I believe most of us know that tracking or counting macros entails weighing or measuring your foods so that they fit a predetermined amount of calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates for the day. These amounts are primarily determined based on your weight, goal weight, and activity level.
Intuitive Eating on the other hand, means waiting to eat until you’re for sure you are hungry. There is a pretty widely used “Hunger Scale” which means on a scale of 0-10, hungry is a 3 or below, and that means it’s time to eat. 5 means satisfied, and as you move up the scale from 5-10, you’re getting fuller and fuller.
WHAT to eat is determined by what sounds good! You think about what food sounds good to you and you eat it. Ideally stopping at that level 5 on the hunger scale.
So macro counting is mostly just eating on schedule and hitting your numbers, and Intuitive Eating is listening to your body to determine when and what to eat. Which approach is best? For me, they work together!
When I was 13, I was struggling with body image and binge eating and desperately wanted help. I was gaining weight and very unhappy. I was at the library one afternoon and I swear a book entitled “Overcoming Overeating” nearly jumped off the shelf at me.
I borrowed the book, and quickly learned that I had NO IDEA what being hungry felt like. In my house, we ate 3 meals, we snacked all the time, and we would eat in between meals “in case we get hungry”. We also cleaned our plates.
I borrowed and read this book, and I began working with listening to my body, eating what I wanted, and stopping when I was satisfied and not stuffed. Yes, at age 13.
This approach worked! When… I wasn’t using food or exercise or undereating, restricting and controlling my intake to deal with my emotional life.
As I’ve said in other posts, my weight fluctuated up and down most of my life, but when I would just listen to my body and not binge, I would lose weight. I just didn’t trust that my choices were right or that I was eating the “right” foods to achieve my goals. I felt like I needed to be told what to do, needed rules and structure to meet my goals, so would veer off into various diet plans.
When I decided to stop worrying about eating clean or doing low carb and go all in for macro counting, I learned it really didn’t matter what foods I ate, if they fit my numbers, I would lose weight. Mind blown.
Okay, so how do Intuitive Eating and Macro Counting go hand in hand?
With Intuitive Eating, you wait to get hungry to eat- you can do that too while tracking. Meal timing is really not as crucial as some fitness industry people might have you believe.
With IE (Intuitive Eating), you eat the foods you crave. You can do that when tracking, you’ll just need to measure your portion size for awhile.
Intuitive Eating, you stop eating when satisfied and not stuffed. We can do that with tracking too. This is probably one of the most challenging aspects of both, but also rewarding. I like to eat a meal or snack and feel like I can get up and dance afterward if I wanted to. When tracking if you know this is how you like to feel, you’ll learn to make meals or snacks to fit the amount of food that just satisfies you.
You may also get hungry more frequently when not eating to full, so this will naturally set you on the course of small frequent meals throughout the day. This will give you more opportunities to get comfortable feeling true hunger and feeding it and learning not to confuse head hunger with real stomach hunger. This will eventually eliminate eating for reasons other than true physical hunger. You will learn to recognize the difference!
To summarize how Intuitive Eating and Macro Counting work together
- You can use IE to feel when you’re hungry and choose to eat then because meal timing really isn’t that important to overall success
- You can use learning to stop when satisfied and not stuffed (5 on the hunger scale) to help determine appropriate portion sizes for you when tracking. For example: if you know that after eating 6 ounces of grilled chicken, 8 ounces of sweet potato and a salad for lunch you’ll be stuffed, you can adjust to 4 ounces of chicken, 6 ounces of potato and maybe ½ a cup of veggies instead of the salad.
- If you listen to what sounds good to you when truly hungry you’ll learn what will truly satisfy your body’s hunger and that can help you choose what to eat. You know eggs sound good at breakfast, a sandwich sounds good at lunch, and pasta with meat sauce sounds great at dinner. Then you program all of those foods into your My Fitness Pal and adjust portions to be satisfying and fit in your macros. Afterward you fill in some snacks and you have your plan for the day!
- Once your day is planned, wait for hunger, eat, stop when satisfied, eat again next time you get hungry, stop when satisfied and repeat!
Using this approach will help you work with your body, cravings and hunger so you can reach your goals and be happy and satisfied! You’ll learn your own bio feedback and that you can trust your body and it’s signals!
It’s a process, so I am here for you to hold your hand and walk you through it! Let’s walk this path together!