If anyone comes to me asking for advice on how to lose some weight, the first thing I will tell them is to watch what they eat. Depending on the situation, that may come in the form of making better choices, cutting down on snacking or keeping a food, calorie and macro diary on websites like MyFitnessPal.
The end goal for these people is to stick to guideline numbers for not only overall calories, but also the breakdown of the three main macro-nutrient groups, namely carbohydrates, proteins and fat.It helps them develop knowledge of just how calorific foods are and how they contribute to their allowance for macro’s for each and every day. It also helps them to sort out other potential issues like lethargic-ness, low strength, mood swings and other ailments that can often times be related to an imbalance in the foods that we eat.
All great stuff.
It does have its dangers though. In recent years, with the increased popularity of Intermittent Fasting, Crossfit and the Paleo diet, people are taking this tracking business far too seriously. I’ve heard numerous stories of people eating some butter or bars of chocolate in the evenings to make up some extra calories because “It Fits Their Macros”. They use the numbers to justify eating foods and drinking fluids that usually wouldn’t be part of a healthy diet, unless on a cheat day.
One problem with this mindset is that it takes all food to be equal. A spoonful of inflammation reducing and immunity boosting fish oil is given the same merit as a spoon full of margarine. Sure, they might both be worth 15 grams of fat, but anyone with two brain cells to rub together will tell you that fish oil is significantly more healthy than a stick of butter.
This however, is not my main gripe with the If It Fits Your Macro’s mindset.
My issue lies with the numbers people are using to tally up their allowance each day and the merit that they are giving them, numbers which will always only be estimations AT BEST. Sure, they might take account of a person’s weight, age and height, but they leave so many more important and more influential elements out. They don’t take account of the fluctuation between individuals, whether someone is carrying a bug or not or even the strength and speed of their metabolisms.
We all know people who are naturally skinny and others who are naturally “Big Boned”. It’s not crazy to think that there could be one of each of these kinds of people who are the same age, starting weight and height, but yet when the calculators give them both the same allowance each day that one of them either gets bigger or the other smaller. They won’t undergo the same results just based on three physical attributes at the start of the study and no one would be surprised at the result.
It gets even worse when people start to count “calories burned” during a particular set of exercise. Exercise machines are too only taking account of a handful of the least influential factors and spitting out an estimated number. In fact, I’d not be surprised if this number was, rather than an average, an absolute maximum. Afterall, the companies making these machines will tell you anything and everything to get you to buy their “effective” product.
I do believe that a great place to start on a fat loss journey is by keeping a diary of what you eat and the breakdown each day. It gives you control, allows you to learn how certain foods affect your allowance and keeps you accountable. Having said that, it should be remembered that these numbers are estimations at best. They are not exact and they cannot be controlled as accurately as we would like them to be.
Our bodies are much more complex than a set of equations and numbers and despite the fact that we might want it to be, eating butter for the sake of it will never be part of a healthy fat loss diet, even it if does “Fit Our Macros”.