Oh boy, this one is going to ruffle some feathers I’m sure, but I feel as though I’m doing you and the health industry a disservice if I don’t speak up. So while I like to leave light-hearted topics for Fridays and share something I’m loving lately, I’m going to do something a bit different today.
I need to clear the air about macros because as a professional who specializes in macros (or macronutrients), I feel as though they are being used and abused and it’s time that it stops. It is also crazy to me that people take minimal courses (or just a quick google search) and suddenly proclaim themselves as “macro” experts. While, sure, you can calculate someone’s macros by plugging some info into an online calculator, are you really an expert in macronutrients, metabolism, hormones, lifestyle change, etc?! My guess is no.
While I may not have the power to stop the madness, I sure as hell have the ability to educate you so that you can make better decisions for your health. At the end of the day I’m not here to preach or to point fingers, I just want to do no harm and give you the tools to be the healthiest version of yourself possible. So, let’s discuss this whole concept of “macro-ing harder” that is just absurd and not at all scientific or feasible.
What are Macros?
Let’s back up for one second. I can’t remember if I’ve explained macros before or not. Let’s set one thing straight “macros” is the cool, hip, 2018 way of saying macronutrients. When I first heard the concept I had no idea what people were talking about and why it was such a craze. I mean when you are in school to become a dietitian your world revolves around macronutrients, micronutrients, and the metabolism and synergy of it all. However, we never really ever called them “macros” and we most certainly never glorified the process of calculating such things, it was just part of the process.
That being said, macros or macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates, and fat. These are the 3 main macronutrients that you need to exist and the 3 components of your food at a very basic or macro level. Everyone needs these macronutrients in a different ratio and even the same person needs them in a different combination every day.
So to recap, macronutrients are protein (i.e. meat, fish, eggs, etc.), carbohydrates (i.e. fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.), and fat (i.e. oils, butter, nuts, etc.) that’s it, nothing miraculous, nothing that will be here today and gone tomorrow, just plain old science and reality.
To Macro Harder or Not?!
Ok, so this concept has been floating around the internet or at least in the macro/health/fitness world for a bit. It is this concept that if you are counting your macros (i.e. tracking grams per day of each protein, fat, carbs) and not seeing results then you must try harder, or, “macro harder”. Now, I’m not sure if anyone is per se broadcasting this but I have heard from clients and from others that they have been told by their macro coach that they need to, in fact, macro harder.
MACRO HARDER?! Give me a break.
First off, there is far more to a diet then macros. While sure, you can lose weight while eating the right proportion of donut to carrot, you will at some point see less and less success. Why? Oh, because there is more to diet, health, and metabolism then macros. There are vitamins, minerals, enzymes, metabolites, hormones, and oh so much more. And don’t even get me started on the way your body handles stress, exercise, lack of sleep, too much sugar, etc.
So why does that matter?!
Because macros (as of late) are glorified, simplified, and often abused by macro experts as a means of making a living off of weight loss, abs, and the concept of eating junk food in the right proportions. I get it, I like to have my cake and eat it too. However, you didn’t get your six-pack from junk food, you got them from eating healthy, genetics, eating less then you should and/or you’re an elite athlete who trains their a$$ off and probably gets paid to do so.
You shaming someone to macro harder because they are not seeing the results you think they should is just absurd. I’m not really even sure what one means by “macro harder” anyway. Does it mean obsess more over counting macros? Maybe it means eat less? Does it mean weigh and measure your food at a restaurant? Whatever it means I dislike the negative connotation it gives to macros, healthy eating, and health goals.
1,200 Calorie Diets and under…
Here’s the thing, I’ve heard a lot of things about diet over the years. It makes sense because I’m in the industry of health, nutrition, diets, etc. However, this past week I heard of someone being told to eat 900 calories per day.
ARE YOU [email protected]%(&#@(&%#( KIDDING ME?!
This person, while perhaps has a small frame, is active, living, breathing, a grown adult, and in need of so much more than 900 calories. They were probably told that they were eating too much and needed to macro harder to see results. This infuriates me more than you can imagine.
If you don’t know my opinion on the 1,200 calorie diet, go inform yourself.
900 calories. I’m in shock that someone in the position of power to influence someone’s health felt that it was okay to tell someone that they would be fine to eat that amount of calories to achieve success. I don’t know who this “expert” is but my guess is they’re not the only one.
What’s going to happen when that person doesn’t lose weight on 900 calories?! Will they be told to eat 800? 700? In fact, maybe they will be told to not eat at all.
Nevermind that eating this little will not support daily activity, it won’t even get the person close to the necessary amount of micronutrients (i.e. vitamins, minerals) they need. Very low-calorie diets like this could lead to things like rapid weight loss, brittle nails/hairs, weak bones, loss of lean body mass, gallstones, nausea, constipation etc. Oh, and one more (very) important thing, such suggestions like this could lead to an eating disorder or at the very least disordered eating.
A Culture of Disordered Eating
Eating disorders are NOT something to mess with. They are a clinical disease with severe health consequences and a lifelong journey of recovery and remission. While I’m sure no macro-expert gets into the business to create eating disorders I think they are creating more than they know and it needs to stop. By telling people to macro harder we are in essence telling them they aren’t trying hard enough, they aren’t controlling their food enough, they aren’t eating as precise as the person next to them on social media is and it has to stop.
This sick and twisted obsession with macros can lead to very poor relationships with food, which is so sad and far from the point of healthy eating. While I’m not saying macros are bad or the concept of monitoring/counting macros is bad, it can make a turn for the worst if the “expert” at hand is unqualified to handle such behavior.
Time and Place for Macros
There is a time and a place to count macros. I help clients all the time eat a healthy proportion of protein, carbs, and fats. For some people, it is the best way to keep them on track. Frankly, I think it’s most helpful to make sure people are eating ENOUGH food/macros. However, sometimes the obsession with counting and tracking goes too far and does more harm than good.
While anyone can educate themselves on how to use an online calculator to find someone’s (estimated) caloric and macronutrient needs, it takes a true professional to handle the emotional piece of diet, health, and lifestyle. Do your research before getting a blanket statement of your macro-needs. Find someone who specializes in health, nutrition, and lifestyle change, not just macros.
Alright, I’m sure I’ve ruffled some feathers, but it sure does feel good to get that off my chest.
Let me recap…
Macros are macronutrients and important for your health.
Macros are nothing new, not a fad, and are way more complex than an online calculator.
You can do macros and achieve health.
You can not, in fact, macro harder.
EVERYONE responds to diet change and lifestyle change different.
If it works for one person, it might not actually work for someone else.
Consequences of macroing harder or poor macro management include rapid weight loss, weak bones, brittle hair/nails, digestive issues, disordered eating, and much more.
Okay, I want to hear your opinions! I’m not hating on the concept of macros, I’m more bringing light to this concept that is hurting your relationship with food and health.
ps. if you or someone you know is being told to macro-harder please send them this article or my information. I don’t want to shame any coach out there. I want to instead, help those that want to get healthy but are starting to develop a bad relationship with macros/food.
I love love love this!
Laura Ligos, MBA, RD, CSSD says