Macro FAQs

Maybe to some, the image above may not seem that drastic, but for me their is so much change. Not in the physical, but in the mentality between where I was at in August vs where I am today. Since I have started counting macros, I have received numerous questions regarding macros. There is a lot of science, planning, and commitment to tracking and it most definitely is NOT for everyone. I thought I would do a long blog post explaining macros, why they are working for me, as well as highlight some on Instagram. Here are some of my detailed responses to the most common questions I receive. Remember, everything I know and share is from personal experience and research. I am not a macro expert and have no nutrition qualifications. It is always advised to continue further educating yourself beyond what you see not just in my posts, but anything on social media! A lot of things you see online are a matter of opinion, and I try to have a scientific backed approach to my methods! My methods may not be “right” and some may disagree in my approach, but what I am doing works for me and I hope this “brief” haha intro can give you a little more insight and help as well 🙂

What is a macro?

Macros is an abbreviation for macronutrients. The most important macros are carbs (energy), fats (regulate hormones), and protein (build and repair muscles). The amounts of each of these you consume add up to your daily intake of calories. Every carb and protein gram equates to 4 calories and every gram of fat equates to 9 calories. So a diet high in fat is consequently also high in calories.

Do I need to track macros to lose weight?

NO! Weight loss is relatively simple. To lose weight, you must eat less calories than you naturally consume. When I started counting macros, my starting weight was roughly 177 pounds. My maintenance calories at that time was 2100 calories. HOWEVER, when I was not tracking, I was either “intuitively” eating, or having binge episodes, which resulted in me eating in a surplus close to 3000-3500 calories, which is WAY over my maintenance levels. Once I realized that, it made sense why I was in a plateau for so long and no longer seeing the results I was wanting to see. I was not gaining a lot of weight though, because I was exercising regularly and intensely, but I was still unknowingly eating in a surplus. To lose weight, calories are the most important thing to keep in mind. It really is as simple as calories in versus out. This does NOT mean eat very little. The biggest goal in weight loss is to eat as much as you can and still lose weight. If you do not eat enough, this will shock your body and probably do opposite of your goals. I do not share my macros, because they are very specific to me, but I will admit I eat close to 1900 calories (give or take, depending on the day), and have still seen a little over a pound lost each week at this calorie intake. My macros are very high! And this calorie goal may not work for you. It works for me because, again, I was eating close to 3000 calories without truly knowing it, so I have knocked my calories back by over 1000 calories! As my body adjusts, my calories will decrease and eating in a deficit will become harder. You do not want to “diet” for too long because you will physically and mentally burnout. You really want to target a pound a week for healthy and lasting weight loss.

Why count macros then to lose weight?

For me this is simple. This may not be the right or best solution for you so please keep that in mind. When I was not tracking, I was unknowingly eating far more than I realized from predominantly fat based sources. Because fat grams equate to 9 calories per gram, I had a high calorie diet. Fats, however, are not bad. They are important for hormonal levels. But a diet high in fat and low in protein is not very satisfying or sustaining. It leads to crashes, for me at least, and often lead to binges because I was not fueling myself properly. My body was not satisfied or sustained. I used to think my body craved carbs, but now that I have a better understanding of macros, looking at the things I often binged on, I actually was craving fats. So for me, tracking macros is helpful because I know I am fueling my body properly. I am eating enough carbs to keep me energized, protein to keep me full, and fats to keep my hormones in check. I will admit, since counting macros, my period has been a bit wacky. I learned, and will confirm this with my doctor at my annual visit, that rapid weight loss and a drastic change in diet can affect your period. But my diet and fat intake changed drastically since counting macros, so this would make sense. Ill be sure to updated once I have confirmation from my doctor 🙂

What is a surplus vs a deficit?

A surplus is eating over maintenance calories and a deficit is eating under maintenance calories. Other terms you may hear for surplus is a “bulk” or essentially you’re gaining weight. A deficit is also referred to a “cut” where you’re trying to lose weight. Maintenance means you are neither trying to gain or lose, simply maintain the weight you are at. Something to keep in mind is you CANNOT build muscle and lose fat at the same time! Why? Because they are opposite processes!!! To build muscle, you must eat in a surplus or “bulk”. During a bulk, you are building muscle, but please keep in mind that you will also gain fat during a bulk as well. During a cut, you are losing fat. You can also lose weight from muscle though, so it is important during a cut that you continue lifting weights to maintain the muscle mass you currently have and minimize weight loss from the muscle you currently have.

As a vegetarian, where do you get your protein from?

Prior to starting my fitness journey, I would only ever buy and eat eggs if I was making a cake or brownies haha! So, when I started working out and changing my eating habits, one of the first things I added back in was egg whites. I only added whole eggs back into my diet just a few weeks ago! One way I like to get protein is I will have 2 eggs and add another 100 grams of egg whites to it which is roughly 24 grams of protein and low carb and fat (because lets be honest, we all want our carbs and fats to come from bread and peanut butter. You know I am right lol!). I also eat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. Yoplait 100 is a great source of protein and is low carbs. Be cautious with yogurt because many brand are both high in fat and carbs, so just check the labels before you purchase! Siggis is also a great brand for high protein and lower carb and no fat option. Fat free cottage cheese is probably the least exciting food on the planet, but for zero fat, 1 gram of carbs, and 15 grams of protein: worth it! Cheese is another great source, but I always use low fat or fat free. I know fat free cheese is pretty awful, but for again zero fat, 2 carbs, and 9 grams of protein: worth it! I also do take protein supplements. My favorite brand is PeScience. The snickerdoodle and white chocolate mint are da bomb! But protein powder is really personal, so try sample packs until you find brand you love. I use it in oatmeal, baked goods, or as a shake. I do often also have a protein bar. I avoid them if possible, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Just be careful with protein bars because some have lots of carbs and fats. Just last night I grabbed a protein bar and was stoked it had 14 grams of protein and only 9 carbs! I paid NO attention to the fat content, and after I had already started eating it and began to log it, I realized it had 13 grams of fat. OUCH!

How do you hit your macro targets?

PLANNING is key! The whole point of tracking macros or “flexible dieting” as it is often called, is to be able to eat whatever you want. You want that pizza? AWEOME! Eat it! Just so long as it fits. If you know you are going out or planning a cheat meal, log that first and then figure out what you have to eat prior to those meals to stay on track for the day. Struggling to get your carbs but have used up all your fats and proteins? Fruits and veggies are your friends!! Over in fat but still have to hit carbs and protein goals? See what is highest in fat and reduce the portion size or omit it all together. Somedays you have to give up peanut butter (always a sad day!) but it does not mean you can never have it again, you just can’t have it today because you’ve consumed too much fat from other sources. If this is the case then no fat greek yogurt is a great solution. Need more protein but are close to hitting your fat and carb goals? Protein powder and egg whites are the most common things I use to help supplement my protein needs.

How do you get started with macros?

Honestly, if you are new to any sort of nutrition, I would not start with macros. They are tricky, cumbersome, and really frustrating at times. If you are trying to lose weight, you can simply search any online calculator that would give you your daily maintenance calories. Lets just say your maintenance calories are 2100 calories. I would start by simply lowering your intake by about 100 calories. YOU DO NOT WANT TO CUT YOUR CALORIES TOO QUICKLY! This will not only shock your system, but in my experience, cause you to binge because your body is not accustomed to lower calories and it begs to be fed and it is so easy to over do it really quickly if you cut your calories too quickly. Before getting started in macros, I would advice research and educating yourself. Macro counting is NOT for everyone and you want to make sure it is something you can commit to. If you are not new to nutrition and have a strong understand in what does and doesn’t work for you, there are many online sources to help set your macros. But I would highly advice using a coach. A calculator doesn’t take into account binge/ restrict habits you may have or any other dietary needs you may experience. Working with a professional and someone who can really understand your dietary habits and needs is the best and most effective way to set macros targets that will work best for you. And working with someone really helps with remaining accountable to staying on target.

How did I get stated with macros?

About 10 or so weeks before my fitness year anniversary, I was really frustrated with not seeing further results. I was about 4 months into a plateau and really wanted to see changes for a family vacation that was a week after my fitness anniversary. At the time, I had no knowledge of macros other than a very basic understanding. I was completely unaware that my “intuitive” eating at the time was way over my maintenance goals. I hired a macro coach to work with me for 8 weeks, but because I did not know my current calorie intake was so high, I was initially set at too low of a deficit (around 1500 cals or so). This in turn caused me to binge and I became very unorganized in my thoughts about what I wanted my goals to be. I went back and fourth between wanting to bulk or wanting to cut when in reality I was consuming too little and not truly ready for the mindset commitment it required to track macros. This was around April/May of 2016. Fast forward to October of 2016. I am still stuck in a plateau and going back and fourth between all these “diets” and not sure how to make effective changes. I went on a girls weekend trip where I met a dear friend (via Instagram) who really began to teach me a thing or two about macros. She has a very blunt, tough love, and realistic approach to macros and I asked her to help me. So as a favor she and I have worked together and have realized my triggers, my issues, and found a balance that has FINALLY made not just macros work, but seeing really positive progress again. When I started working with her, I was eating 2000 calories and losing 2 pounds a week!! Which is honestly really too fast of weight loss… But then my body adjusted and I had a few slow weeks before dropping down again. And I have only adjusted my macros once in the 12ish weeks I have been working with her. I still eat a LOT, and I am losing a pound (sometimes more) a week. As my body adjusts again, she will help me lower the in an appropriate manner.

Do I count ratios for macros?

NO! NO! NO! Everyone has a difference of opinion for this (as most opinions differ greatly in the fitness and health industry) my opinion is that ratios are not measurable. So eating 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein means nothing. I target grams, not percentages, because you can weigh a gram, you cannot weigh a ratio. Yes this means I have a scale and I measure out things like oats, egg whites, protein powder, cheese, salad dressing, etc. I do not weigh out veggies though because most of the veggies I eat are not macro dense and don’t really “make or break” my macros. Unless its something like potatoes where the carbs are high! Fruits I tend to stick to apples, pears, and berries so those are just a standard measurement to me. I will weigh out a banana or pineapple since those tend to have the most carbs and it so easy for me to eat a lot of pineapple because it is like candy! You can easily over do it with healthy things. But I have to be realistic in my approach and measuring every. single. thing. is just not practical for me.

Do I carb cycle?

No, I don’t! Im still new to counting and don’t want to overwhelm myself haha. I do feel more confident in my macro counting abilities though so I probably could handle it now if I wanted to. But what I am doing currently is working so why change, you know? Carb cycling is when you intentionally have a higher carb day on a more intense training day (like leg day) and you would have a lower carb day on say a rest day.

Do I count any other nutrients?

Nope 🙂 Some people try to keep sugar or sodium low, but I do not keep those into consideration. Carbs, fats, and proteins are enough as is haha. I do tend to have a high sodium diet, so I make sure I remain hydrated to keep my system flushed out.

Where do you track your macros?

I use MyFitness Pal. I upgraded my app so that I could utilize the gram function (unless you upgrade you can only set your macros in percentages :/ ) MyFitness Pal can help set up goals for you, but always be weary of online calculators because they only take into consideration a small portion of your lifestyle. This is why talking with a coach could be far more beneficial because they can tap into where you’re truly struggling and help set effective and manageable macro goals.

Can you help me set my macros?

Sadly, I cannot :/ I am not certified or qualified. Maybe one day I can! But not today. That also being said, always make sure you educate yourself from qualified professionals. I am confident in what I have learned and shared here, but there is always more to know, especially in regards to YOUR body and what you need.

Where did you learn about macros? Do you have sources you can recommend?

As mentioned in how I got started with macros, my friend Emma (@em_wizzfit on Instagram) had taught me everything I know! She got her info from her previous coach, Nick Cheadle, who has an incredible macro “bible” that I highly recommend! You can find that here. It is about $20 and well worth the info! He debunks diet myths about different dieting styles. Maybe he is a bit biased about flexible dieting, but I think he has a balanced and reasonable approach for eating as a lifestyle and the results from his clients speak for themselves. I would also suggest following him on Instagram (@nickcheadlefitness) as well because he shares lots of good info on his page and snapchat! Eric Helms also is a great resource for macro information. His is a bit pricier and FAR more scientific based, but if you’re into that kind of education it is worth checking out here.

Hope this helps! I will be updating this page as I learn more and as I receive more common questions 🙂

FORGET AND FORGIVE: RECOVERY AFTER A CHEAT OR FALLING OFF THE WAGON

Whelp, I just ate this whole pizza. Might as well eat this whole bag of chips since, well YOLO. And because I am on a roll, how about I finish off this box of cookies too.

It is a vicious cycle. We exercise and eat well for a few days and then the weekend hits and suddenly we have consumed enough food for a small village. Prior to starting my fitness journey, I was an emotional eater. I mostly ate out of boredom, loneliness, or sadness. There were many week nights where I would sit in front of the TV and eat a whole box of cereal or bag of chips. Weekends I often would not eat much during the day, then at night I would be ravenous and eat a whole pizza. And because it was Saturday and I was lonely or bored, I would snack the rest of the night, usually consuming way more than what is humanly possible. But I still did it even knowing it was harming my health. It numbed the emotion and provided reward and satisfaction because… well… pizza is delicious.

I knew the only way I would make positive changes with my exercise program was if I cleaned up my eating as well. It took a couple weeks, but I rather quickly adopted a healthier eating routine. I simply stopped buying temptation. Anything in a box or bag is so easy to sit and overly consume. I do not have the strongest will power when it comes to mindless eating because old habits die hard. I began to replace bags of chips with bags of carrots instead and simply left pizza as a once in awhile treat. I also decided going into this journey that I would not allow myself cheat meals. It is not that I disagree with them, they just are not meant for me. I avoid looking at food as a reward. Oh if I eat well all week, then I can reward myself with a cheat meal. This mindset, for me, makes me live for food and these weekly indulgences become a strong propensity to over do it. It is a mind based incentive rather than a moment to treat the soul. I look at food as fuel. It is what my body needs to run effectively. I used to eat to satisfy my mind. I now eat to fuel my body’s needs. By allowing myself a cheat meal, it is then still satisfying my mind. This set up does not work for me because of how my mind controls eating to cave into emotions.

Now this does not mean that I do not enjoy a treat meal every now and then. I, on occasion, still buy bags of chips. They usually are tortilla chips and smaller (meaning not family sized) bags, but even now I pretty much consume them in one sitting. During Christmas time, I was obsessed with holiday popcorn. I would sometimes buy a few bags at a time and eat a whole bag in one sitting, and then do it again the next day. Popcorn is a current weakness! So I try not to buy it. I even had to stop buying granola because I would eat far more than an actual serving. Normally it would last a little longer, but it still satisfied the need to mindlessly eat. So yes, there are still times when I overdo it with treat foods. They are fewer and farer between, but they still happen! In the past, I would allow this moment of weakness to become a pattern. If it was a Saturday, I would say oh I will start on Monday with really trying to change my eating habits. But Monday would lead to next month which would lead to next year and suddenly all those Monday’s becomes 5 years and 30 pounds.

My indulgences and treats now happen in moments. Many times friends will want to make plans on a weekend and I can prepare to indulge a little. Sometimes I do, sometimes I do not. I would say this decision is dictated by mood, but that is allowing my mind to take over which I try to avoid. I rely on the energy of the moment to allow me to be free from regretting whatever decisions I make about what foods I put in my body. My favorite time to indulge happens in moments of spontaneity. I do not have time to think; however, I do not simply react either. I consciously decide today I can have pizza and enjoy it too! I do not see this as a weakness, but as a time to be present and live in the moment. These times are rare, but by being able to live freely and not be concerned about what I am eating, only then am truly able to be fully aware and content with my being. These moments allow me to be purely worry free about any insecurities. Maybe the next day I wake up a bit bloated or uncomfortable. But I simply eat right, drink some water, break a sweat, move on and forget about it. I remain content in the fact that I overdid it because by allowing indulgences here and there, I am no longer filling my mind with toxic words or body with too much food, I am filling both my heart and soul with fond memories.

How do I now break the pattern when I over do it in these moments? I forgive myself for any harsh words I might tell myself and then forget about it and move on. Notice it is not forgiveness of the act of over eating and enjoying great food every now and then. The forgiveness needs to take place upon the heart. You need your heart to forgive your mind for any of the harsh words or punishments, like excessive exercise, you might do or say after these moments happen. Life gets busy and it is easy to fall off the wagon even after several months of consistency. Maybe your cheat meal turns into a cheat day, or cheat weekend, or cheat week, or cheat month, or even a cheat year. It happens! You can get back into a routine but you must be willing and able to forgive yourself for the hurtful things you may have said or done to yourself and forget that it happened. By holding onto the resentments of overeating, your are not allowing yourself to forgive. Forgiveness leads to healing and this healing allows you to mend your mind and your heart so that your soul becomes content with moving forward.

MY BUTTERFLY MOMENT

It honestly happened in a very moment, just a second of time when I decided I was over being so self critical and negative. My butterfly moment happened the second I decided to choose self love. Now it was not in this instance that I suddenly loved me for all of me. I simply decided I was ready to work on myself, find my happiness again, and create internal balance. I had reached my breaking point. I was simply over it. Over all of it. The doubt. The fear. The loneliness. The self hatred. The angst of unworthiness. This destined negative path of life my mind had created. The missed opportunities due to the silliest and strangest of insecurities. I never realized that in order to break free, I had to break down and un-become everything I thought I was. Little did I know that this breaking point, was the beginning of my journey to self discovery. My wings had taken shape, but I still had to learn to fly.

Mostly, I had fallen out of recognition with myself. In my 25 years of life, I never truly loved myself, yet I had a strong sense of who I was. Or so I thought. Around the age of 16 or 17, I was so sure of everything. I knew what I wanted to do and be. I knew the contributions I wanted to make to society. I really thought I had it all figured out. Except one day, roughly 9 years later in the early months of 2015, I woke up and I did not have it figured out. I did not know who I was anymore. I was incredibly unhappy. I had so many uncertainties of the future. I had been chasing this dream and life that I realized was not meant for me. Who I wanted to be at 16 was not who I was meant to become. But in life, everything has a season, and seasons change. Prior to turning 25, I did not drink because someone close to me is an alcoholic. Seeing their struggles and the pain it caused my family made me not want to drink… ever. Yet after my 25th birthday, I crumbled under my will power. I call this time my “quarter life crisis”. I was struggling and needed something to numb the pain I was experiencing. I started drinking and truly lost every notion of my inner being. But in this time of temporary loss, I found myself too. I found my strength. I found my drive. I found my determination. I mostly found my willingness and the courage to change, and change for the better.

I had spent all my life feeling like a caterpillar. I had built a cocoon around my heart by being emotionally callused, which in turn caused immense shyness and anxiety. Drinking allowed me to feel free. Free from the anxiety, the deep sadness, the insecurities, yet it was not right. I am not sure there is a right reason to drink, but I certainly drank for the wrong reasons. I drank to feel an emotional and mental release of painful negative feelings. However, each time I did drink, I slowly was building my cocoon. Eating camouflaged emotion as well. I hid emotionally and mentally, intentionally, for I did not want to be seen. I wanted to be invisible and to conceal myself from the predators of society. I was comfortable being unseen. But invisibility is lonely and deep down I knew I wanted to be seen for all of the internal beauty I knew I had within.

As it turns out, the biggest predator all along was my mind. I had created this destiny, a life of lonely solitude. And for so long I blamed my past and things that happened in my childhood that brought me to this present bitterness. I blamed others for my unhappiness and miserable state of being. It was not until I was enclosed in the darkness of a full cocoon that I saw the light. I had been drowning mentally for so long trying to find myself and sense of worth again. On May 24, 2015 my cocoon began to break! I had just looked at a picture I was tagged in after a great day snorkeling with manatees with a dear friend. Horrified, I turned to my roommate and said, “I look like a beached whale” and in which she replied with, “you do not look like a beached whale, you just do not see yourself the way the rest of the world sees you”. This was the day of my butterfly moment. I realized life did not have to be this miserable. I knew I was capable of being happy, I just had to let go and break free from this caterpillar stage in life. I let go of it all by gaining control again. I took charge of my life and chose happiness because I finally realized I was worthy of loving myself and ultimately self love was what I needed most of all.

I always knew I had the strength to transform and find self love and confidence but did not know how. Happiness and a strong sense of self was what I wanted. Both internal feelings yet I did not know how to simply be happy or be completely, wholly, 100% me. I knew getting into shape was what I needed to be healthy both for my mind and body. On June 1, 2015 I started Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide workout program and never looked back. I found my wings with this program, but for the next several months I had to learn to fly. Slowly but surely with time and consistency I found mental and physical strength which led to happiness in both my mind and heart. However, this was not enough. Was I happier? Yes. But I still was struggling to find me again. Mostly I felt I was lacking meaning and significance to my life. I realized these were things I could not find on my own, so on January 19, 2016 (a day after my 26th birthday) I decided to see a therapist again. Working out and eating right got me pretty far physically, yet mentally I could no longer help myself because I still felt like a big piece of me was missing.

I was and still kinda am holding on to the past. The ugly, dark, familiar side. The part of me that was a perfectionist, organized, focused, planner, and very self critical. My anxiety took control over my mind and was hindering my ability to truly fly because I knew I was still living a life not meant for me. I am currently struggling to find my sense of self and still seeing my therapist. With each session, a little more of me is revealed. Loosing every notion of my being has allowed me to become more of who I am. I know my meaning now. I know who I am meant to become. I am ok with acknowledging that I need help in allowing my mind, heart and soul the ability to become one. Freedom from my past is what I need so I can continue to move forward.

Letting go of the things holding you back is difficult, but it is the only way to find your butterfly moment. Today I am so much happier and healthier. I am finding my voice and my meaning. We can blame others all we want for the things we feel and think. YOU and only you have the choice and the power to chose how you feel about yourself. My fitness journey has never been about looking a certain way. The continued courage to change has lasted because I finally became content in not pursing a “look” and started chasing a feeling. After all, a butterfly is beautiful no doubt, but they are not beautiful for their colorful wings, they are beautiful for their soft grace in flight and the way they dance in the wind. My ability to seek change happened when I realized I did not have to change from ugly to beautiful. It was about finding wings to let my toughened heart become uncallused, so that I could then open my mind, and let my soul, my true inner beauty soar. Our journeys are not ones of transforming from a caterpillar to butterfly. It is not about unbecoming something usually deemed unattractive and changing into something beautiful. It really is not about unbecoming anything. It is about realizing your inner beauty and strength to become our best selves. This realization gives us the strength to transform. Do not strive to become beautiful like a butterfly. You already are beautiful! Strive for letting your inner beauty shine so that you can let you soul free.

THERAPY IS MY SOLACE

Mental health is something that is very important to me. I openly discuss dealing with anxiety and at times depressed states on my Instagram. Before I go on, I must state that I am sure most people experience anxiety and low points at times. However, anxiety and depression look and feel different for everyone who struggle with these mental imbalances. I think everyone struggles with a little anxiety and depressed states from time to time, but for some of us, these things are continuously consuming our minds. This journey I am on is not about seeking a physical appearance, it is about finding a balance within my mind, body, heart, and soul. It is a total transformation to finding inner peace and a well rounded state of healthy being. I am fairly in tune with my mind and know when I can no longer help myself. I reached that moment in January just before my 26th birthday. The day after my birthday I walked into a therapy session for the first time in a few years and exclaimed, “I am so excited to be here”!!

To give background history, I am no stranger to therapy. I have seen several therapists in my life. My first experience with a therapist began at the age of five, yes five. I believe I went consistently for once a week, give or take, for a total of about five years. I was one emotionally unbalanced child! I went primarily because of my parent’s divorce and having a fear of my dad. Why I was so fearful of him? I really do not know. I have faint memories and stories to remember these early times. I know there was emotional abuse I suffered which created this fear and having no desire to see him. Every time I would see him pull into our cul-de-sac on “his” weekend I would run and hide. I would hide under beds, down stairs in a cupboard, outside in the creek, anywhere I thought I could not be found. Sometimes it would take hours to find me. (*SIDE NOTE: UM just had an epiphany. Maybe this need to hide as a child has translated into my adulthood as wanting to be invisible!*) Then it would take several more hours trying to pry my tireless, fearful, crying little body out of my mom’s arms. I would leave scratch marks on her back and as I would be carried away by my dad, I would watch her burst into tears and close the door. Not every weekend that was my dad’s weekend would be this dramatic, but this was a very common event that lasted many years. I have a few memories of these early therapy sessions. Every week I had to record my emotions on a clipart thermometer using blue to express sadness and red to express anger and or all the variations in between. Each therapy session would end with a polaroid picture of a sandbox creation I would make. It generally consisted of a thick forest with a big scary animal on one side (like a bear or tiger) that represented my father. Then on the other side of the forest would be the rest of my family. I am not sure what this represented haha, but it is something I remember quite well. It eventually got to a point where the therapist simply said I could no longer be helped, so I stopped going for a few years.

By this time I was in middle school. My relationship with my father had been better for awhile until his relationship of 8 years (with a woman I considered a second mom) abruptly ended. Then things took a turn for the worse. I would go months without talking to or seeing my dad. I lived in a constant state of anxiety and fear with dark thoughts that I will not elaborate on. I shut down emotionally and became really insecure and shy during a pivotal time in my life. From an early age, I felt really unworthy and never enough due to things often said to me by family members and outside influencers. I let these things consume me for a very, very long time. In high school, things remained the same until they got worse. My anxiety had reached a point where it had manifested itself into physical ailments. I would frequently feel nauseous, had heart burn often, and would have the sensation of my chest going numb. I saw a general practitioner for these weird symptoms who said I was depressed and wanted to put me on anti-depressants. My mom, and myself, did not believe her so we refused the medication and diagnosis. It was around this time I started seeing a therapist again. I saw several different therapists. One my dad picked, one my mom picked, and one I was prescribed to by one of the previous therapists. I only saw the first two during family sessions a few times before regularly going to this new therapist alone. I was a senior in high school and having many fears about college. I had, at this time, begun to express self esteem and poor self image issues as I had never done this before. I was afraid of gaining weight in college. I did not feel attractive. But mostly I did not feel loved nor worthy of being loved; however I did not know this yet.

The summer before moving away to college, I pretty much cried every night. My family ran our neighborhood swim team and that summer, my bottled anxiety was taken out on my family in public. Looking back it is so embarrassing but I did not know how to express all the different and crazy emotions I was feeling besides simply running away from my problems, hiding, and crying. Then about a month before moving away to college, my family dynamic significantly changed. My world collapsed and I had never felt more alone than this moment in time. A well kept secret had been revealed: alcoholism. A relapse occurred among one of my family members. I did not know how to take this news. It was presented to me in the poorest of fashions and I acted out in anger and judgment. But I did not know what to feel or how to respond. I just reacted. My therapist at the time was made aware of my family dynamic change and my attitude about the situation prior to my my next session. Instead of being on my side and helping me coupe, she told me I was wrong for being so judgmental and unkind. I do not remember seeing her many more times after this session because I took it personally and my common reaction was to recluse into aloneness.

Time had come for me to move into the dorms. The first three years of college were a blur. I was doing well in school but I was not ok. I was constantly worried and was kept out of the loop. My family did not want me worrying or knowing about the relapses and months spent away at rehab. Mostly I was worried about my little sister who felt abandoned in this period of time. We only had each other yet we were so far apart. I came home many weekends just to be with her, so I missed out on many college weekend festivities and held on to that resentment for many years…

By the time I graduated college, things were better. I had built a better relationship with my dad, talking with him for hours on the phone quite frequently in fact. Alcoholism remained an elephant in the room, but the worst of it had faded. But college was over and I completely missed it. Sure I have fond memories and there were fun times, but my self esteem fell to an all time low. I was in denial about how much weight I had put on but mostly I was lost.

Five months after graduating college I moved to Florida for my first big girl job. I was excited for the change and was feeling like it was an opportunity to create a new me. I did not know a single person, so I really felt I could reinvent myself. But the insecurities, shyness, and self doubt remained and I slowly began to lose every notion of being. About a year and a half into my new job and new life in Florida, I mentally collapsed into the abyss of self doubt and feelings of unworthiness. I did not know who I was. I had no interest in the things I generally enjoyed. I am certain I started drowning in depression. However, inside I knew the feelings I felt were not ok. I was stronger than my disbeliefs and I knew I could pull myself out of it. But I had to make a change. I had to put my mental health and happiness first. So I changed jobs for happiness and started working out for mental clarity. And although my fitness journey has been amazing so far, I still have been wrapped up in overwhelming, consuming thoughts and anxieties of past resentments that continue to hold me back.

I am now back in therapy after a few years break and regularly go once a week. I have only been going for four months, but in that time the changes have been dramatic. I went in with one problem, but my problems have evolved ten fold BUT for the better. I went in seeking guidance on how to move on from my past and the embarrassments and shame that paralyze me and for feeling like my life lacks meaning. I surprisingly quickly found my meaning and am now figuring out how to chase new dreams without the fear of the unknown and my anxiety crippling me. Although I still want to get to the root of the insecurities that continuously holds me back, I know by being able to live within my meaning, that the walls I have built all my life will finally be able to break. This break is what is required so that I can live with an open mind, emotional heart, and available soul. I have always felt seen for what my body is: curvy and fat, with cellulite, scars, and acne. Recently I realized that the negative mindset I have created about my ephemeral, external being has hindered my soul with the ability bloom. And to bloom with all the beauty I know it possesses.

I do not tell you all of this to seek pity. I had a trying childhood, but I also was very blessed with many amazing opportunities and experiences and a family that I love and adore in their perfectly imperfect ways. I tell you all this because many people think therapy is for “crazy” people or people with extreme mental illnesses. But therapy has kept me from going crazy. I am very tough on myself and it has been the one consistency in my life that has allowed me to become mentally strong and molded me into a capable, resilient, independent woman. Therapy will always be a part of my life in some way, shape or form. In the past it helped me coupe with family issues, but presently? Well currently therapy is allowing me to blossom into the individual I was always meant to be. My soul was never meant to be caged by a guarded heart. It is going to take time and consistency to tear down the road blocks of my mind so that I can allow my emotionally callused heart to soften. Only then can my soul truly and passionately shine!

My Top 10 Tips to Beginning Macros

I think my most common question in regards to macros is, “How do you start?!” And there really is no simple answer to this. There are lots of factors involved that must align in order for one to be successful with a flexible dieting lifestyle. But the following are some tips I have learned over the past few months that I hope may make macro counting seem less daunting! Before we proceed, if you are questioning, “What is a macro? What is flexible dieting?” then read my macro FAQs blog post first before continuing on.

1. Is macro counting right for me? First you must establish if counting macros is even right for you! Does worrying about everything you put in your mouth make you feel anxious? Do numbers and focusing on something like calorie counting make you feel restricted or obsessed? Does thinking about weighing out, tracking, and monitoring everything you eat make you uneasy? If the answer is YES to all of the above, then macro counting is probably not right for you at this time.

But, if you have been on a fitness journey for some time now and have learned a thing or two about nutrition and are maybe stuck in a plateau or ready to up your fitness game, then following a IIFYM plan may be right for you! If you are ready for a new challenge and want to take control and feel less restricted and guilty with your eating habits and have the drive and commitment to remain consistent with your diet, then read on 😉

2. Set a realistic goal. Before you can even determine what your macros are, you must first have a goal in mind. Now this goal MUST be realistic. An unrealistic goal is one like wanting to lose 20lbs in 14 days. Hate to break it to ya, not only is that pretty unrealistic, it is very unhealthy too. Now if you want to maintain and sustain a slow, practical weight loss/ gain regiment knowing that there really is no “finish line” in fitness, then congratulations! You already have the right mindset and approach knowing that lasting and effective change is slow and takes time. Even when you “get there” there will always be new obstacles to overcome and goals to achieve!

So when it comes to macro goals, your main goals must be either weight loss (when I say weight loss, what people really mean in fat loss), weight gain (put on all da muscles) or maintain your current weight. If your goal is weight loss, you must be in a calorie deficit. If your goal is weight gain, you must be in a calorie surplus. If you want to maintain, this is the most simple calculation.

3. How do I set my macros? Ok this is definitely the most challenging part because setting macros is quite an art. There is really not a right or wrong way of setting your macros and it takes time to learn your body and what works best for you. Because of this, I highly suggest seeking a macro coach to help you establish you macronutrient needs. I use a coach (who is helping me as a friend currently, not helping others at this time) but everything I have learned from her she learned from her coach as well. Why work with a coach? Well mostly for the accountability. And it is helpful to have someone work through the frustrations of trial and error when determining your balanced macro needs.

Now I understand not everyone can afford a macro coach and that is ok! There is a way to figure it out on your own but understand it will be more frustrating than having the accountability and someone to work through the challenges with. Many people tell me, “I tried this or that online calculator and they all give me different macros! Which one do I use??” Well I say not to use a macro calculator and figure it out on your own because macro calculators do not take individual metabolism, current/past diet history, potential hormone conditions, activity lifestyle, and many other factors into account.  Two great resources that I personally use and have similar formulas is Nick Cheadle’s IIFYM Bible and Eric Helms The Muscle and Strength Pyramid Nutrition (this one is less straight forward and far more scientific)!

If you decide to go the route of figuring it out on your own, understand that there is no perfect ratio. I do better with higher carbs and lower fats whereas you may perform and feel better with more fat and less carbs. Every BODY truly is different with their needs and requirements. Finding it out on your own will not be 100% accurate. To find your macros, you must first find your maintenance and you can do this through the resources listed above or with the Mifflin St Jeor Equation:

For women

10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) -161

*MUST multiply by activity factor 1.2 sedentary, 1.3 lightly active, 1.4-1.5 active

This will give you your maintenance calories. So in regards to macros, it does NOT give you your macronutrient needs and it is up to you to break it down (also why a coach is helpful 😉 )

I will use myself as an example here:

10 x 73 + 6.25 x 161 – 5 x 27 – 161 = 1440 x 1.2 = 1728 calories for maintenance. I used the sedentary factor because I work a desk job and get very little activity beyond my workouts. This honestly seems low to me (again remember this is not entirely accurate), so I probably would use the 1.3 factor and use 1872 calories for maintenance instead.

So now that you have your maintenance calorie goals, breaking down your macros is really based on personal preference. Protein is your most important macro (especially in a deficit, to learn more read my top 50 vegetarian protein sources blog post!). Find your protein macro first by multiplying your body weight by a factor of 1. If 1 gram of protein per pound is too much, you can go to a factor as low as .7 per pound.

Next find your fats. You can use a minimum of .35 grams per pound for fat.

Then technically, the rest of your calories can come from carbs.

Remember each gram of protein and carbs = 4 calories and each gram of fat = 9 calories. So for an example, say we have a 150 pound female targeting a 2000 calorie diet. Following the parameters above, she would need 150 grams protein (150 x 4 = 600 calories), 53 grams fat (150 x .35 = 53, 53 x9 = 477 calories), 2000 – 600 – 477 = 923 / 4 = 230 grams carbs.

This is just a VERY BASIC outline and remember, the example above is for MAINTENANCE MACROSonly. Personally, I find those example macros to be a bit unbalanced. I would probably eat more fat and have less carbs so another macro breakdown for the above example could be: 2000 calories, 150 grams protein, 67 grams fat, and 200 carbs. There really are so many ways macros can be broken down and why it is definitely not an easy task to setting macros and why following others people’s macro plans is of NO benefit to you because as you can see, they are very individualized.

The trickiest part comes in when deciding macros for a cut or bulk and why again I HIGHLY suggest using a coach. Again, the example above would help the girl maintain her weight. If you want to lose weight, you would have to eat less, and if you want to gain weight, you would have to eat more. But determining the macros for these different scenarios is no easy task and you do not want to cut or gain too quickly. It is a very slow and time consuming, trial and error process. You can play around with numbers and try to figure it out on your own, but my guess is it will leave you frustrated and unhappy with the process. A coach can certainly help streamline the process and make figuring the most appropriate macros for your current goals. I hope I proved a point that macros are tricky and figuring them out on your own is not for the faint of heart. It can leave you discouraged and frustrated so utilizing the help from a coach is definitely optimal if you can!

4. Download a tracking app. Ok, so now that we have our macros, how do we track them? I use the premium version of MyFitnessPal. I think it is $50 a year but well worth the investment because you can customize your profile to your specific needs. You do not have to buy the premium version, but I think it makes setting your personal goals more challenging and you have to pay more attention to your daily intake while MFP is screaming at you for eating too much “this or that” because their basic requirements for your needs is often way off. If you want to be serious about tracking, you must track in grams and I believe (not 100% certain because I have only ever had premium) the premium version is the only way to do so. There are tons of macro tracking apps available. I cannot suggest any others because I do not and have not tried any other apps. I have only used MFP and definitely suggest it as a great tool to use! *BONUS TIP: MFP often has incorrect entries. I have scanned in products where macros do not match and I have looked up macros where the suggested macros and calories do not match. So it is important to double check and make sure entries are listed correctly in MFP. You may have to override some things. You also can simply look up “carbs”, “fat”, and “protein”, so if an entry is incorrect and you don’t want to create a new food, you can just track the individual carbs, fats, and proteins for that item. I also do this if I am going out with friends but am unsure of what I am eating or what will be available. I will overestimate and save room for extra carbs and fats and just track it essentially as  a placeholder for the day.

5. Do not worry about ratios. I often get questions asking about “my macro ratios” and I honestly couldn’t tell you my macro ratios because I am not concerned with my ratios. A ratio is simply a percentage and an immeasurable unit. A gram is very much measurable. So when tracking in MFP refrain from looking at the graphs and charts. Although visual aids are nice, you want to be more concerned with hitting your daily nutrient needs.

This is an example from my food diary from MFP. You want to look at the nutrients tab and aim to hit your daily goal within 5+/- grams.

This is the macros tab and you DO NOT want to focus here as percentages are not measurable and far less accurate way of monitoring your intake.

6. Do not track your workouts. MFP has a place to record and track your workouts. DO NOT TRACK YOUR WORKOUTS. Why? Because MFP will then adjust your daily calorie needs and “give you back” the calories you burned. Because you burned 500 calories does not mean you earned an extra 500 calories to eat. That is counter productive and sets you back in more of a maintenance mode and can be detrimental to you goals. If you want to track your activity, I suggest doing so elsewhere. If you use a polar watch (like I do) or fit bit, I would use those associated apps.

7. Planning is KEY! You must plan ahead to be both successful and compliant. If you wake up intending to “wing it” you may find yourself quickly eating too much fat and needing a ton of protein at the end of the day. When you get off like this, it can be easy to say “fuck it” and just not care the rest of the day. It can be hard to make up one macro when your other two have been met early on in the day and why it is best to plan ahead and evenly distribute your macros throughout the day. Macros work if you work it and consistency and compliance are both key. One day or meal off here and there is perfectly normal and expected, but many meals over time where you simply don’t plan ahead and say screw it will not be helping you achieve your goals. I plan my day the night before generally or first thing when I wake up. If it is the weekend and I know I have plans to go out, I plan for that first. If I am craving a treat, I make sure I plan ahead and track that first thing. Normally when I find things that fit my daily macro needs, I stick to those same foods for a few days because it is easier and I just know what I need. I eat foods I enjoy and don’t get bored eating the same things over and over again. But if you suffer from food boredom, planning is vital and it will be more cumbersome having to find new things to fit each day. That is also why I pretty much always stick to the same things haha!

8. Invest in a scale. One reason why I didn’t want to track macros was because I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that I would have to weigh out all my food. But it honestly has been a game changer! How so? I have learned what a true portion size is and it has really helped me with portion control. Also why weigh and not measure? Because a serving of peanut butter is actually 34 grams. I you measure it in terms of 2 tablespoons, one measured out or “eyeballed” serving might be 56 grams of peanut butter instead of the recommended 34 grams so it is nearly doubled and peanut butter is not a low calorie food! See graphic below. To be truly consistent, weighing is an absolute must. It is a very small investment and totally worth the effort! I use a scale similar to this one.

9. BE FLEXIBLE! IIFYM tends to get a bad representation because some people see it as “eat all the junk you can because it still fits my macros”! And I will be honest, I have had this mentality before! But the point is to allow yourself to eat without restriction. To still eat foods you love AND still reach your goals. I always plan for a daily treat. I found when I was slipping with compliance, it was because I was restricting myself from foods I loved. Once I realized that eating treats daily was in fact ok, the consistency and compliancy stuck so much easier. Also there is no right or wrong way to approach flexible dieting. The best diet is the one you can stick to long term, and because this is often a lifestyle change, you must eat foods you enjoy because this is life and you gotta live a little! It makes dieting or  being in a deficit much more enjoyable when you still plan for foods you love. Maybe you can’t have as much as you want or like, but still having a treat brings satisfaction and contentment to your day (at least is does for me! lol).

10. Go into it knowing you will mess up and won’t be perfect. Lastly, know it is OKAY to not be perfect. Tracking macros is tricky and definitely takes a lot of mistakes before you learn what works best for you. You will not get it right on the first try. You probably won’t get it right on the second or third or forth or fifth try either. It probably will take you at least a good 2-4 weeks to get the hang of it and know what foods help you reach your macro goals. It is not about being perfect though. It never is! It is about effort, consistency, and giving it your best try over and over again until you get the hang of it!

Warm hugs and positive vibes,