Do I Need To Count Macros?

Do I need to count macros (macronutrients)? This is a very common question in today’s world. It was not that long ago that calorie and carbohydrate counting were the most familiar ways to measure food (think low calorie or low carb diets). Most people didn’t know what macronutrients were unless they were a dietician or nutritionist. While the common practice of carbohydrate counting is one part of macros, in order to truly count them you need to also look at fat and protein content. These three things are what constitute macronutrients found in our food. This method has become more mainstream and most people looking to gain control of their health, whether it’s to lose weight or gain muscle, know how to measure their food in macronutrient content. Our belief is that you do not need to count macros and throughout this article we will look at the reasons why.

intuitive eating

We feel that intuitive and mindful eating is much more beneficial and sustainable long term than counting macros. Let’s look at what intuitive eating is. It is a method of eating that is very difficult for many people to wrap their heads around. How can you rely solely on your body to determine what you eat? If you’re not counting macros or calories, how do you know if you are eating a healthy diet? The idea behind it is very simple: stop eating when you’re full and only eat when you are physically hungry. This is hard for many people because we often eat emotionally and eat until our food is gone/our plate is clear. We have so much coming at us regarding what we should and shouldn’t eat, how we should track our food intake, what’s good for us and what’s bad. All of this can lead to having a negative relationship with food. In order to rely on intuitive eating, it is imperative to understand the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. When physical hunger is in charge or when and what you eat, you are intuitively eating.

The beginning of this concept came years before this book was published but the phrase itself was coined in “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch They were the first to present specific key principles for intuitive eating, which are rejecting the diet mentality, honoring your hunger, discovering the satisfaction factor, making peace with food, honoring your feelings without using food, respecting your body, challenging your food police, respecting your fullness, feeling the difference by exercising and honoring your health through gentle nutrition. Following these principles can give you freedom from food by honoring your body and recognizing signs of both physical hunger and feeling full.

iifym - if it fits your macros

First let’s answer the question: what are macros? Fat, carbohydrates, and protein are all macronutrients (macros). All of the food on the planet can be measured in these three macros. Looking at your food from this perspective does tell you more about what you’re eating than calorie counting does. You can look at your meal and know if you’re eating mostly carbs, protein or fat. There are definitely some dangers in macro counting diets. Sometimes this way of eating can actually lead to a lack of nutrition. The acronym IIFYM stands for IIFits Your Macros and some people will eat whatever they want if they can make it follow this rule. This may work for some people, but others will choose less nutritious things just because they can make it fit into their macros. Instead of filling their carbohydrate macronutrient consumption with something healthy, they will choose an option that’s less than desirable just because it fits in the macro count.

How do you count macros? How do you know what is in each food you eat? You can look at the nutrition labels and you should see the breakdown there. If it does not have a nutrition label (fruits and veggies) you can look them up easily. There are plenty of food tracking apps, such as My Fitness Pal, that will show you the carbs, protein and fat when you enter your food. Take note that in order to use these tools successfully, you need to be aware of portion sizes/serving size. Eating out at a restaurant can also make it hard to track exactly what you’ve eaten. This is because we often don’t know how the food is prepared. What did they use to cook the salmon? Was there oil added to the vegetables? What is the breading made from? What ingredients are in the salad dressing? The questions are endless when trying to understand a meal while dining out. When it comes to macros, not having complete knowledge of preparation methods can skew your entries.

negative relationship with food

healthy couple

It is a common thing for people to become obsessive when they base their entire meal plan on macronutrient or calorie content. The danger of becoming obsessive is real. This way of viewing nutrition can create a negative relationship with food. A negative relationship with food can then instigate poor body image, especially for those trying to lose weight. You’ve probably heard of the idea that being healthy isn’t about being skinny but rather how your body feels. So many of us rely on what the scale says instead of how we feel when we eat. One piece of advice is to always choose what you eat by how it makes your body feel. If you view food from this viewpoint, you will likely see a huge change in not only your relationship with it but also how you view your body. What foods make you feel good? What foods make you feel rotten? Be conscious of this and choose your food, aka fuel for your body, based on how you feel overall. Did you eat a meal heavy in carbohydrates and feel bloated a little while later? Your body is holding onto a lot of water as a result of the carbohydrates. Maybe you had a satisfying, delicious, flavor-filled salad and didn’t have any bloating and felt great! Which of these foods should you lean toward when planning your meals? The one that made you feel the best. In planning your diet in this manner, you can lessen your risk of having a negative relationship with food. Viewing food in terms of how it makes your body feel can change your entire perspective on eating.

counting macros

We mentioned already the “how to” count macros. We only touched on the topic of why people use counting macros as a way to measure food. For certain diet plans, the amount of each macronutrient is important. For example, a ketogenic diet is low carb, moderate protein, and high (healthy) fats. Do you have to count macros forever if you want to follow a specific plan? Absolutely not, once you become more comfortable with knowing your food, you can eat on a more intuitive level.

Counting macros can be helpful for a few days to see where you’re at. It is also helpful so that you know what is in your food. This way of measuring food provides you with better knowledge of the make-up of what you’re eating. Once you have awareness of how much of each macro your food contains, it is easier to make food choices intuitively. If you find yourself struggling, track your macros for a few days and see what it looks like. Are you eating tons of carbs and next to nothing for fats or protein? What happens if you adjust that? How does your body feel after you make changes? If you are feeling amazing, again track your macros and look for patterns that you can use to help you make positive choices when it comes to your nutrition. Did you find a good balance of fat, carbs and protein when looking at your diet? If so, you know that is what your body needs to function at its best! Using the information found when counting macros can make situations around food less stressful. If you know your body feels better when you have a higher amount of healthy fats and less carbohydrates, then that’s what you need to do! How can knowing this help you plan your meals? If you look at the food you’re eating when you feel the best, you can use that to help you create menus featuring those things. Do I need to count macros? Counting macros can be a great tool to help guide you until intuitive eating becomes more natural for you. Remember to use how your body feels to help guide you in what you’re eating.

serving sizes

healthy foods

Once you have a basic understanding of macros you can rely more on serving size than adding up the protein, fat and carbs every time. For example, you might regularly have a salad with chicken, avocado and an oil based dressing. If you already know the serving size, you can be certain you are getting exactly what you need. If you know how much lettuce to have, how big of a piece of chicken, how much avocado and dressing to add, you can create a perfectly balanced salad without counting the macros at all. Measuring serving sizes on things can be helpful to avoid overeating and mindless calories. This is particularly helpful with things like nuts or fat bombs. It is important to know when to stop so you don’t keep snacking mindlessly. Some tips to help you with portion control and serving size are as follows:

  1. When dining out, share a meal or ask for a smaller portion. You could also ask them to put half of your meal in a to go container. If it’s not on your plate, you’re less likely to feel like you must eat it all.

  2. Drink a glass of water before you have a meal. Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger. Also, when we are hydrated, we are less likely to overeat.

  3. Eat slowly, allow time for your brain to realize when you are getting full. Eating too fast can block this signal and your brain doesn’t realize it should tell you to stop eating until it’s too late.

  4. Never eat out of the container. Always put your food onto a plate, then you can really see how much food it really is. Eating out of a container often makes you think you’re not eating as much because it deceptively looks like a lot less.

  5. Journal your food. Keeping track of what you eat, how much of each food, and when you eat. More importantly, take note of how it makes you feel! This is crucial information when it comes to planning your meals in the future. If you have problems (headaches, stomach pain, digestive issues, bloating, etc.), you can look back at your food journal and see if there are any patterns in what might trigger the issue.

These are just a handful of things that you can do to help with serving size and portion control. You can see patterns and trends that will aid you in making food choices that benefit your body in the long run.


Now that we’ve looked at the very common question “do I need to count macros?” you can see it’s not the only way to find balance when it comes to food. There are many ways to meal plan that don’t rely on macros or calories for that matter. Find what makes you feel good and use those foods in your diet more. Avoid foods that create problems for your body. We’ve shared some of the reasons why we don’t believe that you need to count macros. One of the most important things we suggest that you do is to try different foods and be aware of how they make you feel. Use your body to guide you toward foods that make you feel your best!

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