Counting your calories and macros (aka macronutrients) are 2 of the most common ways I see people track and monitor their food. I’m not a huge fan of either (although I’m not saying don’t do these if you feel they are what work for you – remember bio-individuality), but as with anything, they have their up sides as well as their down.
Calorie counting is pretty straight forward, you just count and tot up the calories you consume throughout a day. This is one of the main methods I see LOTS of individuals use as it can help prevent you from over or under-eating and is one of the most common methods in many modern-day diets. I do NOT believe in calorie counting as coming from a background of truly understanding eating disorders, I know first-hand how calorie counting can lead to a negative relationship with food and how it can actually harm your health journey if it becomes obsessive.
Counting your macros is when individuals measure their food and then tally up how much of each macronutrient they eat throughout their day (the carbohydrates, proteins and fats). Normally they have a limit or a target they are trying to aim for or work with and therefore this is still a restrictive diet. The positives are that they do provide some sort of structure if it is needed, and done properly can actually help people eat what their individual bodies thrive off and can help them work towards targets.
As I have said, both are restrictive and neither focus on the quality of the food. Quality is so important. These two methods don’t take into account the micronutrients, those vitamins and minerals that make our bodies tick and enhance our health. Technically someone could be hitting their macros but neglecting their fruit and veg intake – not good, right? Same with calories. A calorie is just a unit of energy and therefore doesn’t take into account where that energy is coming from. A digestive biscuit and a nectarine have around the same number of calories – which do you think is better for you? Which will make your body thrive and which will harm you?
One final note on tracking your macros – if this is something you are in favour of, make sure you see a qualified nutritionist or dietician to help you in this area. It is so important for your health to make sure you are doing this correctly and PT’s, gyms and apps just will not cut it. Seek the advice of a health professional if this is something you are wanting to use or experiment with.
Get a pen and paper (or you can do this on your phone if you don’t want to go down the old fashioned way!) and write down what you want to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for your snacks/treats as you go through the week. You can plan as far ahead as you like, although I normally recommend a weekly meal plan so you can align your weekly shop with it and keep it fresh and exciting.
Meal planning in this way is great because you can see on that paper if you have a varied and balanced diet with all the macronutrients your body needs as well as a rainbow variety of fruit and vegetables. You will be able to see if every meal is balanced or which meals you need to add more veg to.
With meal prepping you will be able to visually see what is on your meal plan and what you’re planning on fuelling your body with. You’ll be able to see what you need more or less of, you will be able to portion size and monitor how much of the food is going into your body AND you will once again be able to see if you’re getting enough fruit and veg into your diet.
This is amazing not only for seeing how much and what you have been eating but also how it makes you feel.
Write down everything you take into your body and be as specific as you can – write down even the small mouthfuls and snacks you eat as well as the bigger meals. Also note down what you drink. You will be able to get a great indicator of what you actually eat and drink and notice where you’re ‘slipping up’, what you’re eating too much or too little of and where you need to make small adjustments.
Also take note of how you feel straight after eating and how you feel 2-3 hours after eating. This will help you track how your food is serving your body and whether it’s nourishing your body or not.