tracking helped me create a healthy and balanced diet. I was a chronic under eater and began to pay for it w muscle loss. Learning to eat more by planning and tracking helped me change so much about my health – reduced chronic pain and inflammation plus increased lean body composition just to mention a few benefits! I appreciate your thoughtful and informed perspective.

    • thisunmillenniallife on January 3, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Thanks Carolyn for sharing your perspective 🙂

  3. Katie at Mom's Kitchen Handbook on January 28, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    Just listened to this on your podcast and loved hearing about your personal journey and the perspective of a macro expert. It’s all fairly new to me, so I now feel duly informed. Most of all, I so so so appreciate you raising the point that a positive relationship with food/your body and a sensible eating program can go hand in hand. I am all for intuitive eating and practice it myself on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room in the world for additional approaches (ie counting macros) for achieving wellness.

    • thisunmillenniallife on January 29, 2019 at 5:53 am

      Thanks Katie and I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Allie on May 20, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Honestly one of the most informed & least biased article i’ve read. I just began my journey counting macros, and i was having a lot of the similar thoughts (i.e., “this is a lot of food?” “too many calories are definitely going to make me gain weight”, etc.). I feel confident i’m on the right track, though, after reading this. Thank you for sharing!!

    • thisunmillenniallife on May 23, 2019 at 10:21 am

      So glad it was helpful for you Allie!

  5. Christine on May 29, 2019 at 10:45 am

    This was such an informative article!! I also believe that I have been underrating for years and have had the EXACT same thoughts as you after counting macros for about a month! I feel better, have a more balanced relationship with food, no longer feel bad about eating WHEN I want (which is, like you, at breakfast and at the end of the day). Thanks so much for this encouragement!

    • thisunmillenniallife on May 29, 2019 at 8:39 pm

      So glad it was helpful for you Christine!

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