IIFYM – 5 letters that changed my outlook on food forever.
These 5 letters stand for 5 beautiful words that when strung together equal a freedom with food that I hadn’t experienced since being a carefree child (we’re talking like 6 years old).
If It Fits Your Macros.
Throughout my recovery, I tried many different ideas in relation to food. I meticulously counted calories, used MyFitnessPal to track calories, counted exchanges, tried not to count anything at all, and finally stumbled upon macros. Macros was the best of both worlds. The control I sought through counting something and the freedom I sought through eating whatever I wanted. I set my macros (with guidance from my personal training textbook), I tracked my macros (not using an app), and I updated my macros based on my workouts, my body, my strength, and my goals.
Let me back up and explain macros. Macros are the building blocks of a diet (diet in this sense being your nutritional intake each day). Basically, the essential nutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Sometimes fiber is thrown into the mix.
For me, counting macros started when I started lifting. I wanted to gain strength, I was lifting heavier than I was used to, and I knew my body needed protein. Once I started counting protein, I realized that you can’t just grow muscle off of protein alone – you also need carbs and fats. Contrary to popular belief, carbs and fats are NOT the enemy. They can and should be included in a diet in appropriate amounts.
Thus began my experience with macros. I used many different sources to calculate my macros, found an average of each of the calculations, and used it as a starting point.
Each week, I monitored how I felt in the gym and throughout the rest of the day. Was I tired? Did I feel strong? Was I sore for an extended period of time after a workout? Was I losing, gaining, or maintaining weight (only weighing once a week)? I used this assessment of myself, along with the guidance of my personal trainer, to update my macros.
I ended up finding a set number of calories that I could eat each day. This amount of calories left me satisfied at the end of the day. I didn’t feel tired anymore. I felt strong. And most importantly, I wasn’t losing weight. Once I found that caloric level, I was able to adjust the macros to fit within that number.
For me, that meant adjusting my macros to 47% carbs, 23% protein, and 30% fat. Many calculations later, I set my macros for 270 grams of carbs, 130 grams of protein, and 77 grams of fat per day. This seemed intimidating at first, but once I got started, it became a puzzle to solve each day.
Each morning, I would pack breakfast, lunch, and snacks to take to work. When I had a break at work, I would calculate the macros of everything I packed and plan dinner. After the main meals were set, the rest of the day was focused on eating when I was hungry and meeting the rest of my macros! I ate whatever I wanted – I just made it fit my macros!
At the end of the day, I was never perfect. I don’t think there was one day that I hit all of my macros. My first goal each day was to hit the amount of calories I set for myself – I finally realized that I had deprived my body for long enough and that wasn’t going to happen anymore. If I went over calories, that was okay! But, I didn’t want to be under. My second goal was to hit protein. I was in the gym between 4-6 days a week. I knew that in order to build muscle, I needed to provide my muscles with adequate fuel to repair themselves. After that, carbs and fat fell into place. Sometimes my carbs were lower and fat was higher. Sometimes it was the opposite. But, as long as I hit my calories, got close to hitting protein, and went to bed feeling satisfied, not deprived, I counted it as a success!
For me, macros were about taking back control. Food became fuel and my body was the tank. I knew how much fuel my body needed and macros helped me provide that fuel.
After a while, I stopped counting macros. I had counted for long enough to know about how much my body needed each day. I began relying on my body to tell me if it needed the macros adjusted and I complied. I proved to myself that I can eat intuitively without counting something, and that was yet another success.
But, life isn’t always picture perfect. There are times stress sets in, doubts form, you may get sick, you may not have access to a gym or your normal foods. All of these changes can bring about a change to your eating habits. In my case, D and I moved to another country. In the transition period (still currently in it), we didn’t have a gym, we didn’t have access to the foods we were used to, and it was difficult. So after realizing I started restricting in order to cope, I began counting macros again. Doing so allowed me a little bit of control in a new environment where I don’t have much control. It allowed me to reign in my thoughts and refocus on being healthy.
I think that’s how life will go for me. There will be times where I feel confident enough to eat without counting anything. There will be times where I need to count to make sure I am providing my body with adequate fuel. Both are okay. Both are me choosing recovery.
If you are struggling with food, I encourage you to look into macros. Do some research, see if it’s for you! And as always, I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about macros, lifting, or anything in between!
“It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.” – Jillian Michaels