Disclaimer: this blog post series is about how to perform macro/calorie counting as part of a habit-based approach towards losing weight. For some people, even with drastically differences between conventional calorie tracking approaches and this one, logging food and counting calories can still be problematic. If you don’t think you will be able to perform these methods without feeling restricted and inclined to engage in aggressive dieting practices, please DO NOT use them.
Calories-in vs calories-out…
That’s the ticket to weight loss, right?
And to get your calories where you want them, they say you need to have targets for each macronutrient. X grams of carbs, Y grams of protein, Z grams of fat.
Intellectually, this sounds pretty straightforward. In practice, it feels a bit overwhelming.
It’s easy to get preoccupied with thoughts of “what’s the perfect macronutrient ratio?”.
And it’s all too common to have a calorie target that you just can’t hit…no matter how hard you try.
There’s no debate that weight loss is accomplished by burning more calories than you take in from food.
And the overall balance of your diet, including the ratios of protein: carbs: fat, can help you to feel your best while you lose weight.
But for many people, especially if you have a long history with dieting, thinking about all of the numbers isn’t enough.
And depending on how you’re trying to hit your targets, a numbers-focused approach can quickly lead to feeling like you’re on a diet or frequent bouts of binge eating.
What if, though, you could keep an eye on your portions to make sure that you’re doing what you need to do lose weight…without feeling obsessed?
And without feeling like you need to count calories forever?
Luckily, there is. In my Macros Mastery coaching program, I have combined awareness of calorie and macronutrient intake with simple, daily action steps to get your calories where you need them to be.
The result is predictable weight loss without feeling overwhelmed or like you’re on a diet.
In this blog series, I’m going to peel back the curtain and show you how you can apply this method for yourself.
There are 3 parts to this process:
1) The assessment phase.
2) The review phase.
3) The planning and action phase.
These 3 phases exist in a loop. Each time you finish the 3rd phase, you repeat the process. Again and again until you’re satisfied with your pace of results.
Each phase “specializes” in a different type of goal.
In the assessment phase, you’re trying to get a broad sense for what needs to happen in order to reach your outcome goal (in this case: weight loss).
In the review phase, you then filter the information collected in the first phase and identify your most important performance goals. A performance goal in our context is what I call a behavioral benchmark. If you go from binging 7 days a week to binging 1 day per week, you know that you’ve reached a new behavioral benchmark.
In the planning and action phase, you’ll turn that performance goal into a process goal. You’ll decide on a particular habit to practice each day. And then you’ll get to work.
There’s some overlap between each phase. But the important part is that with each of the steps, you’re starting off broad with awareness of your starting point and goal, and then narrowing down until you have a clear plan for what to do each day.
Don’t worry, if this is overwhelming to you, it’ll start clicking soon :-).
Today, we’re going to talk more about Part 1. The assessment phase.
The goal of the assessment phase to know where you are right now in relation to your weight goals.
It seeks answers to these questions…
-What do you weigh (and/or what are your measurements?)
-How is your body currently changing?
-What calorie intake and macronutrient breakdown is supporting the current trend with your weight?
Believe it or not, this is the hardest phase.
It requires collecting information without judging the information. And it requires a healthy degree of skepticism.
There are 2 main steps to the assessment phase.
Step 1 is aggregation where you’re just trying to collect all of the information you can.
Step 2 is analysis, where you start preparing the information you’ve gathered in a way that will help you in phase 2.
Assessment Phase = Aggregation + Analysis.
Crap…I should have called it Phase A rather than Phase 1. That would have been so much cooler. Oh well…
Phase 1 Step 1: Data Aggregation
Here’s where you collect all the info you can.
Resist the urge to change your habits at this point. You don’t have the necessary foundation for doing so at this point and you will only set yourself back.
There are three components to this step:
Component A) Collect Weight and Measurement Data.
How accurate your weight data is will depend on how frequently you’re weighing yourself and over what time period you’re looking at. Once per day for a month tells you much more than weighing yourself on a single day.
Make sure to save all of the info on your weight and circumference measurements.
And include any notes that are relevant to that weigh-in. Especially any notes about your monthly cycle (if applicable).
If you have an especially salty dinner the night before or eat an uncharacteristically low or high quantity of food the day before, those would also be good to note.
Weight fluctuations due to water weight and food-in-belly weight happen. And they make it hard to tell if you’re losing (real) weight, gaining (real) weight, or staying the same.
By being able to understand your normal patterns, you’ll be better equipped to understand what is actually going on.
If your budget allows and you have convenient access, it could be extremely beneficial to get a comprehensive body scan during the initial assessment phase.
You might want to google “DEXA scan + [YOUR AREA]” or “Hydrostatic weighing + [YOUR AREA]”.
Just one of these scans would be better than 2 weeks of daily weigh-ins, so hypothetically, you could replace all of your weigh-ins with these more thorough body analysis methods.
Component B) Log food intake as accurately and completely as you can.
How accurate your calorie data is will depend on how precise you’re being with how you estimate your food intake.
The more you weigh and measure, the more confidence you can have.
But you don’t “have” to approach this any particular way.
If you weigh and measure everything, you will have more confidence in the numbers later and more easily determine whether the changes you make help you.
But that might not be a good option for you. In which case, any estimate is better than no estimate.
The more you guess, the more cautious you need to be about putting too much faith in your calorie data in this phase AND in future phases.
If you want to log all of your food intake info now and then load it into a calorie counting/tracking app such as MyFitnessPal later, that might make it easier for you to log without trying to tinker with things and may make it easier to avoid feeling obsessive.
For example, if you decide on doing phase 1 for 2 weeks, you might input ALL 14 days of food and portions info into the app at the very end.
Component C) Make notes about your hunger, fullness, and habits.
It’s not enough to know your calories and your weight.
You need to have an understanding of your subjective experience as it relates to your calorie intake and how your calorie intake intersects with real life.
What variables come up each week that make it challenging to eat the way you would like to? For example, nightly binge eating, poor planning, too much restaurant food, etc.
The best way to approach this would be to use Habit #1 from Weight Loss Without Restriction – Journal Your Satiety and Hunger Levels.
That way, you’re killing 2 birds with one stone. You’re journaling your food intake to get calorie insights, and you’re getting insights into your hunger and fullness along the way.
At this point, your head is probably about to explode. I’ll save step 2 of phase 1 for another day.
Phase 1 step 1 gives you the numbers and the 10,000-foot insights into your eating habits.
Step 2 of phase 1 “digests” those numbers and insights into the type of clarity that will help you to lose weight without obsessing over the numbers.
Keep an eye out for that 🙂
P.S. If you want to get started right away, pick up a copy of Weight Loss Without Restriction and practice the very first habit while collecting your weight/body measurement and calorie data.
>>Click here <<