In January 2012, I joined a 12-week weight loss competition at work. I’ve struggled with my weight as far back as I can remember. I’m sure I was a perfectly normal size in high school, but it seemed like all my friends were thinner than me, so I always felt like a whale. Then, after the Freshman Fifteen (or Twenty), the Newlywed Nine(ty) (I just made that up), and having 3 babies in 4 1/2 years (fun fact: No numbers start with the letter P), I didn’t think I would ever be (what I considered) thin.
The weight loss competition turned out to be the perfect jump start I needed. I lost 50 lbs. in a year and began working out regularly. By January 2013 I was in the best shape of my life, but I started feeling burned out and tired. By the time the summer 2013 ended, I had gained about 10 lbs. Then, in September, a perfect storm of stress of a new job, general exhaustion, and illness caused me to quick attending the workout group I had attended almost daily for a year. I found myself no longer paying attention to what I ate (as if it didn’t matter) and exercising in a manner that calling it “sporadic” would be generous.
So, here I am. Probably 25-30 lbs. heavier than I was a year ago and determined to whip myself back into shape. Well, since round is a shape I guess I want to be a different shape. The first decision I had to make was how to eat to lose weight. Previously, I counted calories, but I wanted something healthier to ensure I wasn’t too restrictive in my eating. I considered paleo, but needed something that would work better for our entire family. After additional research, I decided to begin counting macros.
Macro counting functions on the basic premise that a calorie is still a calorie (so all foods are fair game), and a basic calorie deficit is what’s needed to lose weight. However, your daily goal is to eat the correct amount of your macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) so that you lose fat and not muscle composition. You can eat anything as long as it fits into your daily allotment of macros, but that doesn’t mean unlimited junk food. For example, last week I was able to fit in a classic chicken sandwich at Chick-Fil-A, but didn’t have enough carb or fat macros left for the fries. Eating this way is forcing me to eat WAY more protein than I normally would, and considerably fewer carbs, but I don’t feel too deprived. The high amount of protein keeps my hunger at bay most of the day, but I can still eat my favorite foods, like peanut butter and cereal (I have HIGHLY refined taste buds), as long as I plan for it.
Trying to reach a target macro is like a puzzle that forces me to be creative. Sometimes by the end of the day I need more protein and carbs, but I’m out of fat macros, so I eat fat-free refried beans, nonfat Greek yogurt, or fat-free cottage cheese. Other times I need protein and fat, but I’m out of carb macros, so I get to eat cheese, peanut butter, or almonds. I almost always need more protein, which has forced me to incorporate foods like tuna fish, cottage cheese, chicken, and eggs on a daily basis.
If you want to read more about counting macros, there are a few good articles here and here, but a cursory google search will turn up many more. There is a handy macro calculator here, if you’re curious to see how many macros you should have daily. I like to keep track of my food via a smartphone app, but I haven’t found one I love yet. I used to use My Fitness Pal, but that app was being kind of ornery when I tried to manipulate the daily macros. The current macro app I use is not something that I just LOVE because there aren’t enough foods in the database. I have to add almost everything I eat manually. If I find one I adore, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
If you count macros, how is it working for you? What are some of your favorite high protein recipes?