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How to transition from tracking macros to intuitive eating

By Paige Smathers, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Sep 4th, 2018 @ 11:59pm



SALT LAKE CITY — Walking away from tracking macros can be a really scary endeavor. If you're unfamiliar, there are three macronutrients (macros for short) that provide your body with necessary energy: carbohydrate, fat and protein.

One of the latest diet trends is to track every gram of food you eat and to follow a set allowance of each macronutrient for the day. Tracking macros means you're spending a lot of time and energy on food: weighing, measuring and micromanaging every morsel of food that goes into your body.

As a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders, I'm not a fan. Any rigid food plan that yields obsession and anxiety about food and your body is not something I promote or encourage.

But let me be clear about the scope of this post: I'm not saying that you are a bad person if you track macros. I'm not even trying to convince anyone to stop tracking— obviously, the way you eat is your prerogative. But, through the years in my practice as a registered dietitian, I've seen hundreds of people searching for answers and ideas for how to navigate transitioning from rigid tracking to trusting their bodies. If you've been feeling like you want to make a change from rigidity to food peace, I'm hoping this post can help get you started.

It's important to clarify that intuitive eating is weight-neutral and fundamentally non-diet in its approach to nourishment and food. There are some macro influencers who co-opt the term intuitive eating, claiming they're both tracking macros and practicing intuitive eating. To be very frank: You can't track macros and practice intuitive eating simultaneously. They are mutually exclusive concepts.

So, if you're looking for some advice and support in stepping away from tracking macros, this post is for you. This won't happen in one day, but if you commit to practicing, you will gain confidence, feel great, be at peace with food and very likely be healthier both mentally and physically as a result.

1. Recognize that tracking macros is a choice.

Realizing that you don’t have to micromanage your body by counting every morsel of food is a critical first step. It’s a choice to count or not to count, and counting likely isn’t keeping you as “safe” as you think. Tracking and micromanaging for many is what leads to the very chaos and dysfunction with food that they’re afraid of. Bodies don't require exact math to function and — in fact — often function best mentally, physically and emotionally with more flexibility.

2. Expect change.

We suffer when we expect impermanent things to stay constant. Our bodies are meant to change, and our minds are meant to learn, grow and change, too. Don't be scared of the dynamic nature of your body and mind. It's OK. It will very likely feel scary to even contemplate this change in your approach to food, but there's peace on the other side and change is to be expected.

3. Practice trust.

Tracking macros has taught you that your body isn't to be trusted. Tracking has taught you that if you figure out just the right mathematical formula, you're guaranteed certain results and success. Question the very premise of this argument. Start questioning if it's really true that your body can't be trusted. Does your body successfully tell you when it's time to go to the bathroom? Does your body communicate its needs in ways beyond food? Does your body do things for you every day that are worthy of trust? My guess is yes, but if you're not sure, start noticing when and why your body deserves trust. Just like any relationship, as you're working on building trust with your body, experiment, reflect and take steps toward trust.

4. Learn to separate nutrition fact from fiction.

Your body doesn’t need micromanaging. Your body doesn't even have the same nutritional needs day to day. The very premise of the idea of tracking macros assumes that your body’s needs remain constant day after day. This simply isn't true. Questioning this underlying assumption — and really beginning to believe your body doesn't require so much math and mental gymnastics — brings freedom to explore intuitive eating.

5. Get really clear about what matters to you in life.

Ultimately, the purpose of food is to help give you energy to live out your life. The purpose of life isn't to obsess about food. Ask yourself whether or not you believe this statement: If it costs you your peace of mind, it’s too expensive.

Obviously, walking away from a rigid food plan of any kind toward a more gentle, positive and peaceful approach to food is challenging. It's so challenging, in fact, that it's literally what I spend my entire professional life helping people do. So, it doesn't just happen from reading a post like this, but I'm hoping this post might have given you some food for thought and lots of permission to explore what's right for you with food and nutrition.


Paige Smathers

About the Author: Paige Smathers

Paige Smathers, RDN, CD is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice and podcaster whose work revolves around helping people heal their relationships with food and their body. She specializes in chronic dieting, addiction recovery nutrition, eating disorders and family feeding dynamics. She is the owner of Positive Nutrition™, which provides individual nutrition therapy, online courses, and mentorship and coaching for professionals. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook for more food for thought!


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Paige Smathers

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