I have been tracking my food consumption on and off (but mostly on) for over a year now. I decided to give it a go and since have learned a hell of a lot about my eating habits, what is actually in the foods I eat, and ultimately what my body needs to feel its best. Quite honestly, a lot of my success has resulted from tracking my macros. (Review Macronutrients 101 to brush up on what macronutrients are and their specific functions.)
Food is a huge part of everyday life; I mean, we eat at least 3 times a day. We spend a lot of time preparing food, shopping for it, or even just thinking about it. It’s not until a couple of years ago when I began thinking of food for what it actually is, though—fuel for our bodies. This inspired me to listen to my body and pay attention to what makes me feel good inside and out.
Of course there is a lot of controversy around tracking food consumption, and all for good reason. I am slightly biased because I have tracked and have found success in it and for that reason I do think tracking is not only a great tool, but is necessary for most people in order to reach certain fitness goals. Based on my experience, I brainstormed a list of both the pros and cons of doing so.
You will reach your fitness goals faster.
You will learn a lot about the foods you’re putting into your body. What exactly is in those frozen meals you buy? And just 20 almonds have 140 calories?! This will result in you making healthier decisions and...
You will eat more whole foods.
You will learn about portion sizes. Is the serving size for pringles really just 14 chips? Does anyone stop after just 14 of them?
You will understand your intake. If you’re gaining weight while religiously eating 2,500 calories, then you know that you’re eating over your maintenance calories.
You will feel in control. If you have a doughnut for breakfast, you will be less likely to convince yourself you’ve blown it and binge the rest of the day. You can simply compensate for the extra fat during breakfast by having a low-fat lunch and/or dinner.
You will avoid overeating or undereating.
It’ll help you learn about your hunger cues, especially if you have a hard time deciphering if you’re hungry or just want to eat.
You can assess which foods cause issues. If you have digestive problems, you can find what triggers it by analyzing your food intake trends. Likewise, you will learn what is most satisfying for your body.
Might worsen your relationship with food. It could cause you to stress out about food rather than simply enjoying it.
Makes you look at food in terms of numbers. Even when you stop, you will look at that cadbury egg and ask yourself if that 150 calories is worth it. This could be a pro, too, but it’s a con if you have trouble with allowing yourself to indulge in moderation from time to time.
You may feel restricted.
It can be tedious and annoying, especially when you make a dish at home and have to input all the ingredients. It’s easy if you’re like me and eat the same things pretty much every day and most restaurants are easily trackable in apps. But yes, it does take time to weigh your ingredients and enter them in your app.
Use it as an excuse to eat terrible foods as long as it fits in your macros. This may cause someone to choose a food solely based on meeting their caloric or macronutrient needs rather than choosing one based on nutritional value.
You don’t eat based on your hunger cues, you eat based on what you have left. If you’re not very hungry by nighttime, but have a lot of macros left, you might eat to the point of feeling over-full just to meet your macros.
It could cause eating disorders. For some people, knowing too much can be detrimental, which leads to unhealthy obsessive thinking and stressing about calorie counting and precise measurements.
So, should you be tracking your macros? The answer to this question is highly dependent on your goals, lifestyle, and personality. Remember, a healthy lifestyle includes your mental health.
Based on my personal success with tracking my macros, I do recommend it for most people. I’m not saying you have to do it forever, but even doing it for a couple of weeks will help you gain an understanding of portion sizes and the nutritional content of foods you frequently consume.