Tracking Macros Is What Allowed Me to Take Control of My Diet

Photographer: Maria del RioEditorial and internal use approved. OK for Native and co-branded use.
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio

Until recently, the idea of tracking macros would have immediately resulted in an eye-roll. I absolutely believe you should be aware of what you're putting into your body, but I've always been a bit hesitant of the level of obsessiveness I know it can induce — at least in me.

Let me give you some background info before we go any further: I'm gluten and dairy intolerant. Gluten sends me straight to the bathroom, and dairy makes me feel hungover. Awful, I know. But after a few months of no gluten and dairy, I was still experiencing discomfort in my stomach. In January, I went vegan and have since seen incredible changes in my body — more internal than external, which has been a digestive dream come true.

A week into boarding the Vegan Train, I finally felt I was fueling my body with what it needed but because I was still in the learning phases of my new lifestyle, there was some room for error. For instance, when my mom, a fellow passenger on the Vegan Train, told me I needed to up my portion sizes, I had a field day. It was like that one meme of Oprah when she tells everyone they get a car, except I was talking to myself and was substituting "car" for "potatoes."

I've always built my meals around intuitive eating. If I was hungry, I ate; if I wasn't hungry, I didn't eat. It's a concept that was simple in theory; however, it was in the moments I was hungry that I realized I had been scaling my plate size with hungry eyes rather than a hungry belly. So one day, after a particular meal left me feeling like a human bowling ball, I threw in the towel and downloaded Lifesum, an app that allows me to track my water intake, exercise, and macros based on my fitness goals.

Let me repeat this one more time for my girls struggling with this: I control FOOD, it does not control me.

Your macronutrients, or macros, are the number of fats, carbs, and proteins you take in throughout the day. Many fitness professionals, bodybuilders, or physique competitors will count macros, especially leading up to a competition. I, however, am neither of those things and was simply curious to see what my body needed and was determined to stop overeating at meals.

I began on a Monday and told myself I'd just do it for the week. Week one has now become now week three, and after a few days of adjusting and realizing just how much peanut butter I was consuming, I couldn't be happier with my decision to track my macros. Here's why:

1. Macros are easy to track, and this is a less obsessive habit than counting calories

I don't feel restricted by a number. Sure, I have X amount of carbs, proteins, and fats allowed in the day and I'm given a set number of calories, but my focus is looking at the macronutrients behind my food rather than my caloric intake. One huge plus to this journey has been seeing the number of calories my body needs. As for the accessibility, Lifesum allows you to take pictures of the barcode if you can't find a specific food item and breaks down the amount you should be eating per meal.

2. I'm so much more aware of what is going into my body

I've always been a label reader, but instead of just looking at the ingredients, I pay attention to a food label's entirety. Not only am I more aware of the ingredients that I'm choosing to fuel myself with, but I'm more in tune with my portion sizes.

3. I learned the importance of carbs — and why we need so many of them

For my fitness goals, height, and weight, I need about 200 grams of carbs. Two hundred grams?! At first, that seemed like too much, but it's not. Two hundred grams is the amount that my body needs to properly function, which has been an incredible lesson I've learned through tracking my macros. Quinoa, potatoes, vegetables — I eat them all day long! Carbs are not the enemy, people. Carbs provide us with energy, reduce bloating, and help our brains function better.

4. I'm in control of my food, my food is not in control of me

Let me repeat this one more time for my girls struggling with this: I control FOOD, it does not control me. Since befriending this app, I'm oddly eating more intuitively than ever before. I am connected to my body's needs now more so than ever. I typically eat every three hours, but rather than forcing a snack or lunch down when I really am not hungry, I try to really listen to when my body is hungry and what it is craving — within limits and as long as it fits within my day's plan.

5. I'm meeting all my macros with a vegan diet

Yes, you heard that right. With a plant-based diet, I eat close to 80 grams of protein every single day. Though beans, tempeh, and nuts are part of my meals each day, I was shocked to learn the amount of protein in some of my vegetables. Spinach, corn, and edamame all have 5-10 grams of protein.

Since tracking macros, I've become more educated on the food that I'm allowing into my body. I'm eating to give my body everything it needs (and wants!), and I am reaping the benefits of healthy digestion, a sustained spike in energy levels, and higher functioning cognition every single day.