105. How To Not Be So Hard On Yourself When Counting Macros

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If you’ve ever felt yourself becoming little over-obsessive with weighing or tracking your food… this episode is for you!

As someone who has overcome a nearly OCD complex around counting macros, I’m here to tell you how to ditch the “all-or-nothing” mindset and swipe left on perfectionism. 


How to track alcohol: https://kierstincifelli.com/2022/03/04/tracking-alcohol/

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Hello & welcome back to another episode of the Funsized Podcast. I’m your host, Kier, short for Kierstin and I am a nutrition and fitness coach for women under 5’3”. If you haven’t already, hit the subscribe button where-ever you’re listening to this because aside from instagram and my 1:1 coaching program, this is where I give you my most practical and actionable strategies for weight loss, muscle building, eating, exercising, strengthening relationships, overall health, and so much more. In today’s episode, we’re talking about macros – specifically, how to not become so OCD with them. 

I knowwwww I’ve preached many a-times about how the macro numbers matter much more for petite women (especially in episode 78) since we’re on a smaller scale and we need to be just that more more precise and blah blah blah and while that is totally true, there comes a point where “the best   is the enemy of good.” And all that means is that sometimes perfection is not actually better than just simply being good.. Because with perfection we start seeing negative effects again. Let’s say we have a person learning to count macros. She might start out being good about getting real close to her macros within a few grams most days and she starts to see the benefit of counting macros. YAY! But over time it becomes an obsession and now she’s spending even MORE time trying to hit each macro spot on and she’s finding that she is adjusting her macros for a solid 5 minutes before she sits down for dinner because she forgot to accommodate for the oil used to grill the shrimp and now she’s upset and in a bad mood while she eats that meal with her boyfriend because she can have her peanut butter at another meal later. I know this all too well because I WAS that girl. I am definitely a perfectionist. 

Funny story actually: when I first took the enneagram test I got a 1 – and when I found out that Ones are defined by their belief that everything needs to be in order I was like hell no, that’s not accurate, I’m gonna take it again. And then I ended up scoring even higher in my 1. I was like well shit, my need to take the test again is just proof that I am a perfectionist, afterall, DAMN! It’s definitely a select perfectionism tho. Like I’ve never been one to keep my home and work-space SUPER neat all the time. I LIKE when everything IS in order but majority of the time, things are actually pretty messy. But as someone who has had that OCD personality with macros in the past, I feel that sharing my story might help anyone who is finding they are in the thick of it now…Because here is what I’ve learned over the years.. You don’t need to be perfect. Your goal is simply to win the majority of the time.

It’s easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best meal plan to build muscle. Sometimes we get so focused on figuring out the very best approach that we never get around to taking action. But if you want to master a habit, which in this case we are talking about mastering your macros, the key is repetition, not perfection.  Because perfection is just not possible. You could be measuring and logging every little thing down to the last gram but the nutritional information we have about the foods we log is just a really really really educated estimation. AND on top of that No matter how hard you try, life happens. Life will interrupt any habit you have at some point. You might have a habit of brushing your teeth in the morning before you shower. But if one morning you don’t shower because of life, you also didn’t brush your teeth. And we all know that one morning of not brushing your teeth, doesn’t mean you now have 6 cavities. But if you didn’t brush your teeth *most* mornings, then you’ll probably have a cavity or two within a year. Not tomorrow, but over time. So it’s not about the one day on the weekend you didn’t track because you went to a birthday party and splurged on 2 pieces of cake. It’s about the big picture, all the meals before and after that in. Are majority of them on healthy choices? Or are majority of them not on track? The first “off” meal is ne-ver the one that ruins you. It’s the spiral of repeated poor food choices that follows. The problem is not slipping up over the weekend or holiday, the problem is thinking that if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all. It’s the all-or-nothing mindset. Which I’m guilty of thinking this way too. 

But Think about this for a hot sec… It’s nearly the end of April so we’ve had 3 almost 4 months under our belt since the new year. IF you spent the last 3-4 months tracking macros being off by a couple a grams most days and having 1-2 splurge days on most weekends, overall, your big picture is rather good. IF Out of 110 days, you had 30 crummy ones (which is how many weekend days we’ve had so far),  that’s less than 30%. Truth is you probably even had some good meals and weekends in there too so we might even be talking less than 25%. Overall, THAT’S balance. 

However if you were in that all-or-nothing-mindset, you might have hit your macros perfectly for 4 days in the beginning of each month but as soon as you fell off the wagon, you stayed off. Big picture doesn’t look as good, does it? For my numbers people, That might look like 16 perfect days out of 110 and the rest are shit.  I know it’s so easy to feel like garbage after a weekend eating spree but if you keep getting in those good reps on all the other days, you’re in much better standings than if you strive or perfection or nothing at all. We have to stop being so hard on ourselves, step back and look at the big picture. So next time, next time you’re feeling yucky after a holiday weekend, remember, it’s not what you do some of the times, it’s what you do most of the time. You want to view the entire mountain range, not obsess over each peak and valley.

Funny thing is.. OCD Perfectionism shows up in so many different ways.

For example, I have one client who’s MFP had looked fantastic every time I looked at it. Perfectly hitting her macros but when we’d get on her weekly call she’d confess she actually act several more things but didn’t log them was because she knew it would ruin all her hard work that went into planning their meals and I’m like whoa whoa whoa that is not how this works! Your body is tracking macros even if you aren’t! Not logging them isn’t fooling your body. So with her, we’ve actually been working now to add those unplanned things in and to adjust her remaining meals to make it all fit if she could. If she couldn’t make it fit, oh well, just try again the next day.  At first it was really tough mentally for her to do but the more she logged the unplanned snacks, the more she realized that those unplanned things weren’t nearly as bad as she thought they were and now just by making a few adjustments to her dinner and her late snack meal, she could enjoy all the things and still make it work to get close to her macros. And now that she has that awareness that she can fit actually candy and cookies in and still continue to make progress, she has been able to take a much more relaxed approach that doesn’t make her feel like a failure. She’s likely still eating the same amount that she was when she wasn’t logging them, but what’s changed is her mindset around it. She doesn’t carry as much guilt. 

Speaking of clients…

As I’ve briefly mentioned on a few previous episodes, I’m in the middle of testing out a new service where I’ve provided a handful of members who are subscribed to my Funsized Fitness app workouts, a set of macronutrient targets to aim for during the month. During the next few months, this service will be offered by invitation only to my petite pals who are already subscribed to the workouts. I will mostly likely not be offering this as a stand-alone service but rather an add-on service to my workout app.  Anyway, I had a few questions/concerns from 4 different ladies who are currently going through the beta version and these questions are actually what sparked this episode so I wanted to make sure I covered each of them.

  1. First one isn’t really a question but more of an observation. One of the little ladies in my Mini Macros add-on app service had messaged me quite often in the beginning feeling super guilty for what she ate over what-she-thought were bad weekends. Each time I would coax her through how it wasn’t so bad and how surpluses can actually a be good thing for her fat-loss goals and as long as she gets back on track, she’ll have that ideal balance we’re all pretty much searching for. And it’s been almost 2 months now of being able to chat through it with her and I can already see how she’s giving herself much more grace – just by the way she talks or in this case writes in her messages to me and the group chat. And I’ve even noticed that she’s becoming a positive influence in the group chat because rather than being hard on herself she’s like “well, this is the way it is and I’m accepting it and learning from it!” Which to me is a 180 mindset shift and one that’s going to enhance her relationship with food from here on out. So this is a really good example of how counting macros alongside a real human being coach is bringing awareness. And I bring this up because you might be wondering “well, it sounds like counting macros could be something that promotes that OCD perfectionist behavior.” And it very well could especially when you’re not getting the appropriate guidance. Like in this next example I’m about to share with you, this client had not voiced her concerns or messaged me as she was feeling her feelings, she waited for several weeks to go by before reaching out. And that’s when she said this:  
  1. “If I’m being honest, tracking the macros and seeing almost every single day I can’t hit something or I go over something else trying to hit it is really discouraging. And tracking and measuring and counting out everything seems a little… unhealthy to me? Idk. I’m just a little overwhelmed I guess. I just don’t want to get to that point again by constantly measuring and micromanaging my food. Like I eat typically pretty healthy, so how far do I actually need to go?”

This was a very wonderful realization. Of course micromanaging and becoming obsessive is not a good thing. That’s “the best is the enemy of good” thing again.  But I do believe that counting can bring on so much awareness of the portion sizes or the healthy foods you are already eating. Like it has for my 1:1 client that I told you about. With that being said, deciding whether counting macros is for you comes down to your mindset and the amount of guidance you have. If you’re counting macros all the while being hard on yourself, judging yourself and finding that it’s only making you restrict yourself further, it’s not a good fit. But if you can count macros objectively and look at it like data and a learning experience, trying new things and making those “not-so-healthy” fit into your macros, you’re going to get a lot of empowerment and pride out it. And since we as women are our own worst critics, we’re more likely to get the second option when you a cheerleader or coach guiding you through it and helping you to see the positive in the situation when you don’t. But you know what? Counting Macros isn’t for everyone and it definitely isn’t a forever thing and you might find that you like it at certain times in your life and not at others AND THAT’S OKAY! You gotta do what you feel is right for you in that season of your life. Sometimes I feel like practicing intuitive eating is what I need, other times counting macros gives me that structure I crave. 

Easily, The dark side of counting macros is that we become driven by the number rather than the purpose behind it. If we care more about hitting our macros perfectly than we do about being healthy, well then we’re no longer being healthy, we’re being obsessive. When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you. Each number is simply one piece of feedback in the overall system. Counting macros is a process or a strategy which will get us to our desired outcome but it is not the end goal. It’s the means to get us there. 

  1. “How important are calories if we hit our macros? Sometimes when my macros are perfect, my calories aren’t and I’m confused.”

To be totally honest, most days I forget to even LOOK at my calories because if you hit your macros, you should automatically hit your calories. But your calories can actually be a helpful tool to let you know everythings properly logged. Basically, if you’ve hit your macros but you are wayyyy off on calories, I’m talking over 100 calories,  that’s a RED FLAG that something is logged incorrectly. One of the things I dislike about MFP is it’s inability to align the macros with the correct calories. I feel like I could go a good 5 minutes of complaining here but I’ll fast-forward and just tell you what you need to know… If you’re off by LESS THAN 100 calories but the macros are right, I wouldn’t worry about it much and just keep carrying on. HOWEVER, if you’re over by OVER 100 calories, that tells me at least one of your entries must be incorrect which means it’s time for us to play detective! Sometimes you’ll find the culprit right away, other times it takes a little more math (aka pulling out your handy dandy calculator to multiple carbs and protein by 4 and fas by 9 and adding it all up. If your calculation doesn’t come close to what’s listed, then you found the bad guy and it’s time to swipe delete and find a new entry.) I totally agree that this can be ANNOYING AF especially when you’re just getting started and you just don’t know what you don’t know! But I will say, these baby mistakes (which aren’t your fault btw) will help you learn more about the foods you’re eating and the more time and attention to pay to learning about foods and macros, the better you will get. 

  1. “How close to your macro targets do you have to be to consider it a successful day? Totally perfect or within a couple grams?”

As I was saying earlier with the nutritional info just being a really really really good educated estimation…. Being exact everyday is just not possible unless your a lab rat or something. But we’re not. Again, It’s all about those consistent reps, not about perfection. So yes, being within a couple grams is a successful day. I like to say within plus or minus 1-3 grams of each macro. That’s a win.  

I like to think of counting macros as playing a game. It’s fun to get as close as I possibly can but if it’s starting to make me feel anal or frustrated I say cool! Close enough! I’ll just play again tomorrow. You don’t need to be perfect. Your goal is simply to win the most of the time. I don’t know if any of you play wordle but it’s like that. Sometimes we get the word on the second try, most times we get it on the 4th, and if it so happens that we don’t get the word at all on the 6th try… we’ll there’s always tomorrow!

And with that, here is your one last reminder to not be so hard on yourself. Give yourself the grace and acceptance you would give a friend in your shoes. How would you help her feel better and encourage her to move forward? Whatever that looks like, hold that same space for yourself. 

I hope you found some value in this episode and I’d love love love to hear from you if you had any major light bulb moments so send me a DM on instagram @funsized.nutrition or within The Funsized Fitness App. Or! If you think this episode would help a friend, take a screenshot and share it to your stories and don’t forget to tag me! As always, Thanks for listening and I’ll catch you in the next episode!

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